Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Second Career for CVF Horses -- Right at the Race Track

Castle Village Farm takes its responsibility as a thoroughbred owner very seriously. In particular, we try to make sure that all our race horses have a comfortable and productive second career once they're no longer racing. Some of our former horses have become broodmares (Seneca Falls' first foal, Sweetsouthernman, just won a maiden at Calder). Some, including Pinecall and Through Thicknthin, have moved on to become ribbon-winning hunter-jumpers. Some, such as Cinnamon Light, are working in therapeutic riding programs, and some, like Candooz and Key on Richie, are just hanging out with caring, responsible owners.

And three of our former racers are right back where they enjoyed success -- at the race track, working as stable ponies or outrider ponies. We hope, and I believe, that they are delighted to have found a way to keep active in a place that they love.

Diligent Gambler & Leah Gyarmati on the Belmont training track

We claimed Diligent Gambler, a big gray gelding by Diligence, in 2004, and he went on to win 8 races for us from 28 starts, missing an in-the-money finish only five times. Including his efforts for other trainers, his lifetime record was 44-12-8-10, with earnings of over $365,000. And in 2004 he won a total of 9 races, including those before we claimed him, and was named Florida-bred Claimer of the Year.

By 2007, DG had long since been claimed away, and his racing career was winding down. Our partners generously contributed enough money to buy him back from his last owner. We gave him some time for rest and recuperation, and then Leah Gyarmati, who had trained DG for us for all of those 28 starts, was able to bring him back to the track as her stable pony. Every morning DG takes Leah to the track to watch her horses work out. DG also loves to teach the new two-year-olds how to act like professionals. Right now, DG is with Leah at Saratoga, enjoying the clean, fresh upstate air and looking forward, at age 9, to many more years of useful work at the track.

Brave Sir Robin (r) working on the Belmont pony track

We bought Brave Sir Robin (Runaway Groom-Brave Hearted; if you know Monty Python, you’ll know how he got his name) as a yearling in 2003, and he raced for us until his retirement, some 39 races later, in 2008. Although he only won three of those races, Brave Sir Robin tried hard all the time, finished in the money in nearly half his races, and earned over $150,000. Jimmy Ferraro trained Brave Sir Robin for us.

When we retired Robin, complete with a retirement party at a Long Island restaurant, we were fortunate enough to be able to send him to the late John Hettinger’s Akindale Farm in upstate New York. It took him a year or so before he was ready to go to work again. And then trainer Bobbi Rossi, who had been one of Jimmy Ferraro's assistants, decided that he would make an ideal pony. So Bobbi, now training on her own, brought him back to Belmont, where, as the above picture shows, he takes his job of teaching babies very seriously.

Charlie, trainer Keith & groom Curtis head for the Hialeah track

And finally, the first horse ever to run in Castle Village Farm’s colors, Warwhatisitgoodfor, is still, a dozen years later, on the race track, working as an outrider pony at Gulfstream and Calder.

Charlie, as we knew him, for his Charlie-Chaplin-like walk, was claimed by a group of friends who all lived at the Castle Village apartment development in upper Manhattan. Hence the stable name. Along with trainer Keith Sirota and co-owners sportswriter Paul Moran and ace handicapper Stuie Rubin, we raced Charlie in New Jersey and Florida, getting win pictures at Hialeah and the Meadowlands and enjoying the thrill of being in the races.

Charlie kept running until he was 10 years old, then seamlessly transitioned into his role as a pony, leading the young ‘uns to the starting gate. We wish him many more years of productive work at the track.

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