Big Hearts - by Dan Liebman

Those who breed, race, buy, and sell Thoroughbreds are a competitive group by nature, and for good reason. But though this is a highly competitive business, it is comforting to see horsemen come together when members of the niche fraternity that is Thoroughred racing and breeding endure personal hardships.

At the turn of this century, with juvenile auctions coming under fire, sellers formed the National Association of Two-Year-Old Consignors to promote their activities and the many top runners they have sold over the years. For the nine years of the organization’s existence, Mike Mulligan has been the group’s chairman, working tirelessly with members, sale companies, and buyers alike.

Numerous times Mulligan, who operates Leprechaun Racing with his wife, Britt, has engaged this writer—and countless others—in discussions about the auctioning of young horses, a subject about which he is knowledgable, outspoken, and above all else, passionate.

Mulligan collapsed the evening of March 3 and suffered a fractured skull, an injury that has kept him in the hospital since. Earlier that day he and his wife sold the second-highest-priced 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale for $1.1 million.

Meg Levy, who owns Bluewater Sales, also sells horses, though not 2-year-olds. A Kentucky-based agent, she consigns weanlings, yearlings, and broodmares. Knowing Mulligan would not make the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. auction March 17-18, she and her husband, Michael, volunteered to help show and sell the Leprechaun horses.

“Mike is a great friend of ours,” Meg Levy told Deirdre Biles of The Blood-Horse, “and I think he would do the same for us. He’s a person that’s there for you through thick and thin. He’s well-loved by many people because he is very free with his time and willing to help with any industry causes. He’s a great promoter for our industry in general.”

Another tireless supporter of the industry is equine attorney Joel Turner, who in addition to practicing law, regularly teaches at the University of Louisville Equine Administration Program, speaks at the Stewards Accreditation Program, and serves as chairman of the National Conference on Equine Law presented annually by the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Turner is also a licensed owner and trainer, and breeds and raises horses on Wild Currant Farm, which he and his wife, Mary, own near Prospect, Ky.

Like Mulligan, Turner is passionate about Thoroughbred racing and breeding, and combining legal skills with years of hands-on horsemanship, he is always eager to engage in discussions about the integrity of the game.

On March 16 the Turners’ son, Bryce, collapsed while playing in a pick-up soccer game. The sophomore at Chapman University, where he was a member of the school’s soccer team, died later that night of cardiac arrest. (On the same day, Mary Turner’s father passed away.)

The outpouring of support from those in the industry “has been overwhelming,” Joel Turner said. As Mike and Britt Mulligan experienced, Joel and Mary Turner have found solace in the flood of phone calls and e-mails of support from industry friends during a trying time.

In early March, Thoroughbred owner/breeder Charlie Harris was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Because so many industry friends want to be kept up to date, Harris started a blog, where he regularly comments on his condition.

Harris, who with his wife, Susan, are fixtures at Saratoga each summer, has answered one important question, writing: “Although as you would expect, I recently gave some consideration to selling our horses, Susan and I have decided to keep them. Like all owners with young, largely untested horses at the beginnings of their careers, we are keenly following their progress as they are being prepared for this season’s racing!”

“The people in the horse industry, they have big hearts,” Meg Levy said. “We all band together, no matter how much competition there is.”

May Meg Levy’s thoughts be words to live by.

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