Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy 10th Birthday, Oil Money's Dream

April 7, 1979 Daily Racing Form & Santa Anita race program featuring the San Jacinto Handicap, which Hot Oil won

Hot Oil, Limerick's sire

A few weeks ago, I found a Santa Anita program from Saturday April 7, 1979 for sale online. It featured that year’s running of the San Jacinto Handicap, which Limerick’s sire Hot Oil won. When I mentioned to the seller why I wanted this particular program, he said he had the Daily Racing Form for that day as well--would I like to purchase it, also? You bet I did.

Both items arrived in the mail today. Coincidentally, tomorrow is Limerick’s birthday, and today is the birthday of another special mare that is also closely related to Hot Oil--a maternal granddaughter, Oil Money’s Dream.

This past Saturday--May 11--was an anniversary of sorts; one I had been thinking about in the weeks and days leading up to it. On that day last year, I made public my plans to purchase Oil Money's Dream. Purchasing a horse is typically a straightforward deal--you find a horse you like within your budget, you visit and/or ride that horse, you have a vet check done, you consult with your trainer or an experienced, trusted friend, and if the horse passes all the tests then he or she is yours once you hand over the check. This was not the case with Oil Money's Dream.

Trainer Owen Rainwater saddles Oil Money's Dream at Arlington Park, June 13, 2010

On May 11, 2012, I wrote:

"[In 2009, after seeing IL-bred Oil Money's Dream race at Arlington Park] I added her to my Virtual Stable and began following her. She would finish in the money sometimes, and it was cool to see a 'niece' of Limerick's running. In early 2011, I found out that Owen Rainwater, her trainer, passed away. [In another coincidence, I later found Rainwater's obituary and his date of death was May 11, 2011] I wasn't sure what would happen to the mare. A few months later, I got a notification that she was at Mountaineer under Bart Baird. She won her first race with him.

I hoped she would be okay there, despite the track not having the most stellar of reputations. A few months went by and I didn't receive any more notifications. Then in February, I received a single workout notification for her at Mountaineer. She did 3f in 39:20, ranking 28 out of 33 for the day. 

After that day, she was entered in races nearly every other week, starting in March.

March 5: 5k claimer, finished 7th, beaten by 9 lengths
March 16, 5k claimer, finished 5th, beaten by 3 lengths
April 6, 5k claimer, finished 5th, beaten by 8-1/2 lengths
April 24, 5k claimer, finished 5th, beaten by 11 3/4 lengths

Each race had 7-8 horses on average. This mare was clearly tiring, and she was being over-run, particularly for a nine year old mare. While it's not uncommon to see geldings being raced up to this age, it is unusual to see mares still on the track when they are approaching double digits in age.

I began to worry about this mare."

Oil Money's Dream at Arlington Park, June 13, 2010

I grew tired of worrying and decided to see if I could do something. I was drawn to this mare--this long-faced chestnut with large, soulful brown eyes and a crooked skinny blaze--this mare I had watched from afar for years but had never met. There was a powerful pull coming from within that I could not deny. This drive was something I would reflect upon over the next few months: where had it come from? Why this horse? The sentimental attachment--her being a relative to Limerick--surely played a large role. As did the visible downward spiral she took through the claiming ranks. But she wasn't the first horse in my Virtual Stable to end up in cheap claimers, and she wasn't the last. Perhaps it was something I saw in her as I watched her on video in the paddock or in the post parades--a quiet obedience, her large brown eyes barely hidden by the blinkers she always wore. Whatever the reason, I let this invisible force drive me towards attempting to help her.

There were some hurdles. The mare, once stabled nearby at Hawthorne and Arlington, was now located nearly 500 miles away from me and I didn't have a horse trailer--or even a truck. In addition, I couldn't afford to keep a second horse, so I would have to find a permanent home for her. And the biggest hurdle of all: I didn't know how to get in touch with Baird. Even if I could, I would need to ask my husband to make all calls for me since I cannot hear well enough to make or receive calls. Would Baird perceive me as dishonest or shady if I would only communicate with him through my husband?

I was not discouraged. I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. I Googled endlessly. I brought up my idea to several people that I thought may be able to help me or offer advice. I found a way to contact Baird. One friend, Lori, offered to drive me in her truck and trailer to Mountaineer. Another friend, Christine, offered her invaluable re-training and re-homing services. With support and after endless discussions with my cohorts over instant messaging, I had a plan. In the meantime, I fundraised by selling homemade jewelry in order to cover the costs of purchasing, transporting and boarding this mare until she could be adopted out to a good home.

In the end, throughout it all, Baird was never in direct contact with me and would only work through a liaison, another trainer at Mountaineer. This trainer was reluctant to approach Baird, preferring to let him initiate contact. This made staying updated on what was happening very difficult, if not impossible.

Oil Money's Dream at Mountaineer on May 14, 2012

On May 18, 2012, I wrote:

"I am still working to get this mare retired and back to Illinois. She raced on Monday, May 14 (Lim's birthday) and finished a game fifth. My hunch tells me that her trainer, Baird, will want to try running her once more (she is eligible to run just one more time at Mountaineer), but if at all possible I would like to purchase her from him before she runs again.

There's a lot of "hurry up and wait" in this situation--and waiting is hard to do."

Waiting was very stressful. I had trouble sleeping, and when I did sleep, I would often dream of Oil Money's Dream and my fragile plans to get her. I knew that as soon as Baird gave word that he was "done" with the mare, I would have to be at Mountaineer within a day or two. To make matters worse, I was told through our liasion that if I didn't get her quickly, he would sell her to another trainer at Thistledown Racino in Ohio, where she would run in even cheaper claiming races. If this mare slipped through my fingers, I would have to go through the process of figuring out where she was and who had her, and how to contact this person, all over again.

But waiting paid off.

At last, we meet.

On June 20, 2012, I wrote:

"Oil Money's Dream--or Dara, as I've nicknamed her--raced last Tuesday. She finished sixth but safely--just what I was hoping for.

From there, the wheels began turning--fast! Arrangements were made with Dara's trainer, and plans to pick her up on Thursday and pay him $1,000 cash quickly fell into place.

At 2:30am on Thursday morning, I awoke after a brief, restless night and drove to Urbana. From there, Lori and I drove her truck and trailer to Mountaineer Racetrack in West Virginia. It was 450 miles each way, and with the trailer in tow that meant a roughly eight hour trip one way.

We arrived at Mountaineer close to 3pm eastern time. I never met Dara's trainer--instead I worked with my contact at the track, another trainer. Money and paperwork exchanged hands, and then it was time to meet Dara in the flesh after watching her race for over three years."

Finally heading back to Illinois

I wondered what she was like for most of the 8-hour drive to Mountaineer. Was she kind? Was she quiet? Was she moody, like Limerick could be? Was she sound after 7 years of racing?

It didn't take long to have my questions about her personality answered. From the start, she she was unflappable, sweet, attentive, curious, kind, and easy to handle. In short, she was everything I had hoped for--and more. I boarded her in Woodstock for one and a half months and visited her every weekend. She was very easy to fall in love with, and I did just that.


Giving her a bath

On August 6, 2012, I wrote:

"One by one the pieces of the puzzle, which had once seemed scattered far and wide, began to fall into place for Dara. I went from searching for pasture boarding for Dara and staring at my budget, trying to estimate how long I could afford to board two horses, to crying at work because I knew Dara had found her home.

I cried out of happiness, gratitude, sadness, and everything in between. From the very start, I hadn't allowed myself to become emotional. I had been so sure that I would tear up when Lori and I retrieved Dara from Mountaineer, but I didn't. Each time we had cleared one hurdle, all I could think was "Okay, one down, how many more to go?" By my personal nature, I am very guarded with my emotions.

But now, with Dara finding her home at long last, everything came tumbling out."

That long-faced chestnut mare with the skinny crooked blaze and large, soulful brown eyes had finally found her home.

With her very happy new owner

In yet another coincidence, the mother of Dara's new owner told me that her daughter had always wanted to get a chestnut mare and name her Dharma--and so, that became the new off-track name of Oil Money's Dream.

"We made plans to trailer Dara (now named Dharma) to her new home on Friday, July 27. Fittingly, on Thursday July 26 (my wedding anniversary), the story on Dara by Hersh was released online.

Retired racehorses: One fan does her part to find mare a home, by Marcus Hersh

I was blown away by how lengthy and thorough the story was. It was a timely tribute, and I hope it inspires other folks to take a chance on a racehorse--whether it's a horse they are following on the track that clearly needs a second career, an already-retired horse awaiting adoption, or a well-trained, older retiree that needs a new home.

Doing all this for Dara was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I wasn't alone. I couldn't have done it without the help of countless people: my husband, Christine, Lori (and her hard-working truck), Jackie E., Mary J., my parents, the many people that bought jewelry from me while I was fundraising, and countless others." 

I visited Dharma in November and she was clearly enjoying just being a horse in a herd of horses, with young ladies to dote on her. I am planning another visit, hopefully for next month, and will get some new photos then.

Happy 10th birthday, Dharma--I'm so glad you are able to enjoy it.

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