Lifelong horsewoman and equestrian Phyllis Wyeth watched in 2010 with regret as a homebred Dixie Union colt she prized passed through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale into the hands of another owner.
Parting with the personable bay colt was hard, in part, because he was the product of a female family developed and nurtured at her parent’s historic Hickory Tree Stable, but her instincts also told her this horse was special.
“My accountant told me to sell the colt for tax purposes,” lamented Wyeth at her Point Lookout Farm, which straddles the border of Pennsylvania and Delaware. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to do it.”
In the months following the sale, Wyeth’s regret blossomed into an acute case of seller’s remorse and reacquiring the colt was the only remedy. She began this year on a mission. Through her network of Thoroughbred industry friends, she learned the colt’s new owner IEAH intended to offer him at Fasig-Tipton’s Florida Select 2-year olds in training sale at the Palm Meadows Training Center. Wyeth bought him back for $390,000, far more than the $145,600 she’d gotten for him as a yearling. But the price didn’t matter. The horse did.
Wyeth got a horse racing “do-over.”
Her instincts were dead-on because that colt is Union Rags, who put Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable into the limelight Aug. 15 with an impressive 7 ½-length victory in the 106th running of the Three Chimney’s Saratoga Special (gr. II). Union Rags went whoosh against five rivals, splashing his way across a sloppy track to a 95 Beyer Speed Figure in his second lifetime start.
In the Saratoga winner’s circle Union Rags’ breeder and owner was totally overcome with emotion.
"Having my picture taken in Saratoga’s winner's circle, I was crying my head off," said Wyeth, who uses a motorized scooter to get around. "Thanking my mother and father and carrying on their legacy. I'm so happy."
When old-timers in this waterfront village get to reminiscing about the “good old days,” they start swapping tales about the Havre de Grace Racetrack that first opened in 1912.
Perched on the bluffs above the Susquehanna River and on the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Maryland track attracted legendary horses, fabulously rich owners and top-tier trainers and jockeys. Affectionately dubbed “the Graw” by locals, it was one of racing’s gems. Racing history was minted here.
It was where Sam Riddle insisted Man o’ War won his greatest race and where his resplendent son Triple Crown winner War Admiral earned his first victory. Exterminator thundered home in the Philadelphia Handicap, setting an American record. Sir Barton, Equipose, and Seabiscuit rolled to impressive victories at the Graw. And on a rainy April afternoon, it was where the famed Citation suffered the only blemish of his Triple Crown season in 1948.
Trainer Jimmy Jones wanted a tune-up for the Chesapeake Stakes (1 1/16-mile) on April 17, a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Jones entered Citation in the Chesapeake Trial, a six-furlong race five days prior. With Eddie Arcaro in the irons, Citation went off at 1-2.
Smarty Jones , whose wins in the 2004 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) while unbeaten catapulted him to celebrity status, is coming home. The Chester County, Pa.-born champion will be relocated to Tarry Bratton’s Ghost Ridge Farms near York, Pa., for the 2011 breeding season. He formerly stood at Robert N. Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.
Smarty Jones, who raced as a homebred for Pat Chapman and her late husband, Roy, in the name Someday Farm, has been purchased by Chapman from Three Chimneys. The Chapman family had owned half of the 60 shares in the 2004 champion 3-year-old colt in the original syndicate agreement. A new syndicate agreement with breeders’ options, cover fees, etc., is expected to be finalized over the next week. Smarty Jones is due to arrive at Ghost Ridge in early November.
The Chapmans sold a 50% interest in Smarty Jones as a stallion. Smarty Jones was syndicated by Three Chimneys.
Along Skipton Creek tundra swans take flight and a flock of wild turkeys forage in the woodlands. A blue heron fishes in a contented way as a sleek red fox trots past the shoreline. Bald eagles wheel above in a bright blue sky, while white tail deer dart across a meadow.
History runs deep here. York, Md. was a port of entry and the county seat. By 1869 the tiny village boasted the first measured (one-half mile) racetrack in Maryland. A mile across the creek sits the Wye River Plantation, originally the estate of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the third governor of Maryland. Now known as the Aspen Institute on the Wye River, it was the site of the 1998 peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Robert “Shell” Evans discovered these beautiful stretches of forest and open field parts in 1993 that serve his twin passions of sailing the meandering waterways and raising thoroughbreds at his Courtland Farm. A few miles outside Easton, his property once was that village of York. He purchased the 440-acre farm from its former longtime owner Dr. John Walker, a cousin of former President George H. W. Bush.
Kevin Plank seeks to repeat his Under Armour magic with historic Sagamore Farm
Blood-Horse March, 2009
The temptation-- as the red-roofed foaling and broodmare barns have gone up, the white-board fencing stretches across the perimeter, and a string of horses settle in-- is to dwell on the glory days of Sagamore Farm where Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Jr. bred generations of champions.
Their brightest star was Native Dancer, winner of 21 of 22 races. Nicknamed the "The Gray Ghost," his light gray coat turned snow-white when he stood here as a legendary stallion. Under a stand of sugar maple trees his grave is marked by a plain, small stone slab in an undistinguished equine cemetery.
Sagamore's new owner pays homage to its wondrous past, but Kevin Plank is clearly focused on a vision for the future.
"The farm has the DNA of champions in its bones, but being part of building something brick by brick, that's what inspires me more than anything," said Plank, 36. "We honor the legacy but we're all about looking forward."
Trainer and veterinarian John R.S. Fisher developed the Fair Hill Training Center
Blood-Horse November, 2008
Moving at a purposeful pace John R. S. Fisher finishes up his daily duties, shadowed by a small, furry canine.
A fluffy-haired Jack Russell, Uncas is named for one of Fisher's favorite characters in the classic book "The Last of the Mohicans." He wriggles under the trainer's chair set up out the back of his barn that offers a striking view of strings of thoroughbreds headed to Fair Hill's training tracks.
"As a puppy he followed me up to the clockers' stand, next thing I know he's sitting alongside me," Fisher recalled. "Uncas doesn't bark or bite, he just hangs out. He has been sort of grand-fathered in by the other horsemen here."
Three days after his brilliant filly Eight Belles broke down in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Rick Porter was still searching for answers.
“No surprises,” Porter said of the preliminary results of the necropsy on Eight Belles. “No heart attack. No aneurysm. We may never know exactly what happened. It was just a tragic breakdown.”
The filly was galloping out after her runner-up performance to Big Brown when something went terribly wrong. She collapsed approaching the backstretch after breaking both front ankles.
Porter, who races as Fox Hill Farms, also said the filly’s trainer, Larry Jones, wanted her tested for steroids, because of radio news reports that accused Jones of using steroids because she was such a big filly.