A Real Pistol: Amy Tarrant by Lenny Shulman

(Originally published in the December 24, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.) 

A slew of horses coming out of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships in early November returned to the races in the next month, seeking redemption and perhaps a better shot at various divisional championships. Almost all of them, though, proved to be over the top, with exceptions To Honor and Serve and Jeranimo coming back to win graded stakes.

Add to that short list Pomeroys Pistol, a 3-year-old filly bred, owned, and trained by Amy Tarrant. Pomeroys Pistol ran a brave fourth in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, rallying after a bobbling start to finish four lengths behind Musical Romance. After a single five-furlong workout, Tarrant sent Pomeroys Pistol into the Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) at her winter home of Gulfstream Park, and Pomeroys Pistol responded with a two-length victory over seven foes. The daughter of Pomeroy capped off a fantastic 2011 with four victories from 10 starts, all four of the wins coming in added-money events. She was second in three other graded stakes and third in yet another, banking $521,188 for the season.

That campaign is a tribute to Tarrant, who first entered the world of Thoroughbreds just 11 years ago as an owner and who began training her own stock two years after that. Her beginnings in the sport were born out of a personal crisis. When Tarrant and her husband of 34 years divorced, she decided to reinvent her life.

“I’d always loved horses—rode bareback as a kid and rode our neighbor’s horses and had a pony,” said Tarrant. “So when my youngest (of five) child went off to college, I made a list of things I wanted to do, and at the top was horses. I started in the show horse world and hired a trainer and thought I could compete, but I realized I wasn’t going to go to the Olympics, so I started thinking about racehorses as something I might be able to do for a long time. Before I knew it, I had nine 2-year-olds and no place to bring them, so I went to Ellis Park.”

Tarrant started out at 2-year-old sales, then began buying yearlings “after I realized some of those 2-year-olds shrink after you buy them like the air was let out of the balloon.” Today she buys both yearlings and juveniles, and her own breeding program is kicking in as well.

Tarrant bought Prettyatthetable, a daughter of Point Given and the dam of Pomeroys Pistol, as a yearling, but she turned out not to be a runner. Whatever she lacked at the racetrack, however, she’s made up for in the breeding shed. Two of Pomeroys Pistol’s half siblings, D’cats Meow and Wildcat Creek, are stakes-placed. Tarrant breeds and owns in the name of her Hardacre Farm near Ocala.

“That was my mother’s maiden name,” said Tarrant, one of 11 siblings. “We’re tough, so it was a perfect name. My mom died when we were young, and I decided to do something nice for her.

“I got some good advice years ago not to breed rats to rats or else you’ll have a field full of them and nobody will want them,” said Tarrant. “But if you take your best mares and breed them to the best stallions you can afford, you can make money.

“We liked the way Pomeroys Pistol looked at the beginning and thought she was pretty nice when we started breaking her. The funny thing is we had her in the OBS sale thinking she might bring in some money to help the farm. She didn’t reach the reserve, so I kept her and I’m so glad I did. Last year she was a little immature; she’d get nervous and upset. Now she handles everything better.”

The results prove that out. Pomeroys Pistol has this year won the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II), Foxwoods Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II), and the Just Smashing Stakes in addition to the Sugar Swirl.

Nor is she Tarrant’s first success story. She has also trained stakes winners Kiss the Kid, Indy Wind, and stakes-placed Habiboo, all of whom she also owned. Indy Wind and Kiss the Kid stand at stud at Journeyman Stud near Ocala, and Tarrant this year sold at auction a Bernardini yearling out of Habiboo for $725,000.

Tarrant, a native of Burlington, Vt., splits her time among several venues. She still has a home in Vermont but spends the winter months based at the Palm Meadows training facility in South Florida, shipping her runners to various tracks around the Sunshine State. During the summer she typically takes a string of 20 runners north to Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Happily, Pomeroys Pistol is slated to come back for a 4-year-old campaign, and although she is being pointed to dirt sprints such as the Hurricane Bertie Stakes (gr. III) and Inside Information Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream, Tarrant believes the filly is versatile enough to handle up to a mile and also perhaps the turf.

Which would make her nearly as versatile as her owner/breeder/trainer.

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