Wrapping Up a Partnership and Saying Goodbye

By Ted Grevelis (Owning Racehorses)

The very first ownership group I was a part of was right here in Minnesota.  Managed by chart caller and bloodstock agent David M Miller we ran under the banner of Star of the North Racing.  Siblings Somerset Sam and Somerset Wish (Gazebo- Somerset Blum) were purchased from breeder Jack Welch in the early spring of 2007.  They both broke their maidens in 2008 and both wound up their careers on the same weekend at Canterbury Park late this summer.  It turned out to be a memorable finale and a lesson in how to care for your horses.

Sister and brother duo of Somerset Wish (4) and Somerset Sam (3) were more than likely going to retire after the weekend. Wish had two good years of campaigning and the thought of her getting claimed from us and running in bottom of the rung claiming races at bullrings was not acceptable to us.  Besides, she has a knee issue that had knocked her off the track last summer and, while healed completely, she seemed to favor it a bit when she needed to change leads.  A lot like a running back who hurts his shoulder, heals, but still seems skittish at the line of scrimmage. 

Somerset Sam and my son Benjamin this summer.


Sam was a different story.  If he could run well here we'd see him move on to Remington and continue to ply his trade.  If he couldn't, however, we were going to retire him.  There's not a happy ending for slow geldings and we wanted to make sure that Sammy had one.  Coincidentally both were running in Minnesota bred $7500 claiming races going six furlongs over the main track. Sammy on Saturday and Wish on Sunday.

It was an absolutely gorgeous late summer Saturday in the Twin Cities and there were some fun races throughout the card. When the 8th race came around I packed up my Racing Form, glasses and binoculars and headed down to the track photographer to pick up Fizzy Pop's finish line photo from his last race and close out my account with the track bookkeeper.  Then it was over to the paddock to see Sam get saddled and be on his way.

The feeling watching Sammy get saddled up and prepped to go was mixed. Maybe he had a future over the winter; however I got the feeling that he really wasn't enjoying what he was doing. He tried hard, but was so big that it was hard for him to turn his stride over. When he showed us in his last race that he couldn't get a mile - well, if you don't have speed and you can't go long it's time to find a new job. Once you get in the walking ring, though, doubts disappear and you start thinking, "Yeah, we can beat this group. Sure we can. And once we're in Oklahoma, well, he'll just get better!"

I watched the race in the horsemen seats on the mezzanine. Sam's trainer, Bernell Rhone and his brother Russ came by and sat with me as we watched the race. Sam broke OK but was bumped. Not badly shaken up, he was back on stride and tracked the leaders in fourth, but wide, most of the way. In the stretch, Sammy really didn't improve his position. I The Jury smoked the field by 15+ lengths and Sam finished 5th, seven lengths out of second. Bernell and I looked at each other for a second and I said "That won't keep him racing." Bernell nodded and agreed, "Not with that time. Probably best to let him go."

David will keep an ownership interest in Sam in order to monitor his retirement. He found a nice farm in rural Minnesota for Sammy to retire to. He'll be retrained as a riding horse and should live a nice sedate life trail riding. Sam has a great disposition for that kind of life and kudos to David for being responsible and a leader in the truest sense for the rest of us that own racehorses.

Somerset Wish with groom Reanna Theisen before her last career start.

If it's at all possible, Sunday dawned nicer than Saturday. I'm sure most of the country would have view it as a nice early fall day.  Those of us in the Upper Midwest view mid-70's and sunny as a fine late summer day! After one quick stop at the bank to deposit the Canterbury check, we were on our way to Shakopee for probably the last time this summer. We got there early and listened to track announcer Paul Allen and analyst Kevin Gorg dissect the card and enjoyed a bag of nuts from Canterbury Park's 'Nut Lady'. Only one of them even mentioned Wish, which was to finish second and even then just in passing.

Her groom, Reanna Theisen, walked Wish into the paddock and Wish looked good. Theri, my wife, even mentioned that Ri's hair matched Wish today. After "rider's up!" and Adolpho Morales took the reins, we talked a bit with trainer Larry Donlin about how well Canterbury promotes racing and how some other locations rake in slot money while doing nothing to promote the racing product. The perfect storm of utilizing slots to market racing - not just tolerate it - could be seen someday if the folks at Canterbury ever get the gift of slot revenue.

Wish broke a bit awkwardly but hustled up to track the leaders perfectly in third position through the turn. I had the glasses trained on her and partner Brian Nodolf kept asking, "How's she doing? How's she doing?" I kept saying, "He's not moving on her, he's still not moving. NOW - he's asking her!" as she surged to the front turning for home. But her stable mate, Squeezable, was not ready to give in.  She pulled alongside of Wish and got a neck out in front with about 100 yards to go. At that spot and from our vantage point, we all thought it was a good second. Then we watched the slo-mo of the finish on the big screen - she fought back along the rail and may have won! The TV showed the finish a couple of times and it looked like we got the head bob, but it was hard to tell because both heads were moving in the same direction in tandem. Finally Paul Allen announced, "The winner issssss...NUMBER ONE, Somerset Wish!" and we went nuts! We hustled down to the winner's circle and there was quite a crowd to see Wish off - Larry and his wife Maureen, Brian and his girlfriend Andrea, my wife Theri and I, David, her breeder Jack Welch with his two grandchildren, exercise rider and assistant chart caller Lisa Johnson and even tout sheet seller Big Jake Mauer. It was a big and very happy crowd.

The last race was typical of Wish's career. In 11 career starts she had two across the board: two wins, places and shows. Add to that another 4 fourth place finishes and she was always close. You left her out of you superfecta ticket at your own peril! She was always in the hunt and she always tried hard. Her heart is as big as all outdoors and the way she fought back to win at the wire was typical of everything we have enjoyed from her the past two seasons.

Wish is off to live on a Wisconsin farm courtesy of Brian. Again, another partner and friend stepping up and doing what is right by the horse. Apparently this is a polo farm, so maybe she'll make some polo ponies in her future? I love to think of Wish as a mom.

David always had the finances up to speed and in no time this partnership was closed out once the final bills came in. My rough figuring was that we'd walk away with three photos, great memories, good friends, many lessons learned and little, if any, cash. Success? You bet your life savers it was a success.  Success in this game cannot only be measured in dollars and sense.  You do your best to get the return, but you also balance the needs of the horse as well as the "fun" factor for your partners.

In contrast to what I have written about a sour partnership experience in the past, THIS is the way things should be done. Very publicly I would like to once again thank my friend, mentor and partner David Miller for the fabulous job he did with this, his first public partnership and encouraging me to head out on my own. Also thanks need to go out to Brian, Jack Gresser and Tony Miller who round out this partnership. Without each of us, this wouldn't have been possible. We'll all stay in touch and hopefully get involved together again. It was a great ride.

Most of the thanks go to Somerset Sam and Somerset Wish - two horses that I got to know and love. Thanks for showcasing your unique personalities on every barn visit and your hearts in every trip to the track. I hope you enjoy your retirements and I look forward to visiting you all as often as I can get out there to see you both.

Finally, there is an old adage that says "Take care of the horse and the horse will take care of you."  Both Sam and Wish are going to have a well cared for retirement that they not only have earned, but deserve, thanks to the conscientious efforts of the managing partner and the support of the general partners.  I have found that this type of concern is far more prevalent than the exceptions that are covered in the press.  The spirit of caring is passed from industry veterans like David, to newcomers, like I was.  Organizations like Old Friends and Neigh Savers are in place to help out, but they need our help as well.  There are more organizations like these around the country that need your contacts, your time and yes, your money.  These beautiful equine athletes work hard for us - make it your responsibility to work hard for them.  I know that I will.

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