Sunday, May 6, 2012

Northern Fleet "Miss Courage"

Now were up to remember another fine female Thoroughbred. Who represented the Sheldon Wolfe Stable oh so well!

It was at the fall 1994 Timonium two year old in training sale. Where my dad purchased a beautiful liver chestnut filly by Afeet named "Northern Fleet". She was very well bread and looked the part of a very good horse. There was only one problem. Northern Fleet had not raced as a two year old. Because of concern of soundness of her front legs. The rear legs of the horse. Helps to produce the power and rhythm of there stride. When they run. The front legs act as the shock absorbers. If the there front legs can't take the stress and pounding of racing. Then there career won't be very good. Or there career won't last for very long.

But my dad and the owners Carl Kujawa and Bill Brennon from Buffalo. Were willing to gamble and take the chance on her. So they brought Northern Fleet home to Canada. To prepare for her 3 year old year. With hope and enthusiasm.

However things were going well for Northern Fleet. As she tried to race at Woodbine. This talented and courageous filly. Was trying to compete and to win. But chronic pain in her front legs was becoming an issue. For Northern Fleet could not break her maiden, and win her first race.

The fall came and the decision was made to take Northern Fleet to race at the Fall Keeneland. Racing in Kentucky Northern Fleet could legally race on anti-pain medication. Racing in Kentucky Northern Fleet would have a chance to run, pain free.

On October 19 at beautiful Keeneland Race Course. Northern Fleet started in a maiden allowance race. The distance was 7 furlongs and 184 feet. Northern Fleet would draw the outside post position in the field of 12, and would be piloted by top Kentucky based veteran rider Charlie Woods Jr.

The gate opened and Northern Fleet flew out of the gate full of run, and wanting to run, very badly.
Down the back stretch. Charlie and Northern Fleet were cruising on the lead, and in full control of the race. Yes a few of the fillies tried to match stride with Northern Fleet. But it was useless. Northern Fleet Kentucky Debut was an easy 2 1/2 length victory! Charlie came back to the winners circle and told my dad that Northern Fleet had won the race easily! And that she was a very talented racehorse. Kentucky to the rescue again!

Win number 2 would take place at Turfway Park on the night of December 8th. The distance was 6 1/2 furlongs and Northern Fleet was ridden by Cleveland champion jockey Jason Lumpkins.
Jason who was a very talented rider. Showed his true talent is guiding Northern Fleet to a powerful come behind 3 length victory. Jason and Northern Fleet broke from the difficult 1 post position. Jason Lumpkins just let Northern Fleet settle into her stride. When Northern Fleet found it. The race was all hers' and she ran by her opposition. Making them look inferior. Northern Fleet was starting to show her true talent. They she could really run, and had class!

Win number 3 would also take place on the night of December 28th. This time Northern Fleet's pilot would be veteran Kenny Bourque. Also my dad would send out Northern Fleet to run in a 1 mile & 1/16 allowance race.
Northern Fleet ran another huge race. Proving that the two turn mile distance and the tougher competition was no problem. Northern Feet ended her short career with a determined head victory.

Sadly Northern Fleet never made it back to the races for her 4 year old year. But the the 3 wins she had for the Wolfe Stable in the fall and early winter of 1995. Will always give her a special place in the memory of my dad's training career. Northern Fleet had a lot of talent and heart. She just wasn't born with sound legs.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Real Irish Hope "Mary Queen of Arkansas"

I just had to do a post on Real Irish Hope. Not only was she one of the best memories I had working with the horses. Real Irish Hope was also one of the best sprinting mares in the history of Toronto Racing.

I can remember a lot of great things about Real Irish Hope. Class, Intelligence, Strength, Speed and Courage. Was all her attributes that made "Mary" a class and prolific equine athlete. Real Irish Hope was also very friendly and easy to work with.

Real Irish Hope owner Gerald Meyers. Sent her to winter race. Before she would be retired to begin her next career as a broodmare. I would like to thank Mr. Meyers for giving us the chance to work with such a great thoroughbred. Even though Real Irish Hope was a six year old during the winter of 1993. Also considering all of the races and wins under her belt. Mary was as sound as a bell of brass. Mary's only physical problem was a bad hoof that was prone to quarter cracks. Sadly after the big win Mary won for us at Oaklawn. That bad hoof cracked again. Ending her excellent career.

Corinna who was working for the Sheldon Wolfe Stable that winter in Arkansas. Was responsible for giving Real Irish Hope her great barn nickname. Mary Queen of Arkansas. Which is also the title of a Bruce Springsteen song. Real Irish was very well like by everyone! For good reason. For Mary was the Queen of every racetrack that she raced!

video of Bruce Springteen singing "Mary Queen of Arkansas"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Kentuckey Derby 1993

Now it is time to remember when "Truth Of It All" raced in the 1993 Kentucky Derby! I have to admit I had mixed emotions of Dennis competing in the Derby. Certainly our champion deserved to compete in the race. However Truth Of It All was nowhere near top condition. And really should of not run in the race. This is the story.

For most people who get involved in the thoroughbred horse racing business. They dream of being part of a great racehorse's career. Going along for the exciting ride. Sure the money your earn is great. But it is those special monuments that give you the rush of adrenalin. When your horse has fought the great fight and wins the big race for you. I was a part of some of those precious and meaningful moments. That will never be lost by time.

After "Truth All Of It All" had won the 1992 Gray Stakes Race. Dennis was then voted the best two year old in Canada by winning the Sovereign Award. Now the dream of a lifetime was now within the reach of a small racing barn from Toronto. A chance to compete for one of horse racing greatest prizes. A shot to win the Kentucky Derby.

However Truth Of It All was starting to show signs of physical problems after his big win in the Gray Stakes Race. My father tried to run Dennis in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. This important two year old race. Was suppose to be a stepping stone. For the big race run on the first Saturday in May in 1993. However shipping into the friendly confines of Churchill Downs didn't help to solve Dennis' problems. Things were starting to go wrong for Truth Of It All. Because of soundness problems. Dennis did not start in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and was retired for the year.
The decision was then made to give Dennis a breather, and head south to the state of Arkansas. To winter and prepare Dennis for his 3 year old campaign at Oaklawn Park Racetrack.

Sadly things keep going poorly for the Sheldon Wolfe Racing Stable. After we had arrived at Oaklawn. For one thing. We did not do our homework. As the racetrack at Oaklawn Park had a bad reputation for being very hard. There by making it difficult for keeping horses sound. Also the racetrack at Oaklawn Park was also very favoring for speed, front running horses.
Dennis never felt at home at Oaklawn. Dennis missed his friend Stanley Spencer. Also the hard track made it very difficult for Dennis to train well. If a horse doesn't train well. Then they will not race well. Simple as that.

Truth Of It All's sire Proud Truth. Was also a very talented horse. But who also had a reputation for having serious physical problems. Proud Truth only made 21 stats in his career. But won 10 of those races. Including the 1985 Breeders Cup Classic. Winning the race by making a gallant charge through the final 1/4 mile of the race to defeat Chief's Crown and Gate Dancer. Jorge Velásquez was the regular rider on Proud Truth.

Dennis' best race during the Oaklawn meet was a 2nd place finish in an allowance race. Making a big move in the final 1/8 of a mile. Under the urging of Calvin Borel. However Dennis did not start in the Arkansas Derby. We departed Okalawn Park with the bitter taste of defeat in our month. Only a great effort from "Real Irish Hope". Who the Wolfe Barn had the pleasure to take down south during the winter of 1993. Would give us are only win at the Oaklawn meet. Jorge Velásquez rode "Mary Queen of Arkansas" to a winning time of 1:10.1 for six furlongs.

After we shipped out of Arkansas. We retreated back to Churchill Downs. With Truth Of It All's 3 year old racing year in question. Dennis did start to train better, after arriving back in Kentucky. However Dennis' winter preparation had gone so wrong. For us to have any chance to do well in The Kentucky Derby. Dennis did start in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. "Truth Of It All" did finish a strong closing 3rd in the Lexington. Ridden by Jorge Velásquez. Dennis came out of the Lexington Sound. However I felt my father and the owners. The Schmidt's should have made the correct decision of not to run in the Kentucky Derby. After "All". My dad always went with the physiology. If you get a really nice racehorse. If you look after the horse. The horse will look after you! We did not do a very good job of looking after Dennis in his 3 year old year.

The decision was made to Run Dennis in the Derby. I have to admit it was a bitter, sweat experience. It was a proud moment. When I was in attendance at the draw for post position. Which was held at the Kentucky Derby Museum. It was like I was in a dream. But it wasn't a dream! It was also a lot of fun to experience all of the parties and actives prior to the Kentucky Derby. It was enjoyable to be treated like a celebrity. As the media converges on Louisville. Prior to the first Saturday in May. But I always believed in Sandy Hawley's ethic. Sandy never cared. If he was riding in a $2,500 claiming race or the Derby. Every race was important to him. Every race he rode in. He tried to win! That's what made Sandy a champion. We were just running to say that we ran in this important race. That really did mean much to me. Because I knew we were running Dennis with no chance to win the race.

Truth Of It All proved when he ran in the Kentucky Derby. What a great horse he was. We ran Dennis only at 60% of himself. Still he acted so well. So classy and intelligent a horse he was. When I had the privilege of leading "Truth Of It All" over to run in the Derby. He did feel confident and proud to be running in the the big race. I knew that he knew. That is the special bond people have and enjoy with other animals. The crowd for the race was huge! Dennis acted so well, and handed all the pressure of being in the race, with class!

It was a packed field of 20 horses that started in 1993 Kentucky Derby. Hall of fame jockey Jorge Velásquez rode Dennis in the Derby. Truth Of It All had a good trip. Dennis ran an even race. But could not muster a rally. To become a factor in the race. Dennis finished 10th, and was beaten about 14 lengths by the winner Sea Hero. Wild Gale who Dennis had soundly beaten in the Gray Stakes at Woodbine. Finished 3rd only beaten 2 lengths by Sea Hero.

I wish that we would of given Dennis a better chance of competing in the Kentucky Derby. Maybe if we would of taken "Truth Of It All" to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Or just spent the winter in Kentucky. Dennis would have been in much better shape. Going into the "Run For The Roses". It could of been a better outcome. For I will always believe that Truth Of It All was a better racehorse then Sea Hero. But the racetrack is a very unforgiving place. When you make a bad mistake. It really costs you. By running Dennis in the Kentucky Derby. We almost wiped out his entire 3 year old year. The only race Dennis won was the prep for the Ohio Derby. The rest of Dennis' career was negatively effected by his Derby start.

The posted pictures are. A Derby Day street sign. I brought home as a souvenir. Dennis' Kentucky Derby Saddle Cloth and Webbing. Also a 1993 Derby Mint Julep Glass
The bottom 4 pictures are from Kentucky Derby Day, 1993.