Archive for May, 2007

Cutting copy

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

I knew our 9-week-old puppy Fergus was precocious, but imagine my surprise, when I found him with the latest copy of the Quarter Horse News. Judging from the condition of it, I thought perhaps he:

A) couldn’t wait to read Tack Room Talk;
B) was editing copy from the NCHA Super Stakes coverage; or
C) was looking for his Puppy Piddle Pads.

Historic Bay Meadows race track to close

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

The historic Bay Meadows racetrack in San Mateo, CA, a fixture in the San Fransisco Bay area for 73 years, will cease operations November 4, at the conclusion of its fall season.

Track officials had sought a two-year injunction from a California Horse Racing Board mandate that the state’s five major tracks replace their dirt ovals with artificial surfaces, considered safer for horses. The upgrades would have cost the financially struggling track $7 million to $10 million and in light of impending commercial and residential redevelopment of the site were not deemed financially viable.

“For racing in California, this is a day of infamy,” said Bay Meadows president Jack Liebau. “Racing in Northern California will never exist as it has in the past. There will be a severe fallout from this. I’m stunned.”

Bay Meadows is home to the longest-running stakes race in California, the Bay Meadows Handicap, twice captured by legendary Seabiscuit, ridden by George Woolf. Riding great Bill Shoemaker began his riding career at the track, and on December 1, 2006, Russell Baze became Thoroughbred racing’s winningest jockey, when he rode to his 9,531th victory, aboard Butterfly Belle in Bay Meadow’s fourth race.

Over the years, Bay Meadows, which opened in 1934, has been the site of many “firsts” for racing. The electric starting gate now being used at most major racetracks in the United States was first used at the the track, which was also the first in California to use the totalizator (tote board) system and photo finish camera, and the first to present the daily double and night racing.

In 2005, San Mateo City Council members approved a proposal to develop 1,250 homes and nearly 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space on the present site of the track. A group that opposes the development has filed a suit against the city and county of San Mateo. But even if the development were halted, it is unlikely the racetrack could survive without adding casino gambling, an unpopular alternative to the proposed upscale community.

There are four major Thoroughbred racetracks in California besides Bay Meadows – Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Golden Gate Fields.

Quarter Horse Museum grand re-opening

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum will celebrate a “grand re-opening” on June 9 in Amarillo, TX. Renovations to the original museum, which closed on February 1, 2006 to begin construction, include a 20 percent increase in space. The Grand Hall, which presents Hall of Fame inductees, will feature a commanding AQHA medallion, 13-feet in diameter and sculpted from 1400 pounds of clay, as well as an immense American Quarter Horse Association foundation bloodline chart etched into the floor.

Additional floor space in the Grand Hall is devoted to a timeline exhibit of Hall of Fame inductees, with personal artifacts and memorabilia from each, including horses, owners, breeders and riders.The three-tiered timeline gives historical context to Hall of Fame inductees’ achievements by presenting world history events, AQHA milestones, and breed milestones simultaneously.

The special Champions Gallery will showcase AQHA world champions through an interactive, searchable database. Six interactive multi-media stations, along with two family-size mini-theaters, will also provide, through a searchable film database, an in-depth look into the history of the American Quarter Horse, as well as Hall of Fame inductees.

The Joni Hegel Education Gallery will provide information about general horse care, as well as about activities and careers related to the American Quarter Horse.

NCHA Futurity reserve champ changes hands

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Buffalo Ranch, Farmington, UT, announced today that they have purchased 2006 NCHA Futurity Open reserve champion Hydrive Cat from Dave and Georgia Husby (pictured on right with Clint Allen, and David Plummer, owner of Buffalo Ranch, on left), Weatherford, TX. The High Brow Cat son, winner of over $237,000, will continue showing under his trainer Clint Allen. Next spring, he will join the Buffalo Ranch-owned roster of stallions, including TR Dual Rey, Laredo Blue, Meradas Blue Sue, Highlightcat, and Lots Of Acres.

“He had been on our radar for some time and when we approached the Husbys about buying him, things went smoothly,” said Shane Plummer, president of Buffalo Ranch. “Dr. Lea Arnold has test bred and flushed seven recipient mares with his frozen semen and retrieved six embryos, showing his potency and excellent semen quality.”

According to Plummer, Hydrive Cat also tested negative through the newly available test to determine if a horse is a carrier of the genetic disease HERDA.

The Husbys purchased Hydrive Cat at five days of age from Esperanza Ranch, which bred the colt and his Color Me Smart-sired half-brother, Ruby Tuesday’s Color, a 2003 foal also out of Ruby Tuesday DNA. “I heard they were selling the babies and I had my choice,” said Georgia Husby, 2001 NCHA Futurity Amateur reserve champion on CD Royalty. “We owe a lot of credit to Winston Hansma and Rodie Whitman because they went over to Colleen Holt’s (broodmare operation) and chose this one for us.

“I also can’t imagine a better person to have trained this horse than Clint Allen,” Husby added. “He’s done an amazing job. They’re a great team and Clint loves the horse as much as we do.”

In addition to his NCHA Futurity title, Hydrive Cat was reserve champion of the Memphis Futurity, as a well as third-placed in the Abilene Spectacular and a finalist in the Bonanza Cutting and the Cotton Stakes. Ruby Tuesdays Color, ridden by Matt Budge for Jackpot Ranch and the earner of $70,000, was also an NCHA Open Futurity finalist, as well as an Open finalist at the Memphis Futurity and the South Point Futurity.

Buffalo Ranch also owns Hydrive Cat’s 4-year-old full brother SDP Buffalo Bill, earner of $25,500 and ridden by Greg Smith as a finalist in four limited age events.

Ruby Tuesday DNA, the earner of $218,916, is out of the all-time leading producer Playboys Ruby, with offspring earnings of more than $1.5 million.

Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

Following a presentation at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame several years ago, someone innocently mentioned native Texan and author Edna Ferber within earshot of Hall of Fame member Helen Groves (pictured). Groves said nothing at the time, but later that evening, with a great amount of rancour, she shared her opinion of Ferber.

It was Ferber who wrote Giant, which was made into the Academy Award-winning movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson. Groves, who turns 80 this year, is the great-granddaughter of Captain Richard King, founder of King Ranch, and the daughter of Robert Kleberg, president and director of the famous ranch for nearly 50 years.

In 1947, Ferber had already published Cimarron and Showboat, when she visited Kleberg to inform him about her plans to tell the story of King Ranch in her next novel. Kleberg explained to her that he preferred nothing “inaccurate” be written until he had time to confer on a proper history of the ranch. Despite Kleberg’s protest, Ferber proceeded and the end result was Giant.

You can read about the confrontation between Ferber and Kleberg, along with many other fascinating recollections of family life and ranch history, in Groves’ memoir Bob and Helen Kleberg of the King Ranch. This magnificent coffee-table volume is rich in personal memories and over 200 never-before-released photographs taken by famous photojournalist Toni Frissell and Frissell’s close friend and fellow photographer Helen Kleberg.

Anyone who loves horses, cattle, art, photography, Western Americana or the Western lifestyle will love this book. It was Robert Kleberg who helped develop the American Quarter Horse breed with his Old Sorrel line of horses. Kleberg also loved Thoroughbred racing and bred 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault, as well as 1950 Kentucky Derby winner Middleground. There are chapters in the book devoted to Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, as well as to Santa Gertrudis cattle, a breed created by Robert Kleberg.

Helen Groves and her children inherited Robert Kleberg’s love of racing. Coincidentally, Groves’ daughter, DD Matz, is married to Michael Matz, a former Olympic medalist and the trainer of Barbaro.

If you are interested in the King Ranch, I also recommend Bob Kleberg of the King Ranch, by John Cypher; as well as The King Ranch Quarter Horses, by Robert Denhardt; and artist Tom Lea’s two-volume King Ranch (endorsed by Kleberg), published in 1957.

Triple Crown genes

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

My interest piqued by a recent article in The Blood-Horse (April 28, 2007) about full siblings of the 11 Thoroughbred Triple Crown winners, I decided to research the pedigrees of the three NCHA Triple Crown cutting champions – Smart Little Lena (pictured on the 20th anniversary of his Futurity win), Docs Okie Quixote and Miss Chiquita Pistol – to see how the offspring of their dams and granddams have fared.

I’ve summarized my findings below, but thought it also interesting to note that Smart Little Lena and Docs Okie Quixote were the first foals produced by their dams, and Miss Chiquita Tari, the dam of Chiquita Pistol, is the first foal out of her dam.

Smart Little Lena
Doc O’Lena x Smart Peppy 1966 sorrel mare by
Peppy San x Royal Smart, Royal King

1979 sorrel stallion Smart Little Lena by Doc O’Lena
1980 sorrel mare Sevens Tari Pep by Doc Tari
1983 bay mare Smart Hickory by Doc’s Hickory
1984 sorrel stallion Smart Peppy Lena by Doc O’Lena
1985 bay stallion Smart Peppy Doc by Doc O’Lena
1986 bay mare Dox Smart Chance by Doc O’Lena
1987 bay mare Dox Cow Smart by Doc O’Lena
1988 sorrel gelding Oh How Smart by Doc O’Lena
1989 bay mare Lil Lenas Sis by Doc O’Lena
1989 bay stallion Ill Be Smart by Doc O’Lena

Smart Peppy’s performers earned $865,475. In addition to Smart Little Lena, with $577,652, her other major winners were Smart Little Lena’s full siblings Smart Peppy Doc, $120,490; Ill Be Smart, Oh How Smart, $115,907; $77,740; and Dox Smart Chance, $49,382.

Four of Smart Peppy’s five daughters were also top producers. Smart Hickory was the dam of Dox Smart Buy, $212,093; Too Smart To Miss, $67,804; Smart Shiner, $49,037; and Smart Shinetta, $75,144. Dox Smart Chance produced Missed Reward, $71,585 and Missed Your Chance, $44,612; as well as Bobs Smart Chance, earner of $219,581, and dam of Oaks Smart Chance, $60,354. Dox Cow Smart produced Pretty In Pink, $50,785, and Peptosmart $30,839, while Lil Lenas Sis is the dam of Lil Faye Rey, $172,881.

Smart Peppy was one of five daughters out of Royal Smart, by Royal King. Two half-sisters, both by King Jess, had no produce. Her two full sisters, Pepard and Peppys Royal Pet, although not major producers themselves, were granddams of merit. Pepard’s biggest winner, Smart Royalena, earned just $21,642, but her daughter, Miss Santana Doc, produced Dry N Freckled, $267,982. Peppys Royal Pet, earner of $23,304, is dam of Just Playin Smart, $166,945.

It should be noted that Smart Peppy’s full brother, Royal Santana, was a multiple NCHA and AQHA champion with earnings of $174,146.

Docs Okie Quixote
Doc Quixote x Jimmette Too 1972 sorrel mare by
Johnny Tivio x Doc’s Jimmette, Doc Bar

1980 sorrel stallion Docs Okie Quixote by Doc Quixote
1983 sorrel stallion Corona Quixote by Doc Quixote
1985 sorrel mare Jimmettes Lena by Smart Little Lena
1986 sorrel mare Jimmette O Lena by Doc O’Lena
1987 sorrel mare Okies Little Sis by Doc Quixote
1988 sorrel mare Jimmettes Lil Acre by Bob Acre Doc
1990 sorrel stallion Play Jimmy Too by Freckles Playboy

Jimmette Too’s four performers earned $603,512 – $599,109 of which came from Docs Okie Quixote. Her only daughter to produce a major earner was Jimmettes Lil Acre, whose gelded son, Onside Okie Kick, by Okie Paul Quixote, earned $51,732 in NCHA competition and was also an NRHA Futurity and Derby Non-Pro reserve champion.

Jimmette Too was one of five daughters out of Doc’s Jimmette, by Doc Bar, and the only one to produce a major NCHA winner. However, Doc’s Jimmette is half-sister to Tonette Tivio, by Poco Tivio, who produced Doc Luck Bar, 3rd-placed in the 1969 NCHA Open Futurity; and two outstanding daughters, both sired by Doc Bar – Doc’s Madera and Doc Bar Tonette. Doc’s Madera, is dam of Playboys Madera, 1988 NCHA Non-Pro World Champion and earner of $409,761; as well as Maderas First Jewel, $48,170. Doc Bar Tonette produced Peppy Shea, earner of $117,025 and So O Smart, $58,060.

Chiquita Pistol
Smart Little Pistol x Miss Chiquita Tari 1982 sorrel mare by
Pay Twentyone x Miss Doc Tari, Doc Tari

1991 sorrel mare Smart Lil Chiquita by Smart Little Lena
1994 sorrel mare Smart Tarita by Smart Little Lena
1995 sorrel mare Smart Little Spring by Smart Little Lena
1996 sorrel stallion Little Bit Of Smarts by Smart Little Lena
1998 sorrel mare Smart Little Cartina by Smart Little Lena
1999 sorrel mare Chiquita Pistol by Smart Little Pistol
2000 sorrel gelding Pistol Packing Papa by Smart Little Pistol
2001 sorrel mare Miss Tari Mac by Quixote Mac
2003 gray mare Miss Tari Pistol by Smart Little Pistol
(only foals of performance age listed)

Miss Chiquita Tari’s performers have earned $622,800 – $524,243 of which came from Chiquita Pistol. Her other major earners are Little Bit Of Smarts, $47,408, and Miss Tari Mac, $27,812. Her daughters, the oldest of which is 16 years of age, have produced several minor money earners.

Miss Chiquita Tari is one of seven daughters out of Miss Doc Tari, and the only one to produce a major winner. Her half-brother, Haidas Mirage, has earned $33,483.

Ron Turcotte and Big Red

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

A favorite memento of mine is a photo of Secretariat in the stretch of the Belmont with Ron Turcotte peering over his shoulder wondering what happened to the rest of the field.

Secretariat is on the rail, in the lower left-hand corner of the photo, and 31 lengths back, in the upper right-hand corner, are the stragglers. Along the rail, Turcotte has inscribed: “To Sally with my best wishes and thanks for the great job. Ron Turcotte”

The “job” Turcotte referred to was an article I had written about him in 1998, on the occasion of the All-Star Jockey Championships, where Turcotte was the guest of honor. I had interviewed him via phone at his home in Canada and later met him at Lone Star Park.

In the midst of Triple Crown season, I thought it would be interesting to revisit my interview with Turcotte. Between now and the Belmont, on June 9, I’ll post more segments and quotes, as well as some from another interview and article that I wrote about the late Bill Shoemaker.

Ron Turcotte: Page 1
by Sally Harrison

When asked to name his favorite mount, Hall of Fame Rider Ron Turcotte doesn’t miss a beat, “Riva Ridge,” he’ll tell you.”

Riva Ridge? What about Secretariat, the first horse since Citation to win the Triple Crown, while shattering records from Louisville to Belmont? The brilliant juvenile, one of an elite few to earn Horse of the Year honors at two? Secretariat – the legend, the hero, the dream?

“Riva Ridge was my favorite because I felt like I had done something to enhance his racing,” said Turcotte of the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner. “Secretariat, he had it all. He was everything.”

The big red colt and the wiry young man had a lot in common. Both were natural athletes with calm self-assurance and tremendous drive. But the colt was born with wealthy connections and a blue-blooded pedigree. The young man, born in 1941, was one of twelve children raised on a farm in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

As a boy, Turcotte loved to sneak off and race the family work horses, but he never imagined it was possible to make a living on the back of a horse. His father earned his livelihood behind a team of draft horses, and when he was 14, Ron quit school to work as a lumberjack in the woods west of Quebec.

At five-foot-one, Turcotte was not exactly Paul Bunyan, but what he lacked in size, he made up for in drive. And while he didn’t have Babe the Blue Ox, he did have Bess, and in his eyes, she was better.

“She was as good as those horses get,” he said. “I could cut a log and send it to the lumber yard and she’d take it there alone and come back and find me in the woods. It was amazing. She was a very, very smart horse.”

When he was 18, Turcotte struck out for the city, where he wound up collecting worms for a bait company, until his landlord asked if he had ever considered becoming a jockey.

“I didn’t know anything about racing,” Turcotte admitted. “When I was eight, my uncle took me to a movie. It was a western and in my mind, cowboys racing down Main Street was the only race there was.” But spurred on by his landlord’s suggestion, Turcotte hitched a ride to nearby Woodbine racetrack, where he landed a job as a hot walker for Winfields Farm.

To be continued…