By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
Vinceremos, the Machmer Hall-bred who ran in the 2014 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), was on a familiar path. Even with his promising start on the Derby trail and a grade 3 win as a 3-year-old, as time went on he started to drop down through the claiming ranks.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile was first claimed for $25,000 at Saratoga Race Course in August of 2015. After a year layoff, he resurfaced at Monmouth Park the following August for one start and then moved to Parx Racing. At Parx, he picked up a win and two seconds from six starts at the track in 2016. In 2017 he made 19 starts, all at Parx, winning once and placing six times—but he was claimed twice more, and for less money each time. In September he was claimed for $12,500 and in late November he was claimed again for $10,000.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to try to purchase Vinceremos from various owners along the way in an effort to bring him home to Machmer Hall near Paris, Ky., Carrie Brogden was made aware of some volunteer horse rehomers, including Dicia Lloyd, who picked up Vinceremos and two other horses from Parx in an attempt to find them a home off the track. Without knowing his significance to Brogden, Lloyd was hesitant to trust the breeder—who reached out on Facebook—but after some background information was shared, Brogden made an offer of $1,000 and Vinceremos was on his way back to Kentucky.
"He's definitely kind of a poster child of what happens kind of in the cycle of life for Thoroughbreds," Brogden said of Vinceremos, who won the 2014 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and was runner-up in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) that year. He earned $374,656 in 39 starts.
Vinceremos returned to his place of birth with a suspensory injury and skeletal appearance, but since he arrived at the farm in the second week of January he's already put on weight and his personality still shines through.
"He could have easily broken his leg in his last race and not just torn his suspensory," Brogden said. "I still have videos of doing the (Derby) walkover with Vinceremos and Intense Holiday (another Machmer Hall-bred starter in the 2014 Derby), and I've watched them a couple of times on my phone since he came home, but it's just a real moment to think of life through his eyes.
"Even when (Lloyd) took the photos, you can see the Derby horse in there. He still has that stand-up, prick-your-ears presence."
Vinceremos with Carrie Brogden at Machmer Hall. Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
For now, Vinceremos is settling into his new life off the track and continues to put on weight, and while his second career options are limited due to injury, there's a possible place in the works for him.
Through one of his biggest fans, Dan Tordjman of America's Best Racing and Equestricon, the appropriately named Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center near Loxahatchee, Fla. is open to the possibility of seeing if the gelding could fit in their program once healthy and happy.
While Vinceremos has landed safely off the track, there are constantly horses in need of help to make that transition, an issue Brogden said she'd like to see amended by more connections made between racing and recreational riding homes, and having racing connections stop before that last injury-inducing race.
"I want more farms to do what we do. Because I grew up in the show hunter world, I know the show hunter lingo," she said.
"I know that some hot as firecracker horses are never going to make it in the junior (hunters) but at the same time, I had (an OTTB) come back that was too hot ... so we sent him to a barrel home and he loved it. I think there's a lot of that where people (in racing) who don't come from the show hunter world don't know how to bridge across to the other world.
"In my experience, 99% of OTTBs need a professional rider and trainer to bridge the gap from the hot-blooded racehorse to the riding home for the amateur. What (The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program and Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover) programs have offered are doing that, because they've created a demand. I have such a huge waiting list for sound Thoroughbreds off the track, it's shocking to me."
And in Vinceremos' case, a sound retirement may have led to more options after racing.
"That's the whole thing, if there's a way to stop him before—he's heading downhill, you know the inevitable is going to happen where he can't hold up in the end," Brogden said. "His ankles were already bad, and I just wish that people would stop before that last race. If they had stopped on him before the last race, he would have been sound enough (for more second career options)."