By Jennifer Wirth, of The Saturday
There is something about a two-year-old racehorse that draws optimism from seasoned owners in a sport with dizzying odds of finding success at the highest tiers of the racing world.
Yet, the very nature of odds is that they judge what is probable rather than what is possible in the world.
Pryce Robertson, the namesake to a two-year-old colt named "Pryce's Posse," has proven what is possible through working toward raising autism awareness after being diagnosed with autism at an early age.
And now, Pryce has a winning two-year-old colt to bolster his cause.
His father, Rich Robertson, Managing Partner of TriStar Racing LLC, explained that Pryce was initially diagnosed with autism when he was 3 1/2 years old. "We were told that he would never speak a word and that we would probably have to institutionalize him by the time he turned thirteen. It was pretty dismal."
However, Robertson and his wife, Vickie, didn't accept the odds against their autistic son succeeding as an individual in the world. Instead, they focused on the possibilities for Pryce's future.
Robertson explained, "We just don't quit. My wife and I don't have the word 'quit' in our vocabulary. When we received the initial diagnosis, I told the doctor, 'I accept your diagnosis, but I will not accept your prognosis.'"
In the years that followed, the Robertsons focused on autism education and awareness. Vickie Robertson put together an educational program in their home for Pryce. There were volunteers around the clock as Pryce was schooled eight-hours a day, seven days a week. The family also created "The Pryce Robertson Autism Awareness Foundation" in an effort to help fund autism awareness and education.
The Robertsons also began participating in the racing industry in 1995. Robertson explained, "Pryce is a special individual and he has always loved the horses. They were a big part of him coming out into the world, being in a crowd and watching the horses. I owe a lot to the horse business and being in the horse industry." As part of his gratitude, a portion of the winnings from every TriStar horse is donated to the Pryce Robertson Autism Awareness Foundation.
This past April, the Robertson family's involvement in racing resulted in a beautiful twist of fate to help promote autism awareness.
Robertson saw a Posse colt enter the sales ring in Texas. The colt failed to meet the reserve price at the sale. Robertson, along with his partner and friend, Alan Dean, believed that the colt was worth a second look and went to the consignor to view the colt. He ultimately purchased the two-year-old colt privately after the sale.
Robertson explained, "Pryce's Posse is a nice, well-balanced horse. Through our private sale, we paid $12,500 for the horse. But, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. He's not a huge horse, but he has a lot of qualities that I look for in a racehorse. He's very competitive and has the will to win. He wants to do things the right way."
The Robertsons decided to name their colt "Pryce's Posse," after their son. Robertson chose the name when the horse demonstrated talent in training. "We initially thought of three or four names. Then, we realized that this may be a very special horse. So, I said, 'Well, if he is going to be that special, and I have a special son with autism that put us in the horse business, I think he should be named after Pryce."
On Father's Day, Pryce's Posse made his maiden debut at Arlington Park as Rich and Vickie Robertson stood at the rail and watched. In a stunning turn for home, the colt won by four lengths in his first outing.
Robertson later recalled, "When Pryce's Posse won on Father's Day, it meant more to me than any race that I've ever won. I've won a lot of races. I've won stakes races. I won with a horse at Churchill on Oaks Day. But, this particular horse winning a race on Father's Day, knowing that Pryce was at home watching it on television, meant more to me than any race I'd ever won."
After Pryce's Posse won his maiden debut, the phone started ringing with lucrative offers to purchase the colt, far in excess of the original sale price paid by Robertson. Robertson consulted with his partners, as well as his wife, Vickie, and son, Pryce.
Robertson explained, "Pryce said, 'Dad, it's a lot of money. But, I think we should keep him."
And, as for his wife, Vickie, Robertson already had his answer. "My wife never wanted to sell the horse. And, she's been in the horse business long enough to know that things can happen. But, she knows the difference between the horses that you should sell and keep."
And, Robertson agreed with the decision to pass on the offers to purchase the horse. "I think one of the reasons that I love horses so much is that you can get a young horse and you're told, 'Well, they probably won't do this. The breeding says they can't do that.' And, you're told, 'You'll probably have to pay a quarter of a million dollars to get a horse that can run.' Well, I've had some great horses and that's not true."
Yet, Robertson's optimism regarding his two-year-old colt has a strong precedent. The colt's namesake, Pryce, is now twenty-years-old and is currently attending his second year of college. The family is currently building a website for the "Pryce Robertson Autism Awareness Foundation." The Foundation continues to raise money to promote autism awareness, including funding workshops for teachers to understand autism and creating a college scholarship fund for an autistic child.
When the website is completed, the Robertson's have decided that the administrator should be a person who was never supposed to speak a word in life - Pryce Roberston.
It appears the odds of success are tricky in both life and racing.
Sure, the odds can tell you what is probable.
But, in the end, the possibilities don't always follow the odds.
They beat them.