"We didn't know how good she was going to be," said Potesta's co-owner, Joe Scardino. Here, the 3-year-old filly sets a track record in the Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)
Lexington, Ky. – Her name means “power,” and in four starts the
seal-bay filly they call Potesta exuded just that.
After a runner-up finish in her March 22 debut, she took the
Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) off a maiden score, set a track record while blazing a
mile in 1:34.86 in the Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar, and was prepping for a
start in the Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) with her connections flying high on the
possibility of a Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) run. They thought she
could win it.
“She was so classy
around the barn and track,” recalled bloodstock agent Craig Rounsefell, son-in-law of trainer
Mike Mitchell. “From the first
time Mike first galloped her, he knew he had something special. Breezing, she could pretty much do whatever time you
wanted to do. On the racetrack, too, horses don’t really do what she did.”
Before Potesta won the Torrey Pines, she took the Hollywood Oaks under Joe Talamo on June 23, 2012 (Benoit Photo)
But here’s the thing about racehorses and horse racing in
general: not much goes according to plan.
And so it was that 80-year-old owner Joe Scardino found
himself listening to the news no one connected to a promising Thoroughbred wants
to hear, standing at home in California on an early Friday morning in September
as Mitchell worked with vets to stabilize the 3-year-old daughter
of Macho Uno, who had fractured her left foreleg in a training accident.
“I have to tell you, that was one of the worst calls I’ve
ever gotten,” recalled Scardino, who campaigned Potesta with 70-year-old partner
Anthony Fanticola. “She was prepping for the Breeders’ Cup. She had broken the
track record and was doing extremely well. Then we got that awful call when she
hurt herself. I was at home. I just remember going numb.”
Compound fractures such as the one Potesta sustained – where
bone breaks through the skin – are tough to repair in humans, let alone horses.
Thousand-pound animals aren’t good at standing on three legs for long. Infection
can set in. And where racehorses are concerned, it takes a special patient to
survive such an injury. Bred to run, conditioned to levels of peak athleticism,
Thoroughbreds put on sudden hold are prone to complications and, if they manage
to survive surgery, can further injure themselves during the lengthy recovery
process. The prognosis is always grim.
Still, there was something remarkable about Potesta, the star
of Scardino and Fanticola’s then-two horse stable. As doctors at Alamo Pintado
Equine Medical Center worked to stabilize the injury, which was high above the
ankle, she complied perfectly.
The filly showed the same will in her recovery as she did on the track (Benoit Photo)
“She was such a good patient,” Rounsefell remembered. “It was pretty grim when she was injured, but she got up
there and really helped herself through the whole process. They put four screws
in to bring it back together. The vet said the whole way through it couldn’t
have gone any better, from the actual surgery itself to the recovery process.
Each day she just exceeded their expectations – her whole career, she always
exceeded expectations. She’s just a special horse.”
Scardino and Fanticola, who have been partners for the past
15 years, are purely in the racing business, and don’t maintain breeding stock.
At the time of Potesta’s injury, their only other contender was Breeders’ Cup
Mile (gr. IT) runner Obviously, who finished third behind Wise Dan and Animal
“We don’t have that many horses, and when we get a runner
like that, well, it’s not like we’ve got a barn full of stakes contenders,”
Scardino said. “With Potesta, it was really exciting because she was getting
better and better and we didn’t know how good she was going to be, really. The
excitement was at its’ highest peak.”
The owner said saving the filly at all costs was a top
priority after her injury.
“The cost was not on our minds at all,” he said. “She was so
good to us, my gosh. Anything we could do, we wanted done. I told Mike Mitchell
and so did my partner, ‘We don’t care what it costs, we want to save her.”
Potesta is scheduled to be sold at the Keeneland January Sale. Here, she poses at Three Chimneys on Dec. 28, 2012 (Gayle Ewadinger/Three Chimneys)
Rounsefell made multiple trips to Alamo Pintado to monitor Potesta's progress. She recovered well enough to ship to Three Chimneys Farm near Lexington, where she will be consigned to the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale as hip no. 134.
"The whole way through, we just wanted the best thing for the horse," Rounsefell recalled. "It was incredible how quickly she healed, and when they took the final x-rays the doctor gave the all-clear to leave and come to Kentucky. The actual injury site itself looks fantastic. It's quite remarkable that the whole thing only happened a few months ago."
Rounsefell said Potesta's untapped potential, a career cut short by injury, could live on in her foals.
"When you look at her from a physical standpoint, you’ll struggle to find a better type at the sale," he remarked. "She’s
got size and scope and she’s correct and you’d struggle to put a hole
in her, really. She’s just a first-class type. She had that freakish ability and
nobody really knew where it would end."
This update on Potesta, bred in Kentucky by Maynard Farm and B.A. Man out of the Furiously mare Katzen, was issued for the benefit of the many racing fans who followed her brief but illustrious career.
"There were always people coming around the barn, sort of fans
wanting to see if they could give her a carrot or take a picture with her," Rounsefell recalled. "She did have a following, that’s
for sure. For a filly that only had a couple of starts, she struck a chord."
Less than four months after surviving a life-threatening injury, Potesta enjoys the grass at Three Chimneys Farm (Gayle Ewadinger/Three Chimneys)