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.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Something About B.F.Wano

There was baseball, boxing and horse racing.  At the turn of the 20th century they were the big three of American sports.  And clearly the most favored of all was horse racing, particularly harness racing, and specifically, Dan Patch, a natural pacer (both right side legs move, followed by both legs on the left side).

No sports figure of that sport-happy time in America's brief history garnered more ink in the press or cash at the turnstile.  Twice in his fabled career, Dan Patch drew crowds in excess of 100,000 at a reported one U.S. Dollar per head.  His name appeared on everything from cut-plug tobacco cans and cigars to washing machines and pool cues.

One of many products using the Dan Patch name.

He traveled in a custom built railcar with his picture appearing on both its sides, and, they say, its interior was lined in red velvet.  The Jersey Lilly, the famous Lilly Langtry, came to meet him.  President Eisenhower remembered seeing him at the Kansas State Fair in 1904 and as a boy, President to be, Harry Truman, sent him a fan letter.  Dan Patch even had his own pet dog.

So dominating were his performances that often no horse would challenge him and he would pace against the clock.  Dan Patch lost just two heats in his career and never lost a race.  Fourteen times he broke world speed records and his official record for one mile stands at 1:55 1/4.

At the Minnesota State Fair in 1906 he scorched the track in 1:55 flat, an unofficial record which stood for thirty-two years until matched by Billy Direct in 1938.  It was a four horse race with two of the contenders staying close to Dan, but video footage shows that both of these horses have broken and are galloping by the race's end.  It was not until 1960 when Adios Butler paced a mile in 1:54 .3, that Dan Patch's unofficial record was broken.

The 111 year old video of the Minnesota State Fair race of 1906 follows.  Imagine the times that Dan Patch might turn on today's modern tracks and using today's sophisticated equipment.

The following is a lovely tribute to Dan Patch.

As popular as harness racing had become, no horse approached the fame and popularity of Dan Patch.  He had no peers and every other horse raced in his long shadow.  They ran at county fairs and tracks in places that have long been forgotten.  Their careers and lives were the definition of anonymity.

B.F. Wano was such a horse.  Not much is known about him.  He was a trotter (legs move on the diagonal: right front, left rear , etc.) and not a pacer.  Like Dan Patch, Wano was a stallion and for that time, big for the breed at 15.3 hands, or just over five feet in height at the withers and weighing about 1100 pounds.  He was powerfully built, muscular and well proportioned, with a short back and very straight legs.  Across his form lay a lustrous, rich brown coat.  Most assuredly all comparisons to Dan Patch end there.

The weather on September 21, 1906 at Fort Wayne, Indiana was undoubtedly fine as the average temperature for the month was 70.4 degrees, and it must have suited B.F. Wano, because in the third heat of the day he set a race record of 2:141/4.  Or did he?  According to a piece used to advertise his availability as a "sure foal getter," he did.  But thanks to Paul Wilder at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, New York, I learned that he tied the record and did not set it.

The race consisted of four heats with Wano finishing second in the first and second heats, and first in the third and fourth heats.  His driver was obscure, someone named Morgan.  For now this is all that is known about B, F. Wano, but on this one day in 1906 he ran his heart out (actually he trotted) and proved himself to all who watched.

His owner, W. H. Stults of Wren, Ohio, claimed in his advertising that B.F. Wano had trotted a mile in 2:10 and a half in 1:03.  Who knows?  Perhaps Stults engaged in a bit of advertising bombast so common in the early twentieth century when he said that, "in style and action he is perfect," and "his colts are large with fine style and action."  

From the Wilshire (Ohio) Herald, May 5, 1904, "W.H. Stults and J.L. Moser were Wilshire vistiors Saturday afternoon.  The latter is president and the former cashier of the Bank of Wren.  They are both hustlers, and the leading financiers of their bailiwick."  Hustlers?  Mr. Stults later lived in Indiana where the trail ends - for now.

If anyone should know more about B.F. Wano or W.H. Stults please leave a comment.

This article, in a slightly different form, appeared in the Horse Collaborative, now Horse Network.

Copyright 2015 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photo of B.F. Wano from the author's collection.
All other photos and videos belong to Getty Images or Youtube by unknown sources.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Road To The Horse 2017: A Celebration of the Cowgirl

While the Road To The Horse (RTTH) colt starting championship's format changes little from year to year, producer and owner Tootie Bland reaches deeply into her imagination to present interesting and innovative programs to excite and engage her audience.

However, change may be in order to prevent the show from becoming a boring parody.  Why?  There simply are not enough stars in the trainer/clinician universe to maintain interest.  There are many top-flight trainers, but very few are successful and entertaining enough to sell out Altel Arena at The Kentucky Horse Park.  Once beyond Craig Cameron, Parrelli, Lyons and Clinton Anderson, not to mention Chris Cox, four time undefeated champion of RTTH, the pool becomes very shallow.

This year's contest was billed as a Celebration of the Cowgirl, but seemed to walk a fine line, perhaps unintentionally, between a contest of skilled competitors and a feminist forum. Tootie Bland often said that this event will/would prove that women are as good as the men.  Anyone with their wits about them knows that horsewomen are every bit as skilled and generally more empathetic than their male counterparts.  Woman have competed at RTTH in the past and done very well, thank you.   Several years ago Sarah Dawson, competing against both men and women, lead until the last day of the competition when she was thrown from her horse.  Little was made of the fact that Sarah was a young woman and the daughter of former RTTH winner Richard Winters.  And I don't remember the sequin spangled Bland cheerleading like a spastic marionette for Sarah, or Obie Schlom, the other female competitor of that year.

The lack of star power almost surely reduced the gate in 2017, and I am just as certain that there were far fewer men in attendance than in the past.  Men, it seems (I'm a guy), don't seem to be very interested in watching women compete athletically.  What a shame, because one of the women, Vicki Wilson, put on a hell of a show and could/can compete toe to toe with any of her male counterparts.

The Running of the Remuda (horses are provided by Texas' 6666 ranch) heralds the beginning of each Road To The Horse, and this year's herd was memorable because of two of its 3 year old cast members: a big gorgeous gray that came to be know as Checkers and hip #7, a feisty, running, bucking, kicking brat of a horse that everyone fell for immediately.  Incidentally, #7 was not chosen by any of the four competitors but was the backup choice by three of the women.

This is 2015's remuda.**

A cowboy from the 6666 ranch.  The wranglers manage the remuda and the horses selected by the four competitors.**

Tootie wanted a rodeo atmosphere for the RTTH and five years ago brought aboard the annoying magpie, Matt West.  He is an emcee for PBR (Professional Bull Riders) events nationally and in Canada.  I hear his voice and want to reach for a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon beer).  He replaced the low-key and well-liked Rick Lamb, host of the nationally known television program, The Horse Show. Believe me it has been all down hill since Rick was sidelined.  West has not profited from his exposure to this event.   Over the years, Wests seems to have gained little or no insight into the competition and simply parrots the remarks of any celebrity he can buttonhole. Repetition, of course, breeds contempt.  His specialty is the irritatingly juvenile count-down, you know: 10, 9, 8... before introducing any act or change of direction in the program. Ugh!

Worse still was his co-host Stacy Westfall, (a woman by the way), winner of the RTTH in 2006.  She is also a former NRHA Freestyle Reining Competition champion.  Her ride sans bridle created  a sensation and the YouTube video of her run has been viewed more than 1,000,000 times.  Today she competes successfully in mounted shooting, and with her husband Jesse, presents clinics worldwide, while still finding time to train horses and produce How To videos.  On the street she would have a ton of CRED.   I hate to say it, but she was a complete zero, adding little and all but disappearing on day two of the event.

Originally Barbara Cox, wife of Chris Cox, was scheduled to compete.  But due to a very serious back operation was unable to participate.  In all likelihood her competitive career is over due to the serious nature of her spinal surgery.  Her obligations as wife and mother had a significant influence on her decision to leave competition.

My wife, Carol and Chris Cox.  Chris told Carol a great deal about his wife's condition **

Rachelle Valentine worked as an intern with Clinton Anderson, worked with Dean Locke and is now an assistant trainer for Sean Patrick in Florida, From the beginning it seemed that the moment was too big for her as she made several mistakes with her gelding, the huge gray she named Checkers. And because of Checker's size, the insipid Matt West christened him "Chubby" Checkers after the 1960's singer who gave us the hit tune, The Twist.  

Like nearly all of the 6666 horses, Checkers was difficult to move forward.  Hard to imagine after you see them race the arena over and over again.  The members of the remuda are more or less wild horses with little in their past to prepare them for these three days, three of the most important days of their lives.  They know the way of the herd and little else and have spent a year or two on the plains of Texas without human contact.  Once under saddle, Checkers gave Rachelle all she could handle. But Valentine's problems began during one of the mandatory rest breaks for Checkers. On day one the great gray was left alone in the round pen saddled and bridled as were all of the other contestants horses at one point or another.  But Rachelle left one of her reins dangling and Checkers stepped on it, then danced in panic for a few moments.  Point deductions by the judges followed.

 Her barrel-chested gelding pushed past her and broke for freedom as she closed the round pen gate after riding him outside its limits for several minutes.  More penalty points.  After day one, Rachelle spent her time looking up at her fellow competitors, a place she never relinquished.

Rachelle Valentine and Checkers outside the round pen.**

After breaking free.**

Checkers pushing a ball while crossing a tarp.  Difficult work well done.**

After the obstacle course.  The use of pink and white on the course to emphasize femininity made a mockery of the contestants.**

On a horse Sarah Dawson is fluid and graceful, her every movement has a purpose and nothing is left to chance. She is a terrific horsewoman and I think often overlooked because of her quiet, almost shy demeanor.  She shares one characteristic with her father, Richard Winters, she is a phenomenal rider. I am not being crude when I say that her butt never leaves the saddle no matter the gait.  Not every competitor, male or female, can say the same.

She is newly married and with her husband Chris, they operate Dawson Performance Horses in Aubrey, Texas.  Their focus is on Reined Cow Horses and they currently have about sixty head in one state of training or another.  Her marriage and professional success have given her once flat delivery during demonstrations a boost.  There is a joy and happiness evident when she speaks now and she wears it well.

Sarah has two NRCHA (National Reined Cow Horse Assoc.) World Championships to her credit and was the 2015 Snaffle Bit Futurity Limited Open Champion and has been a finalist in every NRCHA premier event.  At this writing, Sarah is currently ranked eighth nationally, while her husband is ranked number two. Chris was in Las Vegas competing while she started her colt at the RTTH.  

Sarah Dawson on her colt. #4**

Despite her usual solid work, Sarah spent the weekend in third places with less than ten points separating her from the top spot and Kate Neubert.  Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be too good at what you do.

Kate Neubert grew up starting horses with her father, clinician Bryan Neubert, in California.  Her specialty is in cutting horses, where her winnings are approaching $200,000.  She qualified two horses to the semi-finals in the 2014 NCHA Futurity, her first year competing in this prestigious event.

She describes herself as Kate the horse trainer, the competitor and as a somewhat quiet girl from California, but also as a servant of God and student of the horse.  

As she enters her round-pen you are struck by how small she is, tiny by any measure, but tough and thorough, competent and aggressive.  In her brochure she is quoted as saying, "We can take young horses - horses that are frightened, stressed or confused, and in a short amount of time (and with the right efforts) we can teach them understanding, trust and encouragement.  We can mold them and shape them and create a willing partner, all because of our approach.  If we can apply these tactics to every corner of our lives, just think of the growth and impact we can have on ourselves and others!"
Her comments define the perfect strategy for any horse endeavor, but especially one such as the RTTH, where the time allowed with a young gelding is at a premium and the results can define the rest of the horse's life.

Kate Neubert and her young gelding.**

In first place at the end of day one, she began day two by striding confidently into her round-pen, insisting on forward movement from her 3-year-old charger.  I've noticed over the past several years that horses provided by the 6666 ranch tend toward a bit of indolence, perhaps a byproduct of fear caused by their separation from the herd.  But it is a contest that requires forward motion.

With a scant ten point margin over Kiwi Vicki Wilson in second place, Kate literally did a hop, skip and jump as she entered the arena and began to prepare her horse for the obstacle course on day three. The obstacle course, as you might expect, separates "the men from the boys" and the audience responds to each competitor with encouragement,. thunderous applause and ear-splitting cheers.  

Somewhere on day three it began to go wrong for Kate Neubert. I couldn't tell you where exactly, mostly it came down to her horse's capacity to learn and willingness to cooperate.  Many have said, "How did we ever train horses without blue tarpolins?" Sluggish at pole-bending, with uncertain and ragged passages over the next two obstacles, the dreaded tarpolin reared its cobra-like head and bit Kate Neubert.  But this time the tarp was white with Zoetis printed in bold bright orange letters across its surface and may as well have been ten feet tall, because Kate Neubert's horse would not cross.

Vicki Wilson, the last minute replacement for Barbara Cox, came to the arena wearing riding breaches, a helmet, tight calf-high riding boots and a flat saddle.  A champion show jumper in her native New Zealand, she speaks in a slightly nasal clipped accent that combines a bit of English haughtiness with a demand for your respect. No one could have looked or sounded more out of place than Vicki Wilson in the good ol' boys environment of western colt starting.  

Vicki Wilson and the horse she named Kentucky. **

Notice that there is tape over the name on Vicki's saddle cloth.  Not unusual, when my horse Stormy Monday and I appeared with Rick Lamb on The Horse Show, I had to remove my Chris Cox vest!  At that time ADM, the show's sponsor, also sponsored Clinton Anderson.

Vicki and her two sisters are well known for their work saving the wild horses of New Zealand and now have brought their passion to the United States and our native horse, the mustang.  And I think it is the word "passion" that best describes Vicki Wilson's relationship to her horses and life.

It was not her accent or her garb that riveted those in the arena, but her skill in coaxing everything that her horse Kentucky had to give at any given moment and rewarding his effort with rest.

No one really saw what happened, only that it appeared she had been thrown.  In fact, she had somehow dislocated her left shoulder, an old injury, and leaped to the ground landing on her bum. Scrambling  to her feet and doing a passable job of mending the joint, she continued as though nothing had happened.  Vicki is a tough and experienced competitor and as Chris Cox said of her, "If you shake hands with her you'd better hold on to something."  Earning Chris' respect is a trophy to cherish.

Returning the next morning, day two, with her arm in a sling, she said that she had spent an uncomfortable night, had seen a "physio" and was back to to do the job she came to do.  In that moment she won over the assembly, if not the judges.  She remained in second place behind Kate Neubert by a mere ten points as day three dawned.

For three days Vicki Wilson demonstrated knowledge, competence, courage and extraordinary skill, whether showcasing her diagnostic and chiropractic skills in a demonstration (she even had adjusted Stacey Westfall's horse once and had been asked to do another adjustment), or in a dream-like spotlit performance aboard one of Dan James' horses, she simply stood taller than her fellow competitors.

Vicki Wilson and Pegasus

Vicki Wilson and one of Dan James horses in a bridle-less exhibition.**

It was among the pink and white fixtures of the obstacle course that Vicki Wilson excelled and laid claim to the 2017 title.  Her vast experience and calm reassuring demeanor led her horse, Kentucky, to accomplish what a horse with little more than three hours of training should not have been able to do.

A timed event, Vicki and Kentucky finished the obstacle course with minutes to spare.  She eliminated his fears with gentle but firm guidance, giving him courage and confidence where fear had reigned just seconds before.  In the process she was creating the brave and trusting horse that all of us want to ride. Understanding his reluctance before an obstacle, Vicki several times dismounted and walked her horse around and through or over the obstacles that shook his resolve. In particular the white Zoetis tarp that I mentioned earlier, first walking Kentucky across, then remounting and riding him across.  In that moment the audience picked their winner.  It was left only to the fickle judges to confirm the victory.  I might add that while the audience had selected a winner, the judges seem to grudgingly accept the vaguely different methods used by foreign competitors, primarily Australians, before awarding them the brass ring.

With the smallest margin of victory in the competitions fifteen year history, a new champion was crowned: Vicki Wilson of New Zealand.  And deservedly so.  She'll be back in 2018 to defend her crown and she will do an exceptional job of it, be sure of that.  We can only hope that the 2018 version is not billed as a "battle of the sexes."  This is not the WWE (professional wrestling), it is the beginning of a new life for a horse that only days before will have roamed freely on the Texas plains.  

It is not about gender, it is the about the horse - always the horse, first and foremost, the horse.

Amid the pyrotechnics the winner is...  Notice her left arm in a sling,

Tootie Bland and Vicki Wilson.

Copyright, July 27, 2017 by Loren Schumacher
All photos marked ** are copyrighted by Loren Schumacher, July 27, 2017
All other photo copyrights are by the photographer, RTTH or by Western Horseman Magazine

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Derby Winner Classic Empire...!! What?

This is a story the Cincinnati Enquirer printed in its Saturday, May 27, 2017 edition.  The article read:

Derby Winner Classic Empire skipping Belmont

New York - Kentucky Derby winner Classic Empire will Skip the Belmont Stakes next month after finishing eighth in the Preakness.

Trainer Todd Pletcher says the 3-year-old will be pointed toward either the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Trainer Chad Brown says he will wait until after the Memorial Day weekend to announce where Preakness winner Cloud Computing will run next.  However, it appears likely that he will run in the Belmont.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 starters.  Horses expected include Conquest, Mo Money, Japan-based Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, Multiple, Patch and Senior Investment.

Associated Press

Derby Winner Classic Empire (?)

The Cincinnati Enquirer began as the Cincinnati Commercial in the mid-1800's and survived the shake-out of our two afternoon daily newspapers, The Cincinnati Post and The Cincinnati Times Star. It was a proud newspaper with a great tradition and a conservative editorial board.  But with the advent of online resources the Enquirer, like many other newspapers, began cutting costs to make up for lost revenue and increased costs.  The Enquirer isn't even printed in Cincinnati anymore, it is printed in Columbus and is now owned by the USA Today group.

The paper staggers beneath the weight of change, but never is its decline more evident than in the quality of its editing.  There are grammatical and syntax errors and this unedited news wire story makes you wonder about the accuracy of stories that are of substantially more significance than this 
collection of misbegotten prose.

So I wrote the following email to Jason Hoffman, the sports editor.


Of course by now you know that it was Always Dreaming who won the Kentucky Derby and not Classic Empire as reported in today's Enquirer.  Over the past several years I have been disappointed by the quality of editing at the Enquirer.  This egregious error is just another reason why newspapers straddle a fine line between relevance and obsolescence.  It makes no difference that the blurb about Classic Empire and the Belmont may have been sourced from the Associated Press, the error should have been caught.

As a writer of articles that primarily deal with horses and horse racing, I am always careful to make certain my facts are in order, and I have an editor that demands that accuracy.  We rely on you to bring us sports news that is accurate and not merely laughable.

And in all fairness I have to report the presence of egg on my face, because in my haste to dash off this email to Mr. Hoffman,  I typed "...Always Dreaming who one," when I meant Always Dreaming who "won" the Kentucky Derby.  lol.

By the way, The Enquirer did not respond to my email.

Wearing the symbol of his Kentucky Derby win, Always Dreaming.

Copyright June 6, 2017 by Loren Schumacher
Photo copyrights belong to the photographers
Derby Winner Classic Empire skipping Belmont by the Associated Press and published by The Cincinnati Enquirer on May 37, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wild Dayrell

The three foundation sires of the modern Thoroughbred date to Byerly Turk, 1680, Darley Arabian, 1704 and Godolphin Arabian in 1729.  Wild Dayrell, an English Thoroughbred foaled in 1852, was just six generations removed from Herod and eight from Godolphin Arabian.  He was the product of the union of Ellen Middleton, a horse purchased for 50** guineas and the runner up in the Epson Derby of 1838 to Ion.  A photo of Wild Dayrell taken in 1855, the year he was retired, is the earliest known photographic image of a Thoroughbred.

Wild Dayrell in 1855

The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Canberra, Australia) of Friday, September 14, 1855 described him this way:
"He is a rich brown horse, standing sixteen hands one inch high of immense power, he has a good lean head, rather long arched neck (compare to paintings of the Godolphin Arabian), good shoulder, great depth of girth (69 inches), immense ribs, and very powerful strong muscular quarters, immense arms (?), gaskins, knees, and hocks and is very short from knee to ground.  If anything, he is a little "in" at the elbows, and his toes turn outward.  He has no white about him and "take him all in all," is one of the finest specimens of a race horse that has been seen for years."  It looks like he might be "sickle hocked" as well, but it could just be the way he is standing.

His breeder, Francis Popham of Littlecote House in Wiltshire, had no prior experience in breeding horses, nor did his "trainer," John Rickaby, Popham's "hunting groom." Throughout his brief but successful racing career, Wild Dayrell was dogged by the public's opinion that he had been "trained by a gardener."

Wild Dayrell's name is the stuff of local legends in Wiltshire.  It is said to stem from the murder of an illegitimate child.  Its unthinkable death came at the hands of one of Popham's male forbears named Darrell.  The child was first thrown into an open fire at Littlecote House.  When it somehow escaped the flames, the baby was thrown onto the fireplace grate where it died.  A scorned husband could leave no evidence of a woman's infidelity it seems.

Wild Dayrell was sold as a yearling for 100 guineas, with an extra 500 guineas to be paid should the colt win the Epsom Derby.  The purchaser was John Kent, the agent for Lord Henry Lennox, the son of the Duke of Richmond.  These people traveled in lofty circles.

As a two-year old in 1854 he was repurchased by Popham for 250 guineas after proving himself "backward and immature."  Popham sold a share in Dayrell to Lord Craven and on September 27, 1854 the horse easily won by two lengths a three-horse sweepstakes at Newmarket, beating horses named Hazel and Para.  In winning, Wild Dayrell so impressed onlookers that he was installed as a contender for the following year's Epsom Derby.

After turning down a 3000 British pound bid for the horse by Baron Meyer de Rothschild, his owners stepped up the pressure, racing him in a private trial just 10 days before the 1855 Derby, where he soundly defeated three rivals, including a classy colt by the name of Jack Shepherd, while giving away 21 pounds to his three rivals.

What followed is the stuff of Hollywood. Gamblers and bookmakers feared loosing a small fortune should Wild Dayrell win the Derby.  A member of Popham's staff was let go for acting "suspiciously" and the horse was put under guard.  There is more.  The horse-box (trailer) hired to transport the colt was sabotaged and collapsed when it was pulled by a bullock.  Then a 5000 British pound bribe was offered to Popham and Lord Craven, which they refused,

The even money favorite against an eleven horse field that included the 2000 Guineas winner, Lord of the Isles at 7/4.  Stalking the leader Kingstown, Dayrell made his move just a furlong from the finish, winning by a length from Kingstown with Lord of the Isles finishing third.   Lord Craven made a killing on the outcome, winning 10,000 British pounds, While Lord Craven cashed in, Dayrell emerged from the race lame in the left front, most likely because of the course's firm turf.  His unfortunate injury would resurface later.

He won in a lark at York in the "Ebor St. Leger" over a well thought of colt named Oulston.  He was next entered in the Doncaster Cup, a race of two and a half miles.   While he was the favorite and gave away seven pounds to his rivals, he came to the post with heavily bandaged legs.  He pulled up lame, failing to finish for the first time and suffering his only defeat.  A short while later he was retired and first stood at Littlecote for 30 guineas, where he sired many winners including his daughter, Hurricane, the 1000 Guinea winner of 1862 and Atlantic, the 1874 winner of the 2000 Guineas.

Wild Dayrell died where he was born, at Littlecote in November 1879.  He was 27.

One writer said of him, "There is no saying how good as a race horse he really was," because he was never truly tested.

Compare if you will, the photo of Wild Dayrell to Thoroughbreds of more recent vintage:

The beautiful Practical Joke.

The incomparable American Pharoah.

Regardless of who wins the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, 2017, we wish horses and riders alike a safe trip and God's speed.

** A historical currency calculator gave me the buying power in current US dollars and these are the results.

30 guineas, Dayrell's opening stud fee:  $3507.00 in today's dollars.

50 guineas, purchase price for Ellen Middleton: $5844.00 in today's dollars.

100 guineas, Dayrell's original selling price: $11,689.00 in today's dollars.

250 guineas, price Popham paid to repurchase Dayrell: $29,244.00 in today's dollars.

3000 British pounds, price offered by Baron de Rothschild for Dayrell: $333,999.00 in today's dollars.

5000 British pounds, bribe offered Popham to pull Dayrell from the Epsom Derby: $556,666.00 in today's dollars.

10,000 British pounds, Lord Craven's winnings at the Epsom Derby: $1,033,338.00

These numbers would be enough to save Downton Abbey!

Copyright May 4, 2017 by Loren Schumacher
Copyrights for all photos belong to the photographer

Monday, February 13, 2017

...step off the sidewalk.

"For the record, we were NOT lost-not after we figured out we'd dropped two miles and 1,500 vertical feet in the wrong direction in a near-whiteout."   Just a postcard from the edge. a near-whiteout."

To be honest, I really don't know Steve Woodruff well.  He is the friend of a friend.  What I know of him comes from our brief and infrequent digital correspondence and his photographs.  But we do share a love of horses and the outdoor life.  And for me, that's enough.

Montana is fly-over country.  It is the hyphen that connects the urban centers of the east and west coasts.  The graceful neck around which hang the pearls.  There are just over a million people living in Montana.  Compare that with Ohio, where I live, and its population of nearly twelve million souls.  There are few homesteads, outposts in a sea of grass, and fewer cars.  The wind gathers up what is not secured and pushes it for mile upon mile until a taut fence line catches up what it can. Tumbleweed, just Russian Thistle really, torn from the thin soil rushes about madly just ahead of the wind.  And there is water, cold water and cutthroat trout, elk and deer, the larder of past times.  Foxes raise their generations, while buzzards make death pristine and hawks deal with the problem of over population.  There is still more in the jagged granite peaks, creeks that tumble white over their rocky paths, and rolling meadows of purple and yellow blooms rife with long grass,sweet and green.

Steve, you see, is not afraid to step off the sidewalk, to peer through the hedges, to look up and down country.  He fishes for trout in cold fast running streams and scours the tussocks for pheasant along with his two yellow labs, and rides his good horse Ranger along narrow paths into a wider, wilder world.

There is an intimacy and warmth in Steve's photographs.  However, in many of the photographs, survival and not the animal is the real subject. No matter the animal and no matter its size, all of them face deep snow, brutal cold and solitary searches for food that never end.  For the most part, leisure and a full stomach are unknown in the animal world.  

Steve has graciously allowed me to use his photographs.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.  

First, the horses:

Ranger in a sea of grass.  Notice his muscle mass.

 Zimba's Partial Eclipse
My favorite of all the horse photos.

Zimba is Ranger's pasture buddy.

Ranger patrolling the fence line.

From the field:


If Today Could Last Forever.
This is achingly beautiful and almost moves me to tears.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Coyote and Hitchhiking Magpie

In order to subjugate the Plains Indians we nearly
hunted the Bison to extinction.  When that didn't work, we rounded up
their horses and killed them all.

Bull Elk

Great Blue Heron on the Bitterroot River

Magpie in the Snow
Magpies are ubiquitous.  And everywhere too!

Winter on the Mountain

Day's End

All photos by Steve Woodruff,  Copyright 2/13/17

Text and captions by Loren Schumacher, Copyright 2/13/17