A glimpse by Z. Fry
He seemed to have appeared from out of nowhere, when I looked up from the racing form. An old man slowly walked down the shed row of horses, petting each horse on the neck and stroking their noses. His lips moved in silent conversation as he went to each of the stall doors.
He was dressed from head to toe in clothing once fashionable, but now faded, worn and outdated. A wilted brimmed hat was cocked to the side of his head, his old dress shirt two sizes too big with the cuffs of his trousers that dragged in the dirt.
For some reason though, it was his shoes that caught my attention. They were a deep shade of brown with a hint of chestnut, perfectly polished and buffed. A lovely hand tooled pattern on the tips of each shoe, scrolled in a delicate half shaped heart. They were wing-tipped shoes.
He stopped in front of a shy 3 year old’s stall and gazed at the youngster who stood back in the shadows. As the minutes passed, the old man began to quietly hum a tune and played with the change in his trouser pockets. It was enough to catch the youngster’s curiosity, as the colt carefully hung his head over the stall gate and stretch it’s nose towards the old man’s open hand.
This ‘glimpse’ was written by John Bourke, who is a Thoroughbred race trainer, breeder, owner and an all- around great horseman. How many times did he drive past this retired box and thought to himself what that phone must have meant to so many people. . . the riders, the trainers, the drifters and others who are now long gone. It is a melancholy glimpse that is too special not to share. Thank you, John, for writing this and thank you for Artful Way (Ray), Give Me Cash (Johnny), and Good Kid (Billy).
I was once an integral part of the backside. I was virtually used 24/7….but look at me now. Grass & weeds taking me over- inside & out, thanks to those dam cell phones.
I was even looked upon as a threat to the integrity of racing. Management locked me up 1 hour before the first post to keep those devious backside folks from calling their bookmakers, thus lowering the on track handle.
When I was unlocked after the last race, the desperados would be standing in line to make collect calls, pleading to friends or family to wire more money.
I was also witness to many a call concerning affairs of the heart. Some would profess their love & others question the fidelity of their long distance partners.
Then there were the battling trainers trying to eek out a living, (Pre-simulcast days) giving a story to their owners that rivaled a Tennessee Williams script. It was a common place for battlers to feed me Mexican Centavos in place of quarters. It was known as a con man’s discount.
I guess the lesson learned from all those calls is simple. Self preservation takes precedence over all else.
Just waiting for Ma Bell & Thistledown management to lock my door for the final time and carry me off to the old pay phone graveyard.
End of an era.
Our newest farm member is a promising, well-bred youngster who never set a hoof on a racetrack. Transitioning a Thoroughbred from the track to training for the show world is relatively easy. Why is that? With young Thoroughbreds whose futures are designed to run, earn money and possibly make history, they’ve experienced things by the age of 2, that the average horse might never experience in their lifetime.
When some Thoroughbreds don’t make it to a racing career for some reason or another, in my opinion they fall behind with their training on the farm, traveling on rigs, starting gates, workouts and day and nighttime racing. When I begin working with a youngster with no track mileage, I approach things differently in order to “feel” themselves out and recognize what they’re lacking in experience and exposure.
Frankie O’Prado is what I call a “pasture find”, who had all the paperwork ready for the Jockey Club, but for some reason never made its way to the desk of the organization. He was broke at 3 and turned out in a Kentucky field until early Summer 2022.
I jumped at the chance to restart him simply because he is by Paddy O’Prado. You can’t miss when there’s a Thoroughbred with any Prado blood whether its Paddy O’Prado, El Prado or Fort Prado. Those stallions have a reputation of being well boned, excellent temperament and talent from the racecourse to the show ring.
It’s going to be fun and gratifying producing Frankie. He is so affectionate, and I’ve already fallen for his gentle personality.
Frankie is a 4 year old Thoroughbred gelding who never raced. If his name rings a bell, it should. His sire is the famous Paddy O’Prado. Prado blood is like gold, especially now since the sire has passed from an unexpected farm accident.
We are in love with Frankie and his gentle ways.
More and more I’m seeing Thoroughbreds (who typically wear English tack), sporting Western gear. Thoroughbreds can do anything from racing, jumping, Dressage and Western sports. That is what’s so special about Puddle Jumper, because he can be an all-around Thoroughbred.
The farm congratulates Corey Bridges on her purchase of Puddle Jumper. She got a VERY special 4 year old and we wish them many years of happiness.
The farm wants to congratulate Bree Robinette of Magnolia Farm on their purchase of Hot Traffic. Thank you for the returned business and your enthusiasm and love of our Thoroughbreds.
Puddle Jumper (Boyd) has updated info on the HORSES FOR SALE page. I must admit that I’m quite smitten with this youngster and he puts a smile on my face. He would be ideal for an experienced woman who works in a 9 to 5 office job, and wants an uncomplicated horse in her life. Boyd is that horse, and is a talented Thoroughbred to develop for pleasure and the competition arena. He’d be perfect for the Young Event Horse Series.
Whether it is at the track or on a farm, locating dependable help is rare and a well-known elephant in the room, or should I say “barn” among employers. I’m not trying to speak for everyone when I write this, but I honestly believe there is a commonality many have experienced more than once and is very relatable. Who knows, maybe some will appreciate someone finally admitting to the elephant in the barn.
Dearest barn employee throughout the globe (near and far), who think you don’t have to show up on time for work – – – sorry, but you do.
For those who believe they can do 90% shitty work and continue sliding-by, believing you’re entitled to $15/hour – – – guess what, you’re not.
For those who say they can groom, tack, hold, lead, doctor a horse correctly – – – please, don’t lie to me.
To anyone who feels insulted or disrespected when your boss has to micromanage and call you out on your lack of work ethic – – – too bad for you darlin’.
When your employer has to pick up your slack and do 95% of the work, while you’re still on (1) stall, you are a feckless wonder – – – Look up the word feckless.
If you think you’re not replaceable and your employer should first be your friend – – – you’re wrong because you are. . . and we are not your friend.
This declaration only points out a handful of delightful horse-shit employers have to go through. To employees, I guarantee what you do in life has a direct consequence to your future.
Just think of the money someone won’t earn due to their irresponsibility. . . that means no money to feed yourself, pay your mortgage, have your car repaired or take a dream trip to Ecuador.
Finally in closing to fellow employers near and far, I’m not stating anything new that we all haven’t experienced a few times, right? It’s pitiful, disappointing and slightly comical because it comes with the territory when there’s a lack of work ethics and pride in doing good work for excellent pay.
But take heart friends, as Scarlett O’Hara said, “After all tomorrow’s another day.”
Hot Traffic (Mikey) has been steadily proving his natural talent on the flat and now with today’s introduction to jumping. He has the right attitude in his schooling and is enjoying himself in the process.
I like to begin jump school on the lunge line and allow youngsters to think and move on their own. Not having a rider on their backs gives them the opportunity to think independently and stay better balanced.
I continue to use trot poles weekly and keep building their footwork and muscle. With today’s wonderful results, I’m also confident that our next jump school will be in the tack. Brick by brick . . . and its starting to pay off.
As tracks around the northeast begin to close and summer meets end, its always a terrific time to see our new arrivals here on the farm in Ball Ground, GA. They’re fresh off the track and in transition from their racing careers to promising sporthorses.
We also provide training for clients who purchase our horses.
2 new show prospects are now listed on the HORSES FOR SALE page. They’re geldings by the same sire Cross Traffic of Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky.