By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
A hard-knocker who gave his all on the track, Saratoga Boot earned $267,372 in his 73 starts. Racing from ages 2 until 10, the gelded son of Storm Boot compiled an impressive 16-10-13 record. Not wanting to see the horse break down, trainer Eddie Clouston retired him after he ran fourth in a claiming race in October at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack, & Resort.
"He runs every single time, he tries every single time, you lead him over there and he tries," Clouston said, adding that he had the horse for about a year. "He's one of those old classy horses. He doesn't hurt anybody, he doesn't have a bad bone in his body, and I didn't want to see him break down.
"I told (jockey) Megan Fadlovich, 'Find him a home and I'll give him away as long as it's a good home.'"
Fadlovich, who moves retiring racehorses into new off-track homes when she's not riding at the racetrack, knew Saratoga Boot meant a lot to Clouston and those who worked with the dark bay runner at the track. However, his many years spent in training didn't come without some injuries, which is why Clouston asked Fadlovich to make sure he got settled in a good place.
"He's got a big ankle. It doesn't bother him, but I hope whatever (a new owner) wants him to do that he turns out (well) because he deserves it," Clouston said. "He has a lot of personality and he's very laid back, he's a very loveable horse."
After one possible new owner fell through and others passed on him because of his not-so-perfect ankles, Fadlovich reached out to Joy Campbell. Campbell competed in this year's Thoroughbred Makeover Presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America as a professional with a younger horse and was looking specifically for a warhorse to take to the 2018 Makeover.
"When Megan told me about him I hadn't asked his name, just looked at pictures and watched a jog in-hand video, and I said would run down and look at him," Campbell said. "The night before I texted to her to ask (his name) so I could look him up on Equibase. And I was noticing that he ran regularly, so must be pretty sound with a good work ethic."
Campbell said Fadlovich told her about one of Saratoga Boot's former jockeys, Anne Von Rosen, who adored the gelding and was aboard for his win in the 2012 Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile Handicap at Turf Paradise. Campbell figured if his connections were so high on him then he must be a good horse.
Von Rosen, who was paralyzed after a bad spill in a 2014 Quarter Horse race, still speaks highly of Saratoga Boot, even with his many quirks.
"He has so much character," Von Rosen said. "He loves mints, and wouldn't leave the track after galloping until Mike Chambers (his trainer at the time) gave him a mint. And he would pick grass, if we found some, on the way back to the barn.
"He also had quite the habit of doing 'doughnuts' when backtracking when he thought we had backtracked far enough," she said. "And once he started he wouldn't stop. More than once the outrider had to come and help me."
Just like the others who knew him, Campbell liked what she saw when she met Saratoga Boot. So she loaded him up and brought him home with her to Ohio.
Joy Campbell and Saratoga Boot. Photo: Michael Groubert
"The first thing that struck me about him at the track was his eye and ear. He has that bright, deeply intelligent and charismatic Thoroughbred eye with big, slightly floppy ears. I was also immediately in love with his shoulder—long, open, and an extremely well laid-back withers," she said.
"His ankles on the other hand were worse than I anticipated. In the pictures they looked like a matched pair but they aren't in person. However, he trotted sound. And they are cold, set, and not painful to palpation or flexion. He also had gorgeous dapples on a good coat, that bright eye, and was happy to engage with us and go out to trot, so I knew he wasn't hurting a bit on them so we put him on my trailer."
Although she's already set a goal of competing in next year's Makeover, Campbell is currently taking it day by day with Saratoga Boot.
"Short term, I'll just let him tell me (what he wants to do)," she said. "He has a naturally uphill way of going so I anticipate dressage, eventing, or jumpers and I'll aim him for that at the (Makeover)."