It seems as though Ken and Resia Ayres and the mare Pyramyst are meant to be together.
The Kentucky homebred by Pyramid Peak out of the General Assembly mare Almost Mystical failed to bring her $3,200 reserve price at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale, broke loose, and ran around the sale grounds. It was hardly an auspicious beginning.
The Ayres put Pyramyst in training with Mike Morrison, and she broke her maiden in her third career start Dec. 27, 2004, at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort. She started 23 more times for the couple, winning five races despite two surgeries to remove bone fragments in a knee.
In May 2007 Pyramyst was claimed for $15,000 from the Ayres at Mountaineer for new owner Maggi Moss, and two races later was claimed again for $10,000 by Skip Cheesman. Racing for trainer and co-owner Peter Walder, Pyramyst proceeded to win 16 races, including a restricted stakes at Delaware Park, in 37 starts through March 18 of this year.
She was claimed that day off a lackluster effort for $10,000 at Gulfstream Park and resurfaced in late May at Monmouth Park, where she was beaten 27 3⁄4 lengths in her comeback race.
The Ayres, who live in Lexington and don't own a farm, kept regular tabs on Pyramyst after the claim in 2007, as did Morrison, who contacted them in May to say he would gladly give her a home for the rest of her life at his farm if they could reacquire her. Cheesman and Walder negotiated the deal, and Eric Reed, who currently trains horses for the Ayres, arranged for Pyramyst to van to Lexington.
The mare, now 10, was picked up by Morrison and his wife, Megan, and shipped to their farm, where she had recuperated after her earlier surgeries. Her long and productive racing career--23 wins, 13 seconds, and 12 thirds in 66 starts over nine years at almost 20 different tracks for earnings of $532,802--is over, but Pyramyst somehow found her way back home.
"Everybody was there for her right along the line," Ken Ayres said. "They all wanted us to get her back here. So many trainers are criticized for not caring for their horses, yet these three trainers volunteered to come together to make sure she would have a great retirement home."
Almost Mystical was purchased by the Ayres in the mid-1990s from a trainer at Ellis Park who wanted $15,000 for her. Ken Ayres' offer of $10,000 was rejected--but then accepted before he left the track that day.
Almost Mystical raced three days later for her new owners and won her first race. Before her death in 2009, the mare produced nine foals, eight of them winners, for the Ayres.
The first two foals, Storm Tale and Crown Myst, were full brothers by Crown Ambassador that were bred in Indiana. They earned $111,577 and $79,532, respectively, on the racetrack.
Then came Pyramyst, and it didn't take long for her to become a family favorite.
"My wife has always been very emotional about her even though I told her no horse with four white socks will amount to much of a racehorse," Ayres said. "Breeding-wise, she came from a bad neighborhood on the wrong side of the street, but she proved she has guts and ability.
"We nursed her through knee surgeries and didn't think she would race again, but she proved she had what it takes to run."
The Ayres currently have one broodmare, Right Time Matty, who has produced five foals. The first two have raced and won, including stakes-placed Banjammer. Her 2-year-old, Magtime, was scheduled to make his career debut Aug. 25 at Mountaineer, and there are a yearling and a weanling.
Ken Ayres, who owned a graphics design business and now is semi-retired, and Resia Ayres, operations administrator for the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, lived in Indiana for many years before moving to Lexington. Ken Ayres said they are "small breeders" that own one or two mares at any given time. And next year they hope to add Pyramyst to the list.
"If everything works out and she stays healthy, that's the plan," Ayres said.