Archive for February, 2009

Feature Mr Jess euthanized

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

The Quarter Horse racing community suffered a loss today, Wednesday, February 25, when 11-year-old leading sire Feature Mr Jess was euthanized due to complications from laminitis.

Three of the American Quarter Horse Association’s ten 2008 race champions were sired by Feature Mr Jess, who was owned by his breeders J.E. and Bunny Jumonville, in partnership with Jim and Marilyn Helzer.

“Bunny and I were blessed to raise and race such a magnificent animal,” said J.E. Jumonville, on Wednesday. “We hope his genetics will continue to have an impact on this industry and that people will find in his sons or daughters the joy that he brought to us.” (more…)

Morocco the dancing horse

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Morocco, “the dancing horse,” and his trainer, a Scotsman named Banks, were famous in London, Edinburg and Paris for their public performances during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  One exhibition took place on top of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the nave of which, at that time, was a center of trade for local merchants.

A servant, so the story goes, entreated his master to join the crowd gathered outside the cathedral to watch the spectacle. “Why do I need to look to the top to see a horse,” the man asked, “when I can see so many asses below?”

In addition to his ability to execute the Canary, a popular Elizabethan-era dance, Morocco, foaled around 1590 and probably of Arabian or Barb descent, could count with hoof taps the numbers on playing cards, and distinguish between red and black suits by the use of either his right or left hoof.

When instructed by Banks to find a particular spectator, Morocco would locate that person in the audience and pull him out with a gentle tug on his coat.

If Banks said that he was going to sell him as a cart horse, Morocco would lie down and play dead. But he would prance and trot, if told that he had been lent to carry a lady to court. He would always curtsy at the mention of the Queen of England, but bare his teeth and strike at the name of the King of Spain.

Although Banks had once referred to Morocco as a “spirit” in animal form and a rumor spread that the famous horse had been burned by order of the Pope, there is no evidence that this was the case. Although an English horse that had been taught to “know the cards” was burned alive at Lisbon in 1707, and Granger in his 1779 History of England, recalled a horse that had been taught several tricks being “put into the Inquisition.”

Rottie rumblings

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

What a difference a year makes. Although he’s not quite two, Fergus has seen enough of the world on a leash to know his limits. No more dashing after fun in the form of loose dogs, skateboarders, bikers and joggers.

Life isn’t always fair, if you are a 130-pound dog. The 20-pound terriers of the world might get away with mayhem, but big dogs have to be well-heeled.

While I won’t say he’s as meek as a kitten, I will tell you that Fergus “purrs,” when he’s petted. The sound is disarming, if you aren’t prepared for it.

At about the same time he began to purr, Fergus also began to snore, although it took me a while to realize this because I assumed it was my husband, who has been rumbling in his sleep for years. One night, after I had poked Alan for the third time, he rolled over and said, “It’s not me.”

“You need to learn the difference between a growl and a purr,” Fergus’ breeder told me, when I expressed some concern. Sure enough, when I googled “Rottweiler purr,” I discovered Fergus is not alone. Some people even refer to the trait as the “Rottie rumble.”

Over time we discovered that Fergus varies the sound of his “purr” depending on where and how vigorously we pet him. His deepest, most satisfying tones come as a result of a tummy rub, while he is stretched fully out on his back.

Click here for a sample of Fergus’ vibrato.

A cut above for Stephanie Haymes Roven at the 2009 Academy Awards

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Forget Harry Winston, jeweler to the stars. Stephanie Haymes-Roven will walk down the red carpet at tonight’s Academy Awards wearing the bejeweled western buckle she won Saturday, as 2008 NCHA World Champion non-pro cutting competitor.

“I’ll find something special to wear it with,” said Haymes-Roven, who will attend the gala with her husband, Chuck Roven, producer of eight-times nominated blockbuster The Dark Knight. It was Chuck’s gelding, A Smart Little Rey, that carried Haymes-Roven to a 229-point World Finals victory.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” said Haymes-Roven, who accepted her award in Amarillo, Texas, with Chuck at her side. “Now I get to cheer for Chuck’s movie.”

It was a year-long duel for Haymes-Roven, who was in third place going into the World Finals, behind Candace Barwick on two-time open world champion Dual Rey Me, and seven-time non-pro world champion Mary Jo Milner. In her quest for the title, Haymes-Roven traveled to 104 cutting shows and earned over $82,000. The only “out-of-saddle” time she allowed herself was when she accompanied Chuck on a worldwide publicity junket for The Dark Knight.

“It’s been a tremendous experience,” said Haymes-Roven. “But this year I am looking forward to Chuck and I being able to go to shows together. He has been so supportive and understanding through all of this.”

Haymes-Roven, daughter of Big Band-era singing star Dick Haymes, was introduced to cutting 15 years ago, when she was married to songwriter and Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin. She has earned nearly $500,000 as a cutting competitor.

Chuck Roven won two major cutting shows as an amateur rider aboard A Smart Little Rey. The 9-year-old gelding, sired by Dual Rey and trained by Gary Gonsalves, also carried Megan Madgwick to win the 2007 NCHA Senior Youth World Finals.

Incidentally, 2008 Academy Awards host Hugh Jackman, spent time in Texas with cutting horse trainer and fellow Aussie Roger Wagner, to prepare for his role in the 2008 film Australia. Click here for details.

The Lady Bug legacy

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Marvin and Lela Barnes won’t mind a bit if you call them “buggy.” They’ve been that way since 1958, when they acquired a sorrel mare named FL Lady Bug and launched a Quarter racing dynasty.

The Barnes and FL Lady Bug were inducted into the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 14, 2009. FL Lady Bug is also a member of the AQHA Hall of Fame.

Marvin Barnes (pictured as he prepares to lead Mr Master Bug during the 1984 All American Futurity festivities) owned a modest used car business in Ada, OK, when he accepted FL Lady Bug as a $1,000 trade-in. Barnes would buy and sell the mare four times before she became a permanent fixture at his ranch. (more…)

Old Fashioned wins Southwest Stakes in sophomore debut

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Old Fashioned, an early favorite for the 2009 Triple Crown races, scored a 3-3/4 length victory in the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday, February 16. It was his first race in 2009 and his fourth win from four starts.

Speedy pace setter and eventual runner-up Silver City was collared on the final turn by Old Fashioned, with a winning time of 1:37.41 for the one mile dirt race.

“This horse is truly blessed,” said trainer Larry Jones. “We weren’t looking to go out in :45, but he showed he was a lot more fit than we thought. He is a gift and we will play it day by day.”

Owned by Fox Hill Farms and ridden by Ramon Dominguez, the grey son of Unbridled’s Song claimed attention last November with a 7-1/4 length victory in the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

Jones, trainer of the brilliant filly Eight Belles, who broke down after finishing second to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, said that Old Fashioned will be kept at Oaklawn and pointed for the $300,000 Rebel Stakes there on Saturday, March 14.

Triple Crown race winners Smarty Jones (2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness); Afleet Alex (2005 Preakness and Belmont); and 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin, all counted Oaklawn stakes races as preparation for the Kentucky Derby. Curlin’s only starts prior to the Derby were as winner of both the Rebel Stakes and the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn.

This year’s Arkansas Derby will be run on April 11; the 2009 Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, May 2.

If I was a horse

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Have you ever watched certain performance horse trainers compete and think, “If I was a horse, I sure wouldn’t want to be in his string”? Or visit a farm and say to yourself, “If I was horse, this would be a great place to call home”?

E. Abraham Ola, a Florida farm owner and international racing consultant, gives horse owners pause for reflection “If I was a Horseman,” in the Final Turn department of the February 14 issue of The Blood-Horse. Ola’s commentary is fodder for thought whether you own racehorses or other performers and leaves little doubt that Ola is a horseman. Click here to read.

This same issue of The Blood-Horse also has a remembrance of Northern Dancer written by Terry Conway, based on interviews with Joe Hickey and Benny Miller, who worked for Winfields Farm during the famous stallion’s tenure there at stud.

Miller and Hickey both considered Northern Dancer, who was only 15.1 hands, to be unconventional for a Thoroughbred. “His conformation was not what you expected – short and blocky – like a Quarter Horse,” recalled Miller of the little stallion often referred to as the “Canadian bulldog.”

The article is not available online, but click here and here for two outstanding videos with clips of Northern Dancer romping in his paddock , and here for a close look at his recording-breaking 1964 Kentucky Derby win.