Thursday, February 28, 2013


Limerick colicked on Friday and although she came through okay, it was not good (no one wants to see a frightened vet). Since then I've been a mix of anxious, fearful, sad, and also determined to figure out WHY she has colicked three times in three years.

I made an appointment with her vet for tomorrow, so maybe we'll have more answers then.

I had another racing Weekend Recap scheduled but that's been set aside for now. I'll update more on Lim this weekend and hopefully be up for a Santa Anita Handicap edition of the Weekend Recap on Sunday (go, Ron the Greek!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Horse couples argue, too

My husband just sent me this photo of Limerick and Joey "arguing". He then texted, "Right after this pic was taken, Joey nipped Lim on her side. She in turn bit him and he let out one of the loudest yelps I've heard out [in turnout]." Ha! I have no doubt that right now they are quietly standing side-to-side in the sunshine again. Us humans could take a cue from that, I suppose.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekend Recap: Filly & Mare Edition

The weekend was full of fillies and mares, which I loved! I enjoy watching horses of either gender run, but as racehorses, breeding stock, and personal horses, the girls will always have a very special place in my heart.

Undefeated super-mare Black Caviar raced in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Group I) Saturday afternoon in Australia, which translated to 11:30pm central time Friday night for us. Racing for the first time since her win in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot last June, a part of me had some questions about this race. Namely: is she still mentally sharp, after so many months off? If yes, is she fit enough to carry out her will to win? And is it bad luck for her to attempt to extend her undefeated streak to 23 in a race named after her? I did not have to wait long for her answer.
Black Caviar blazing
"Don't be ridiculous, for I am Black Caviar, Queen of all the Sprinters in the World!" she declared as she floated over the turf with her great, gliding strides, handily breaking the quarter-century old Flemington Racecourse record for 1,000 meters. She had essentially run 5 furlongs in :55.42. There were no more questions to be asked--Black Caviar had returned.

The weekend began with one superstar mare and ended with another. Royal Delta raced in the Sabin (Gr. III) yesterday (Sunday) afternoon for her first start since winning the Breeder's Cup Distaff Ladies Classic last fall. Royal Delta has been riding a peak since last spring (I like to think it began with her romp in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs last June, which my husband and I were fortunate enough to see in person) and I was hoping that she was still riding this peak for the Sabin.

Royal Delta in the paddock before the June 2012 Fleur de Lis

Royal Delta nearing the finish in the Fleur de Lis

Standing tall, she is a long-bodied mare, finely sculpted, with a slender Edward Troye neck and high, beautiful head with a broad flat forehead, straight profile, and eyes bright with intelligence. She is well composed within herself, except when sneaking playful nips to her pony in the post parade. She has matured since 2011, her three-year-old year, and now clearly sees the sport for the game it is. She can stalk or she can speed, and she glides along with a low-slung, ground-eating gallop, her knees bounding high, her neck straight, her ears pricking at the sight of the long, empty homestretch before her. Does she know the roar of the crowd, the shaking of the grandstand, is for her? I have no doubt.
To Royal Delta, racing is an art, and she has fast become my favorite artist to watch. Yesterday she looped Gulfstream Park with that long, low-slung gallop of hers as if going for a pleasure stroll through the park. But one only had to look five lengths back to her hard-driving competitors to realize that Royal Delta was not out for a stroll, but in a race. It was also a relief that she won, for she is now headed to Dubai for another crack at the World Cup, following the same path she took last year. The only difference is, a not-yet-mature Royal Delta lost last year's Sabin to the very good Awesome Maria before finishing 9th in the World Cup. Hopefully this year's trip across the ocean will yield better results.

Most racing fans are familiar with Baffert's 1998 Triple Crown contender, Real Quiet. By Quiet American, out of Really Blue (by Believe It, a son of In Reality), Real Quiet is heavily influenced by Tartan Farm's masterful breeding. He also came closer than any other horse since 1979 to winning the Triple Crown. Unfortunately, he died in 2010, but not before siring the brilliant sprinter Midnight Lute (out of the Dehere mare Candytuft), who was also trained by Bob Baffert. Racing fans from the 1998 era are also familiar with Baffert's champion filly, Silverbulletday. Her wins include the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies, Ashland Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Black Eyed Susans, Monmouth Oaks, and Alabama Stakes. Retiring with 15 wins from 23 starts, she was hailed as one of the top fillies of the 1990s.

These horses are three of the better ones that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has had in his barns, and over the weekend they came together to produce a trio of three-year-olds to watch--all also trained by Mr. Baffert. Midnight Lucky, by Midnight Lute (out of Citiview, by Citidancer) impressively broke her maiden upon her first try on Saturday. Then yesterday--Sunday--two horses by Midnight Lute and out of daughters of Silverbulletday won at Santa Anita. Govenor Charlie (yes, that is spelled accurately) broke his maiden in his second try--his dam is the unraced Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat. Two races later, Shake It Up won the San Vicente (Gr. II), a Kentucky Derby prep race. Shake It Up is out of the unraced Silver Bullet Moon, by Vindication (a gone-too-soon son of Seattle Slew).

It's been nearly 15 years since I heard much about Silverbulletday, and to have her announce her presence so clearly over the weekend brought back memories. You can see her page on the Hall of Fame here.

 Lastly, Rachel Alexandra has remained in serious but stable condition over the weekend, which is as good news as you can expect. Her veterinarians are encouraged by her progress. I hope she can continue on the upswing and eventually make a complete recovery.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Danada Farm, home of 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Lucky Debonair

When I moved Limerick to her current barn just over five years ago, it wasn't long before I learned of Danada Equestrian Center and Danada House. Just a short walk as the crow flies (and the limestone trail meanders) from the boarding barn, Danada reminds me of a miniature Kentucky Horse Park, sans museums and Hall of Champions but open to anyone traveling through on foot, bicycle or horseback.

Past the Danada barns and down a short smooth blacktop road is the Naperville Road tunnel. I would later discover that this tunnel was created so that Thoroughbreds in training could safely travel from the barns to the training track. And yes, there is a racetrack--maintained turf, approximately one half a mile around, with a dilapidated starting gate standing at the head of the chute, its crevices full of paper wasp nests. I have been around this track several times, both on foot and Lim's back.

Riding Limerick down the chute (2011)

The final turn (2011)

Thoroughbreds in training? Yes, indeed, and one of these happened to be a Kentucky Derby winner. Wheaton's beloved Danada Equestrian Center and Danada House were once home to the generous philanthropists Dan and Ada L. Rice, whose names can be found throughout Wheaton, as well as above wings of Chicago museums. The Danada land was initially purchased as a 1,350 acre working farm in 1929. Over time, the Rices became seriously interested in Thoroughbred racing and in the mid-1940s they built a Kentucky-style barn, as well as the training track, on the property. They named their Thoroughbred farm Danada Farm, and the horses raced under Ada L. Rice's name. (1, 2)

In 1946, famed breeder Colonel E.R. Bradley of Idle Hour Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, passed away. Idle Hour's stallions Black Toney and Blue Larkspur, along with imported mare La Troienne and her daughters--and their daughters--are important foundations of the modern Thoroughbred. (3) Upon his death, Bradley's superb bloodstock and land were carefully divided and dispersed. The Idle Hour bloodstock was split up between Ogden Phipps, Robert Kleberg of King Ranch, and John H. Whitney of Greentree Stud. After the core of the farm itself exchanged hands a couple times, John W. Galbreath purchased it in 1949, naming it Darby Dan Farm. Darby Dan would go on to produce a line of mares almost as fine as that of La Troienne's ancestresses. Smaller parcels of the farm were sold to King Ranch of Texas and Dan and Ada Rice, who turned their new plot of bluegrass into a satellite location of Danada Farm.(4, 5)

In 1961, the Rices bred their young Count Fleet mare, Fresh as Fresh (out of Airy, by Bull Lea) to the solid racehorse, Vertex (out of Kanace, by Case Ace). Vertex was by The Rhymer, a son of St. Germans. Imported to the United States by Whitney/Greentree Stud, St. Germans had sired several good horses, including Twenty Grand (1931 Kentucky Derby winner), Devil Diver, and Bold Venture (winner of the 1936 Kentucky Derby). (6) Bold Venture in turn sired two Kentucky Derby winners himself, the only stallion to do so. They were Middleground (1950 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner) and Assault (1946 Triple Crown winner). Needless to say, there was no shortage of stamina in the blood of St. Germans.

This blood combined with the equally stamina-laden blood of Count Fleet (1943 Triple Crown winner) and Bull Lea (sire of Citation, 1948 Triple Crown winner) to produce Lucky Debonair, who was foaled at the Lexington branch of Danada Farm on May 2, 1962. As a two-year old, he was shipped to the Illinois branch of the farm for training. (1) The colt was later shipped to Atlantic City Race Course where, trained by Frank Catrone, Lucky Debonair had his one and only start as a two-year-old, finishing out of the money. (7)

The training track starting gate (2011)

A view from the starting gate. The limestone trail across the chute was added by the forest preserve (2011)

In early 1965, Lucky Debonair was shipped to Santa Anita Park in California. With Bill Shoemaker as his regular rider, he won the San Vicente and finished second in the San Felipe. He then established himself as a major Kentucky Derby contender by winning the March 6 Santa Anita Derby in the record time of 1:47 flat. To this day, no horse has run the Santa Anita Derby faster. Lucky Debonair shares the record with two other noteworthy horses: Sham (1973) and Indian Charlie (1998).

Frank Catrone then shipped Lucky Debonair to Laurel Park in Maryland with intentions to run him in the Chesapeake. (7)  But severe spring weather disrupted these plans. Feeling it was unsafe to even work his Derby horse over Laurel's track, Catrone shipped Lucky Debonair to Churchill Downs in Louisville with plans to enter him in prep races at Keeneland in neighboring Lexington. (8) By the time Lucky Debonair stepped into the gate for the April 15 seven furlong Forerunner Purse at Keeneland, he had gone well over a month without a race and was in desperate need of one. Racing over a sloppy track, he gave nine pounds to a "mudder" son of Sword Dancer, Bugler, and lost by a neck to him. (9, 10) Lucky Debonair started again one week later in Keeneland's prestigious Blue Grass Stakes, which he won by a half length.(11)

The Kentucky Derby was run a week later on May 1, one day before Lucky Debonair's actual third birthday. Running his third race in as many weeks, the colt won by a neck over the fast-closing, regally-bred Dapper Dan, with Tom Rolfe third. (12) It was a Kentucky Derby finish of which the ghost of Coloney E. R. Bradley would have approved. Lucky Debonair was foaled on former Idle Hour Farm ground; Dapper Dan was of a direct female line descending from Bradley's beloved La Troienne, and by bright new Darby Dan Farm stallion, Ribot; and Tom Rolfe, also by Ribot, would go on to be one of the more important sires of the 20th century, particularly through his son Hoist the Flag. The Derby win was also deeply satisfying for Bill Shoemaker, who had lost the previous year's Derby by finishing second to Northern Dancer. Prior to that race, he had been given the choice of riding Hill Rise or Northern Dancer--he chose Hill Rise. (13)

Lucky Debonair was entered in the Preakness but faded to seventh after bucking a shin during the race. Dapper Dan and Tom Rolfe finished 1-2. (14) While Lucky Debonair never returned to the top form he maintained in the spring of 1965, he did return as a four-year-old and won three of five starts, including the Santa Anita Handicap over the great California horse, Native Diver.

Rolling Rock ad featuring Lucky Debonair. Photo from eBay

He stood stud at the Lexington branch of Danada Farm until 1976. Upon her husband's death, Ada L. Rice dispersed her Thoroughbred stock and Lucky Debonair was sold to Venezuela, where he died in 1987 at age 25. (2) Although he was not a huge success at stud, he did produce some stakes winners and a few thin lines of his blood can be found to this day, particularly through his grandson Fortunate Prospect (by the Mr. Prospector stallion Northern Prospect, out of Fortunate Bid, by Lucky Debonair). Fortunate Prospect himself has proven to be an excellent broodmare sire, as indicated through his recent sons Musket Man (wins include the 2009 Illinois Derby, Tampa Bay Derby, and 2010 Super Stakes) and Ron the Greek (wins include the 2012 Santa Anita Handicap, Stephen Foster, and 2013 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic).

Lucky Debonair stallion ad from the Thoroughbred Record, 1968. Photo courtesy Kelly Jecmen

The Lexington branch of Danada Farm was sold to equine surgeon Dr. William O. Reed (whose patients included Hoist the Flag and Ruffian). The farm was re-named Mare Haven Farm, and several good horses were foaled there, including Goodbye Halo, Known Fact, and Lion Cavern. But perhaps best of all was Reed's homebred Secretariat mare, Secrettame (out of his foundation Tim Tam mare, Tamerett), who produced influential sire and broodmare sire, Gone West. In 2004, Mare Haven was sold to Susie and Clint Atkins from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, whom re-named the farm CASA Farm. As a part of the contract, resident matriarch Secrettame was to spend the rest of her days on the property. The Atkins honored this request. (15)

Ad for Danada Farm stallions, including Lucky Debonair, from the Blood-Horse in 1970. Photo courtesy Kelly Jecmen

In 1980, the DuPage County Forest Preserve District purchased Danada Farm and the surrounding acreage. Much of the property was turned into a public-use forest preserve, complete with groomed limestone trails. Danada Farm was kept in its original state, with some additions, and became Danada Equestrian Center.  Danada and the DuPage County Forest Preserve continue to maintain the grounds and buildings that Dan and Ada Rice lovingly built, and their mansion--the Danada House--can be rented for weddings and other celebrations. In 2002, the city of Wheaton and Danada Equestrian Center honored Lucky Debonair with a brass memorial plaque. (16) I have a feeling that Dan and Ada L. Rice would greatly approve.

Brass memorial plaque dedicated to Lucky Debonair at Danada Equestrian Center (2013)

A view of the old barn (2013)

The old barn with new technology--solar panels (2013)

  1. Keeping A Rein On Progress. Chicago Tribune. 2000 February 17
  2. Group collecting memories of philantrophists Dan, Ada Rice. Daily Herald. 2010 August 24
  3. Zeh, Lucy. Etched In Stone: Thoroughbred Memorials. 2000 April. Pages 42-43
  4. Zeh, Lucy. Etched In Stone: Thoroughbred Memorials. 2000 April. Pages 80-81
  5. Grave Matters: Darby Dan Farm, Lexington KY
  6. On the Fate of the Holy Bull Male Line. Blood-Horse Publications. 2012 July 10 (comments section)
  7. The Bay And The Gray Were A Perfect Parlay. Sports Illustrated. 1965 March 15
  8. A Long Trip In A Short Race. Sports Illustrated. 1965 April 12
  9. A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week. Sports Illustrated. 1965 April 26
  10. The Two Upsets Were Not Really Upsetting. Sports Illustrated. 1965 April 26
  11. A Roundup Of The Sports Information Of The Week. Sports Illustrated. 1965 May 3
  12. Roses For The Shoe. Sports Illustrated. 1965 May 10
  13. Hunter, Avalyn. The Kingmaker: How Northern Dancer Founded A Racing Dynasty. 2008. Pages 99-100
  14. Like Father, Like Sons. Sports Illustrated. 1965 May 24
  15. Livingston, Barbara D  . More Old Friends. 2007. Pages 165-166
  16. Forest Preserve District of DuPage County: Danada Equestrian Center

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy (and sad) Valentine's Day

Limerick got her Valentine's Day treat early--my husband mixed up a special rolled oats/banana/carrot/apple in hot water mix for me to top-dress her evening grain with. Of course, she loved it!

Unfortunately, this day has been marred by the news of Rachel Alexandra's surgery due to foaling complications. My husband and I have been thinking of her all day and we send her our best. She gifted the racing world with one of the most dazzling 3-year-old seasons in history. The fact she happened to be a filly made her accomplishments all the more remarkable, and she was very deserving of Horse of the Year honors for 2009.

Said Rood & and Riddle during a press conference held today on her status, "It helps that she has the heart of a champion. You can see she's a fighter." Hang in there, Rachel!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Recap

The big race of the weekend was not the Donn, but an earlier stakes on the same card: the Kitten's Joy Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. It was the first race of the year for 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and his last in this country before heading to Dubai for the World Cup. He will not return to the United States--the remainder of his international life has been mapped out with a stop at Ascot Racecourse in England before taking up stud duty in Australia. I will confess that I've never hopped on the Animal Kingdom bandwagon. Instead, I liked Point of Entry for the Kitten's Joy. A Phipps Stable homebred, the son of Dynaformer and grandson of Seeking the Gold has a pedigree strong with two of my favorite stallions. Something of a late bloomer, the 5-year-old Point of Entry has been racking up the wins in recent months, including the Man o' War, Sword Dancer, Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and a good second to Little Mike in the Breeder's Cup Turf.

Dynaformer, sire of Point of Entry, in 2008. Died 2012

Seeking the Gold, damsire of Point of Entry, in 2008.

 After a slow first half of :50.52, Animal Kingdom made a huge move to the lead; I sensed that jockey Joel Rosario realized how slow the pacesetters were going and had a mild panic. He passed Point of Entry, who had been stalking the lead to the outside. Point of Entry then responded and rallied back while going three wide on the turn for home. Animal Kingdom had the shorter route to the inside but was unable to hold off Point of Entry's strong stretch drive. It was a thrilling race! I later read that many people think Rosario's early move cost Animal Kingdom the race. But I disagree; I think he was simply outrun by a more classy turf horse.

Other personal racing highlights of Saturday include Fort Loudon's win in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship and watching Gary Stevens nab his first stakes win since 2005 atop Slim Shady, who wired the San Marcos at Santa Anita. Gary won his second stakes on Sunday but I missed seeing it live, unfortunately. Arlington Park regular Romacaca raced in the Suwannee for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park on Saturday but did not finish well in a closely-contested race.

This is one weekend too late, but Verrazano's win on February 3rd is noteworthy. He won his first race in a 6.5 furlong MSW on January 1st and I immediately added the colt to my list of Kentucky Derby prospects. His most recent win in a two-turn allowance race was impressive, to say the least--he handily blew away the field by over a dozen lengths and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance, the highest of any three-year-old colt to date this year. He's certainly cemented his spot on my list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls!

By More Than Ready (whom I saw race in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, the only Derby I've attended in person) and out of the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock (also the dam of 2012 Kentucky Derby hopeful El Padrino), whether Verrazano has the pedigree for the Derby's 10 furlongs is questionable. But he just might have the class to overcome his genetics.

In other news, Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud's 100th birthday was on Saturday. Few have done more for the sport of Thoroughbred racing than Nerud. He is best known as the trainer of Dr. Fager, one of the more brilliant horses of the 20th century. The speedy colt was named for Dr. Charles Fager, the surgeon that saved Nerud's life after a bad fall from his pony caused a grave head injury. Nerud also played a hand in breeding and training various champion Tartan Farm runners and descendants, including Dr. Fager's half sister Ta Wee, Rough N' Tumble, Minnesota Mac, Intentionally, In Reality, Fappiano, Unbridled and Cozzene. Nerud is also one of the founding members of the Breeder's Cup World Championships. More information on Nerud and his life can be found on a newly-created website for his 100th birthday:

Lastly, one of the most popular off-track Thoroughbreds on Facebook, Blue Blue Sea, passed away on Saturday. I first learned of his story when I was scrambling to raise funds for Oil Money's Dream last spring. There were many parallels between Limerick and Blue Blue Sea. Blue's owner even followed and helped rescue a half-brother of Blue, which reflected what I was trying to do for Oil Money's Dream, who is related to Limerick. You can read more about Blue Blue Sea and his half-brother Gran Huracan here and here. Rest in peace, Blue Blue Sea.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Snowy day at Gladstone

Yesterday was the perfect storm for these photos--I took a "mental health day" from work, it began snowing (again), and I found out the horses were being turned out on the large lower pasture for the afternoon.While I take a lot of photos in Kentucky, I have never taken any with the DSLR at my barn. What better day to start?


My favorite photo - Lim & Joey having a "Lady and the Tramp" moment

Barn cats Wendell & Mini

Snow is great for leg injures

The wound on Lim's right hind cannon is looking great! The leg is cold and tight, except for a small hard swelling underneath the wound (visible in the photo). But this, too, is cold.

I'm very impressed with how quickly this injury is healing. We can thank the turnout time in the snow for this!

Speaking of snow, I have some snowy photos of the barn's stall herd to upload to the blog. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A case for time off

I have a personal policy of giving Lim a minimum of one week off--more if needed--from riding for any injury or indication that she is not herself.

This has led to a lot of missed riding days over the past couple months (the laceration on her hind cannon is the fourth issue we've had) but my instinct has always told me that I'm doing the right thing in giving her the time she needs to heal.

I came across this blub entitled "A case for time off" in Equus (December 2012--yes, I'm behind) that talks about this very thing. The article doesn't discuss horse ages but if you ask me, time off is even more important when your horse approaches and enters his or her senior years.

Monday, February 4, 2013

They really need to invent horse bubble wrap.

I was grooming Limerick for a ride on Saturday when I noticed that the lower, lateral part of her right hind cannon was puffy. I planned to take a better look at it when I brushed her legs, but I guessed the swelling was from mud. Sometimes her hind cannons get a little puffy in that area when she has muddy legs. But as soon as I crouched down by that leg to brush it, I realized what the problem was. There was dried blood caked on the longer hairs at the bottom of the cannon. Oh, brother.

I took a photo with the flash so I could get a better look at what was back there (hooray for smartphones).

Saturday afternoon, before cleaning

 Hmm. Not pretty, but could be worse. However, I wasn't liking that location. Lower leg and leg joint wounds make me paranoid. Also, the swelling was also pronounced from behind--rather than the subtle taper of a clean cannon bone, you have this straight-edged line on the outside of her cannon.

The next step was to walk her around to see if she was lame. My husband was working so I asked if he had a moment to walk Lim in the indoor arena while I watched. She was lame. Crud. Christine was at the barn teaching lessons. She was wrapping up her final lesson in the indoor arena at the time so I decided to show the wound to her. Being Limerick's "mom", I temporarily lost my brain and had a moment of "I have absolutely no idea how to tend to a horse wound" even though I've been tending to them for 20 years.

A gentle cleaning, some scarlet oil, peppermints and bute later, Lim was back in her stall for the evening. I think she will be okay--she seemed better last night--but I'll keep up with the scarlet oil and bute for a handful of days. Have I mentioned that leg wounds make me paranoid?!

The patient enjoying her hay
Sunday evening, medial view of the injured cannon. Doesn't look too bad from this side--just a small lump about 3" above the fetlock.

No, I have no idea how she did this--I guess she got it caught on something. I checked her stall walls for nails or other protrusions; I did find a couple that had worked themselves loose of the old wood, but none had hair or skin on them. Nonetheless, I pointed them out to my husband and asked him to flatten them with a hammer so they are no longer a danger.