Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Meet My Racing Stable. Lol!!!


Still working on this one.  Was having trouble with the videos, so pay no attention.  

More about it later.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


My friend, Steve Woodruff and his 17-year old horse, Ranger have roamed over every nook and cranny of Montana it seems, all without incident.  But as we know, a horse can find mischief or injury almost anywhere.  And in fact just a few months ago, Ranger did, and to this day Steve has no idea what actually happened to him.

If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to to take a look at a feature I've done on Steve's incredible photos in my post, "Step Off The Sidewalk."

Ranger Gashed.

Steve's vet stitching Ranger up.


"What a fine day to be a horse-and a horseman-in Montana."

Ranger in a very recent post by Steve.

And finally:

Steve and Ranger on the prowl.

Steve is retired as a teacher from the University of Montana at Missoula.  His prose are witty and his photography captures light and emotion in incredible ways.  

I  hope you enjoyed this short pictorial essay.

Copyright October 31, 2018 by Loren R. Schmacher
All photos by Steve Woodruff.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Now He's Just Immortal

By the time this post is published I will have been to visit Justify at Winstar Farm in Versailles. Kentucky.  My wife and I will take as many pictures of the horse I've called "the living statue" as possible and add the best ones later.  We'll keep the crappy ones on our computer and no one will be the wiser.

None of the photos taken by his admiring fans have captured his imposing size, 16.3".  Nor does the poor light of Winstar's viewing area do justice to the beauty of the copper coat that stretches across his ribs, or the muscle mass gathered in knots beneath skin that threatens to rupture. 

This is Justify.

No, in most of the photographs he seems to slouch, his muscular frame a bit atrophied, his color washed out and his expression dull and lifeless.  Perhaps he is mortal and not the mountain I have seen bolting from a starting gate, dashing to the lead and carrying his speed until that speed breaks the horses in his wake.  His turn of foot reminds me a good bit of California Chrome and like Chrome, the innate ability to turn back the pressure that came to him.  To Bob Baffert the key to each of Justify's six races was the same: Justify had to get away cleanly from the starting gate.  With Baffert the strategist and the tactician, Mike Smith aboard, Justify romped, with strides thought to be longer than Secretariat's, to 9-1/2 and 6-1/2 length margins in his first two races.

Justify jumping tracks in the mud at the Preakness.

But wait a minute, his six consecutive wins were not enough for many.  One of the chief complaints, one most champions have had to reckon with, the caliber of his competition.  Yet those in the know felt the 2018 Derby field to be the strongest in many years.  He is a proven winner on dirt, whether dry or in the primordial glop of Churchill Downs, or the Preakness.  And in the Santa Anita Derby he ran with a sprung shoe (I understand that is not uncommon). Proving that he could run at the front or stalk from just off the lead as he did in the Derby, haunting Promises Fulfilled before leaving him in his wake.

A loose shoe on Justify's right front during the 2018 Santa Anita Derby.

2018 Kentucky Derby

If the lack of quality competition were not indictment enough, here are some comments about Justify's confirmation that appeared in a thoroughbred chat room that I belong to...and sometime wish I didn't.  No names though.  

Lovely shoulder.

I don't like him.  I honestly cringed when I saw it.  Post-legged behind, very upright pasterns...but his front legs seem off.  (Off what, his body?) Nice hip, but I still don't like the appearance of his hindquarters.

I like the length of his neck.  Pretty face.  He is nothing compared to American Pharoah.

Wouldn't pay a cent to breed to him.

...but a horse with confirmation like that, who had physical problems as a yearling, wasn't sound enough to race at two and retired unsound after four months at the track...  I wouldn't send a mare to him even if he was at $20,000. will take an impressive mare to throw a foal that doesn't have some of his more major faults.

...looks like a typical Ghostzapper.

I will add that some of the comments are made by former race track denizens, exercise riders, grooms and several who specialize in breeding and confirmation.

When asked where they would rank Justify among the thirteen Triple Crown winners, the groups were equally unkind.  Most ranked Justify near the bottom of the list and one ranked him ahead of American Pharoah.  This person is usually unhappy if their ice-cream is cold.  One thoughtful person said, "Not bottom, but not top. Still a really great horse who could have probably gone a lot farther later in his career,"

Then I added my wordy two-cents worth: Its all subjective.  He is not number one, but after all he did win the Triple Crown  and I don't care what people say about him, (and I have heard and seen written a lot of sour grapes regarding him lately) he is a damn fine horse. I saw him in person on Thursday and I can tell you that having seen both CC and AP immediately upon their retirement, Justify looks much the worse for the experience. He is not a particularly pretty horse, especially when compared to AP. He is extraordinarily muscular and it is obvious that it will be months before he is no longer a race horse. He is anxious, restive and bores very easily. It is evident to me that there was and may still be a bit of a problem on his left rear. Could be just the hair, but it looked like he may have had a procedure of some kind. I could be dizzy with oxygen deprivation. I was very, very surprised that he was still wearing shoes! To me he looks tired and he may well be. 200 pounds and several months rest will make him a different horse. I really think we should all be glad that he survived. As far as ranking, well, he is in the top 13.

This is the only good photo (Including mine) that I have seen of Justify taken at Winstar.
I believe the photographer is Delana Harp Bryant.

These are my comments after seeing Justify:

I saw Justify today and I was not as impressed as I thought I might be. He is not as massive as he appears to be in most photographs, or when he is underway. The irony is that several others on the tour felt exactly the same. He also looks a little worse for wear to me, there is the cinch rub that you can see in this picture and you can tell something has been going on in the left hind. He is fit to the point of being almost too trim, perhaps a bit over trained, who knows? His muscularity is incredible however and his hind quarters are massive. His back legs have been criticized as "post legs" and having pasterns that are too upright. I looked and I looked again and I don't believe there is a major problem back there. He does have foot problems and Winstar are allowing him a lot of r & r. He seemed very restless, but you would expect that with his having so recently been in training. Part of what I observed may be answered by a comment made by the tour guide. When asked if he were being ridden, as half of the Winstar stallions are, she said that if he were saddled today he would mentally return to his last race, The Belmont. And then there is that biting thing. But when he puts on a couple of hundred pounds and is rested and begins to relax, he will be spectacular. By the way, his coat shimmers in the light. I saw both AP and CC shortly after they retired and just thought they came out of their careers in better physical shape. Mentally, who knows? They can't tell us what they are thinking or how they feel and that is the shame of it. All in all Justify is the Champ and I am still a fan.

As a horse racing fan, I am sure you have your own opinion regarding Justify and his place in horse racing history.

Listen to Larry Collmus' call of the last race of Justify's gloriously undefeated and all too short career. Pay attention to what he says of Justify as he crosses the finish line.

 "And now ,he's just immortal."

2018 Belmont Stakes with Larry Collmus' call.

Copyright September 17, 2018 by Loren SchumacherAll photo rights belong to the photographer.I will post my own shortly.

Friday, July 13, 2018

At The Post

This was a post I did for Facebook's Justify Fan Page  yesterday, July 12, 2018.  I was profoundly surprised by the overwhelming response to what I had written, and doubly surprised by the class shown in the two or three "criticisms" posted in response.

"I happened to see a picture of Barbaro yesterday and was struck by the similarities between him and Justify.  Perhaps it is just an illusion, or I've lost my mind, you can tell me, I won't mind.

Both are chiseled, ripped into elemental muscle and the sinew that holds all things together and cloaked in burnished, hand rubbed beauty.

The legend, Barbaro at the Preakness.

The living statue, Justify.

I could find no reference to Barbaro's height, although Edgar Prado, his jockey, said he stood 17 hands high, while Justify is an inch shorter at 16.3.  Even their records are the same.  Justify is undefeated at 6-0 at this point in his career.  Barbaro was undefeated with six wins entering the 2006 Preakness where he broke his right hind leg leaving the gate.  Ironically, it was the magnificent Bernardini who won the race.

Barbaro's Agony with jockey Edgar Prado.

Even though there was never a chance that Barbaro would race again, no expense was spared by his owner, Roy Jackson, in trying to save his life.  While the leg healed, it was laminitis that made euthanasia necessary after an eight month struggle.

A nursery rhyme sums up the effort expended in trying to save Barbaro's life, "...all the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again." 

His trainer, Michael Matz said, "I think the mystery will always be how good could he have been?  I'd like to think he'll be remembered as one of the best.  He certainly brought a lot of people together."

We can all hope that this is where the similarities between Barbaro and Justify end."

In the fog, Justify leaps tracks in the turf during the 2018 Preakness.


Copyright July 12, 2018 Loren R. Schumacher
Credit for all photos goes to the photographers.  The author makes no claim to them.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Tale of Two Horses: Arrogate and Gun Runner

Before the 2017 Breeder's Cup Classic, Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey said that Arrogate, the swashbuckling hero of the Dubai World Cup, had left his best races behind him.  Bailey, for the second time on national television, mentioned that the race had taken the measure of Arrogate, had gutted him.  Fans of the horse they call Big Blue were enraged when Bailey also declared that the powerful chestnut horse Gun Runner had surpassed Arrogate.

Arrogate training at Santa Anita in February of 2017

After finishing second to to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup, Gun Runner reeled off three consecutive GI wins, including the Stephen Foster and Whitney Handicaps and the Woodward Stakes, while Arrogate stumbled to a fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap and a much improved second in the Pacific Classic.  Before the Breeder's Cup, Gun Runner's career record stood an 10 wins in 17 starts, but he had never won at 10 furlongs (1-1/4 miles).  His trainer, Steve Asmussen said, "He's had a lot of travel, a lot of fast races, and he is better today than he has ever been."

Gun Runner

Arrogate had shown blinding speed, the ability to race on or off the pace, and to win from anywhere on the track surface, regardless of the distance.  But the Del Mar turf was his bugaboo.  Arrogate had already lost twice on the Del Mar surface and his jockey, Mike Smith said that he had difficulty getting a hold of the track. Many looked askance at his world's number one ranking yet still made him the 2-1 co-favorite with Gun Runner entering the Classic.

Dana Barnes aboard Arrogate

While training well at Del Mar, there was guarded optimism in the Arrogate camp, but Bob Baffert, seeming to hedge his bets, arrayed a four horse juggernaut against Gun Runner.  Up and comers Collected, who won the Pacific Classic this summer, West Coast, winner of the Travers Stakes and the Pennsylvania Derby, along with the improving Mubtaahij, winner of the Awesome Again Stakes, would enter the starting gate as well.

Racing from the number one post position, Arrogate veered sharply toward the rail while Gun Runner broke smartly, taking the lead with Collected in hot pursuit.  Reaching Gun Runner from his outside post position and early traffic may well have robbed Collected of the speed and stamina he would need later in the race.

On the back stretch the leaders, having run a half mile in 46 and change were never more than a half length apart.  Rounding the far turn, Collected and Gun Runner began their furious assault on the Del Mar turf, where, according to Jay Privman in a Daily Racing Form article, the jockeys, Martin Garcia on Collected and Gun Runner's Florent Geroux, began shouting at one another.  Garcia turned to Geroux and shouted, " I have a lot of horse."  "Me too," Geroux replied.  And at the quarter pole Garcia said, "Let's go."

Garcia pushed Collected away from Gun Runner because he knew "Gun Runner likes to fight."  But Gun Runner's speed, power and will proved too much.  Garcia said, "I know (knew) he'd respond.  My horse tried.  I couldn't do anything. Gun Runner is a really good horse.  He got good position, and I let my horse run a little early to get position."

A fantastic photo of Gun Runner in training.

Fighting off Collected's bid, Gun Runner pulled away to an expanding 2-1/4 length lead, winning his fifth race in six starts and earning a 117 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of his career.  By winning the Classic he assured himself of the Horse of the Year and Champion Older Dirt Male titles.

Baffert's horse West Coast finished an improving third, while Mubtaahij drifted back to a disappointing eighth place.

Arrogate, never a factor, finished in a dead heat for fifth place with Gunnevera and afterward was lead away to begin a stallion's career.  Once his sperm was worth millions of dollars, but his fall from grace eroded his fee to $70,000.00, still a healthy price by any standard.

Perhaps Arrogate was never a great horse, but just a very good one.  Maybe our expectations for him were more than he could have ever hoped to deliver.  In a Facebook chat room early in 2017  I wrote, "There is not a horse living today that can beat Arrogate."  It is likely that when all is said and done, the only horse to beat Arrogate was Arrogate himself, broken by his herculean effort on a stifling desert night.

There is a saying, "The king is dead, long live the king."  The old saw speaks of respect for what has gone before and an orderly and respectful succession.  Arrogate is gone, but but Gun Runner remains.

Gun Runner, the Breeder's Cup Classic Champion

Copyright December 30, 2017 by Loren R. Schumacher
All photo credits belong the photographers

Today is the 17th anniversary of my father, Edward C. Schumacher's death.  This article is dedicated to his memory.  Thanks dad.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Lilac Fire/San Luis Rey Training Center/Will you help?

In recent days California has been stricken with devastating wildfires, one of which, the Thomas Fire, has consumed nearly 200,000 acres.  Almost everything in its path has been destroyed, but thankfully as of now, there seem to be no human casualties.

But in San Diego County near Bonsall, California a catastrophic wildfire struck the San Luis Rey Training Center, with tragic results.  

Trainer Martine Bellocq was critically burned trying to save her nine horses from the flames.  To date there have been 46 horses killed and most assuredly there will be more casualties in an area littered with horse farms and facilities.

Sadly one of those horses trained by Peter Miller, 3 year old California Diamond, who in 14 starts won 5 stakes races and finished second in 5 more, succumbed.

California Diamond

In their panic, a small group of horses broke through a "knockdown fence" and vanished into the surrounding hills.  Spokespersons are confident that they will be located and returned to their owners.

Panic stricken, horses flee the flames and smoke.

A volunteer tries to calm an approaching horse.

There were nearly 450 horses at San Luis Rey, and those that have survived owe their lives to the grooms and volunteers who walked into the inferno in order to save them from a hideous and tortured death.

But as always, those who have the least lose the most.  Nearly all of the grooms and other backstretch workers lost all of their possessions trying to save their beloved horses.  Many funds and truckloads of supplies and clothing have been rushed in to assist in the human recovery.

Taylor Made Farm have donated a no-guarantee season with California Chrome and will donate the booking fees before they have been collected.  The money will be used to help the track workers get back on their feet.

Panic in the alleyways of San Luis Rey (SLR).

At one time 260 of the approximately 500 horses were housed at the Del Mar race facility.   Sixty more moved just across the street from SLR to the Trifecta Equine Athletic Center, an equine rehab facility, and in recent days more have been distributed to Santa Anita and Los Alamitos.  While they wait to be reclaimed by their owners, those that need medical attention for burns receive immediate attention.  It remains to be seen what effect smoke inhalation will have on them.

Horses being loaded into trailers at San Luis Rey Training Center.

In the midst of this chaos, we should remember to say a silent prayer for the home and business owners of California, whose lives have been forever altered by the fires.  We hope that they will recover their balance and find the emotional and financial resources to jump-start their lives once more. 

In the ash and rubble of ruined dreams, some smaller stables will cease operations.  Grooms and trainers will find other jobs in the racing community, but they will never again be in charge of their own futures.  But for others, like Peter Miller, sad news was offset by good news.  Miller's horse Calculator, who ran second to American Pharoah in both the FrontRunner Stakes GI and Del Mar Futurity G1, was reunited with the trainer after being missing.



Santa Anita Park, The Stronach Group (owner of Adena Springs Farm) and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club have created a GoFundMe page:  To date more than $598,000.00 have been donated.  No amount is too small and donations are desperately needed.  

I've donated and I hope you will too.

Copyright 12/11/17 by Loren R. Schumacher

All photo credits belong to the photographers

Update 12/15/17

The news is both good and bad with regard to the monstrous wildfires plaguing California.  

The Thomas Fire, already the fourth largest in California history at 250,000 acres, will no doubt grow in the face of Santa Ana and Sundowner winds from Thursday the fifteenth through Sunday the seventeenth.  Sundowner winds are unique to the Santa Barbara area and originate off-shore with wind speeds reaching those of tropical storms, 60 miles per hour.  The Santa Ana winds are expected to range between 15 and 25 miles per hour with gusts to 40 miles per hour.  Not particularly encouraging.

Still more sad news regarding the death of San Diego area firefighter Corey Iverson, 32 years of age.  He leaves behind his wife who is expecting their second child in the spring of 2018 and a 2-year old as well.  Our condolences, of course.

A filly by Grazen x Chelcees Hope, named Scathing, is the first horse from the San Luis Rey fire to race and to the delight of everyone. she won.  Racing last to first in a five furlong race, a distance which is a bit short for her, she split horses in the final furlong to win by one and one-half lengths.  

Symbolic win for Scathing

Scathing was claimed for $8000.00 at Santa Anita on October 6 and had been training well since her removal from San Louis Rey.  Her barn was never threatened and she remained in her stall while panic overcame those who had to be freed in order to save their lives.  By the way, my vet's tech told me that she heard the heat was so intense in the recent fire at San Luis Rey, that the horse's red blood cells exploded among those who perished!


Scathing was cleared for competition after an "auscultation of the lungs and airways" by attending and state veterinarians.  All horses stabled at San Luis Rey will undergo similar tests before being cleared to return to racing.

Scathing at the wire

Finally, Juddmonte Farm auctioned a "no-guarantee" season with Uncle Mo.  The winning bid of $110,000 was matched by Juddmonte.  The money will be donated to Thoroughbred Charities of America's Horses First Fund.

Update copyright 12/15/17 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photo of Scathing copyright belongs to the photographer or race facility.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Perfect Racehorse: A final visit with Holy Bull

Life has been extraordinarily busy for the past few months and I have had very little time to write, so I hope you will enjoy the reprise of my story about Holy Bull which ran in the on-line magazine, Horse Network, earlier this year.  There is new content coming.

The stallion barn at Darley's Jonabell Farm was drowsy and still except for the droning of fans mounted over each stall door.  Most of the stallions were dozing in the early June warmth, or searching listlessly for wayward bits of hay that remained from their morning feeding.

2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist stood in the deepest shadows of his stall, as Medaglia d'Oro, stunningly large and perpetually anti-social, slouched with only his backside visible.  Frosted, "too smart for his own good," is rowdy and playful in a juvenile way.  And the magnificent Bernardini searches your soul with his placid kind eyes.

Frosted, "too smart for his own good."

But it is Holy Bull, the barn's elder statesman pensioned in 2012, who stands largely unnoticed in a corner stall near the door.  He is framed in the white light of the early Bluegrass summer, and at 26 still commands attention.  I knew very little about him other than his attention-grabbing name.

"...framed in the white light..."

A handler said that he is being treated for a melanoma common in older gray horses.  Like Alphabet Soup at Old Friends, he is being treated with a vaccine made from the cells of his own tumors.  Thankfully, it is working for Alphabet Soup.

The video images of he Haskell, the Travers Stakes, the Met Mile and the Florida Derby are grainy and time worn, like our memories of him.  Each is a blurred testament to the greatness of the horse, Holy Bull.  Tom Durkin's call of the 1994 Woodward still echoes down the years, "Holy Bull running like a champion...with devastating ease!  Holy Bull toying with the best horses in training."  His time, just 3/5 of a second off the stakes record set by the legendary Secretariat.

The 1994 Woodward (G1)

At the Travers he was tested early by the rabbit, Comanche Trail, while D. Wayne Lukas' Tabasco Cat watched and waited.  But as long, fluid strides brought the closer Concern to Holy Bull, the gray horse found a last fragment of courage under the relentless rhythm of Mike Smith's left-hand.  Winning by a neck, Tom Durkin said of Holy Bull, "What a hero."

The 1994 Travers Stakes

In 1994 he was the Eclipse Champion Three Year Old and Horse of the Year, and ultimately was elected to racing's Hall of Fame.  President of Godolphin USA, Jimmy Bell, once owner of Jonabell Farm, said of Holy Bull, "I've always said he wasn't a specialist - short, grass, long or dirt.  You can't mention his name without using words like fighter, determination and guts."

Winning 12 of his 16 starts (12 of his first 14, among them 6 GI and 3 GII races) and collecting nearly $2.5 million in career earnings, he proved equally adept at single turn races, like the Hutcheson Stakes or the Met Mile, as he was in route races.  But his career was not without failure and disappointment.  The odds-on favorite to win the 1994 Kentucky Derby, The Bull finished a dismal 12th behind Go For Gin.  To the end of his days, trainer Jimmy Croll said that someone had "gotten to" Holy Bull before the Derby.  His long time rider, Mike Smith to this day fails to come up with an explanation.  In the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a displaced palate left The Bull Gasping for breath, and finishing sixth.

Skeptics opined that he was just a sprinter, but after his decisive Florida Derby victory (.46 flat for the 1/2 and a mile and an eighth in 1:47 2/5) there was little room for speculation or doubt.  Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Croll said, "After the race he cooled out in 15 minutes and was screaming for his dinner.  He cleaned out every oat and the following morning he was bright as the sun."

For most of the 1995 Donn Handicap, it was a match race between The Bull and Cigar.  The Bull  was gaining ground on Cigar, when Mike Smith felt something off and pulled him up.  It was a career-ending ligament injury, and The Bull was retired to Jonabell Farm.

In his career as a sire he gave us a Derby winner Giacomo, as well as Macho Uno, the winner of  the 2000  Breeder's Cup Juvenile and descendants such as the undefeated Caravaggio, Judy The Beauty and Munnings.  In all, Holy Bull;; gave racing more than 700 winners with earnings totaling more than $60 million.

Holy Bull at Jonabell

These are the facts, brittle statistical validation of Holy Bull's greatness.  But it is the heart of Holy Bull and others like him that statistics alone cannot define.  Puncher and counter puncher, he was a fighter that refused to lose.  Even when pushed to the limit, dogged by first one challenger then another, Holy Bull seemed to glide across the surface as though he were out for a Sunday hack.  He ran with deceptive ease, but each stride was a demonstration of his power, thunderous, devastating and violent.

When asked by a tourist, "What is the perfect racehorse?" Holy Bull's groom, Bob Coffey, pointed to his horse saying, "Right here.  There is a perfect racehorse."

Holy Bull, The Perfect Race Horse

On that day in early June (2017) he seemed a bit restive, his head swaying back and forth as if the movement comforted him and relieved the boredom of the day's confinement.  His eyes were soft and warm, at times a little vacant as if he were lost in thought.  His ears reacted to the sounds of his small world, at times nearly flat and mulish, then pricked and alert.  And his coat, once a steely dark gray, was now a mantle of white, still dappled and with a fine silken mane.  He was beautiful.

Just five days later on June the 7th, at the age of 26, Holy Bull was euthanized due to the infirmities of old age.  Surely he went to his death in much the same way he raced - with courage and dignity.  You would expect nothing less from him.

I have nearly two dozen photos taken of him on that warm Friday afternoon, none of them very good, but they are among the last - perhaps the very last - photos taken of Holy Bull.

In retreat - Holy Bull

Post Script:   I was touched to have seen Holy Bull in his last days, and perhaps I will think of him in my last days and face their end with his courage.  I choose to believe that the light in which he stood that day was the light of Heaven as it opened to receive him.  I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Copyright Loren R. Schumacher July 14, 2017
All photos are credited to the photographers except the photos of Frosted and Holy Bull in white light which are by Loren R. Schumacher and are copyrighted as of June 2, 2017.