F. Scott Fitzgerald once declared that there are no second acts in American life. Tell that to Dry Martini.
A four-time graded stakes winner at the racetrack, the ghostly gray gelding at age 9 was retired after a fifth place finish in the $1 million Florida Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park in 2011. He finished second to Quality Road in the Donn Handicap (Grade-1) and scored his biggest triumph in the $600,000 Suburban Handicap (Grade-2) at Belmont Park in 2009. He was the 51st highest-earning racehorse that year.
A great-grandson of Seattle Slew and Alydar, Dry Martini never finished worse than fifth in 23 consecutive starts in which he picked up a check from October 2006 to his final race in late January 2011. In 36 career starts he notched nine wins and 13 placings, banking more than $1.4 million in career earnings.
Within four months of his retirement Dry Martini was learning the ropes as a show jumper and that fall the gray-white thoroughbred was dashing through the open fields and woodlands with a pack of hounds, foxhunting in southwestern Chester County. Dry Martini and is being trained by James Paxson of River Hills Foxhounds and is shown by Priscilla Godsoe.
“It wasn’t but a few weeks and he had the hunting down,” noted Paxson. “Everything we did, it took with him. Not many (ex-racehorses) that come along are like him. His brain is the right place. It’s a presence that he gives off. You see it in his walk, his expression, his ears. He’s so proud of himself. He walked into a show ring in New Jersey like he owned it.”
For the final five years of his racing career Dry Martini was trained by Barclay Tagg, a former Chester County jump jockey and protégé of Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard. Tagg trained 2003 Kentucky Derby –Preakness winner Funny Cide. His assistant Robin Smullen, who helped oversee Dry Martini’s racing career, contacted Penny Woolley about finding a second career for the horse.
“It was time for him to just have fun,” Smullen said in 2011. “He was such a wonderful horse to have around the barn, and he tried hard every time he went out there. The most important thing is that he retired sound.”
Penny Woolley, who works for Fasig-Tipton at its yearling sale in Saratoga, took the horse sight unseen.
“Robin told me, ‘I promise you that you can get on him tomorrow and take him cross country,” said Woolley, wife of Fair Hill trainer Tim Woolley.
“I didn’t have a picture, didn’t know what he looked like. I wasn’t looking for another horse, but Robin told me I shouldn’t pass him up and she was right. He’s smart. He can do anything, show jumper, fox hunting. Plus, he’s got such a personality. If you try and take a picture, he poses. He loves the attention.”
Woolley shipped the horse to Priscilla Godsoe, a professional show jumper who works with off-the-track thoroughbreds in Nottingham, Pa.
“I wanted to get him ready for the show ring,” Wooley said. “I loved the way Priscilla rides and I knew she could train him properly to jump. He took to it right away, less than a month. He jumped four feet easily and I’ve seen him do five. He’s competed in local competitions. It’s an expensive sport and he’’s already proved himself at the track so we don’t need to push him.
“I’m also considering using him as a pony at Fair Hill who takes horses to the training track. Ponies need to be quiet in doing their job and he’s still got some spunk so we’ll see.”
All of Godsoe’s show horses foxhunt each winter. She says it gives them their own confidence and independent thinking.
“With him, from the very first ride I had, he was the same good-natured horse every time,” related Godsoe. “With foxhunting, he didn’t really know what the purpose was. But once James Paxton took him out on a few rides and got him used to the hilly terrain and the hounds, he was all set. A lot of horses off the track don’t know where to put their feet when they come off a flat track and are presented with a steep hill, so he had to learn.”
Dry Martini was one of the featured attractions at the inaugural 2012 Furlongs to Fences Thoroughbred show as a jumper and in the hunting division. Woolley is considering showcasing him again this year.
This year the Fair Hill Thoroughbred Show kicks off September 7 and 8, 2013 at the Fair Hill Natural Resource Area, across the street from the Fair Hill Training Center. Hunter Day on Saturday begins with the Leadline Class, won last year by a young rider mounted on a son of the great Secretariat. Five divisions of beautiful Thoroughbreds competing over courses designed by well-known hunter rider and show manager, Sue Sisco, will follow.
The show day is rounded out by the Fair Hill Thoroughbred Show Hunter Derby, a very special class with two components: a Classic Round, in which competitors demonstrate the flow, athleticism and style of their mounts; and the Handy Hunter Round, in which the horse’s responsiveness, agility, and confidence are tested. Together the rounds showcase all of the best qualities of a great hunter.
Sunday will feature thoroughbred jumpers. Riding courses designed by noted local jump rider and trainer, Laurie Jakubauskas of Kennett Square, PA, competitors will demonstrate the speed, power, bravery and agility of their mounts. Three divisions of jumpers compete at various heights and a stakes class concludes each division.
Thoroughbred horses available for sale or adoption will be competing on both days. Riders and handlers of these horses will sport a blue arm-band, alerting spectators of their horse’s availability. A catalog of these available horses may be obtained at the secretary’s booth and will include all pertinent details and owner/agency contact information.
The Fair Hill Thoroughbred Show has also expanded its silent auction and vendor pavilion. The auction, ably organized by Dixie Abbott and Liz Mitchell, has a large selection of various items and experiences available for bidding. The signature item this year is the use of a Cape May beach house. Go to the show’s website for a complete list of items at auction, www.fairhillthoroughbredshow.com.
“One tends to get the behavior that one rewards” remarked Lisa Demars, treasurer and sponsor co-chair of the show. “Our aim is to encourage riders to obtain thoroughbreds and train them well by offering a challenging and fun opportunity to show what their horses have achieved and financial reward for achieving it.
“We also want to support their efforts by giving them access to the area’s wealth of knowledgeable horse people via our seminars and through networking. If riders are rewarded for selecting thoroughbreds, horoughbred demand will increase and so will thoroughbred value. This is good for everyone involved, but is especially good for the horses.”
$1 Million Day
Parx Racing once again will have a pair of $1 million races on Sept 21, the Cotillion Stakes (Grade-1) for 3-year-old fillies and the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-olds will headline the day. In addition to the two $1 million races, the card will include the Grade 3, $300,000 Gallant Bob for 3-year-old sprinters. Last September saw a heavyweight battle between champion My Miss Aurelia and multiple grade I winner Questing through the stretch of the Cotillion. My Miss Aurelia prevailed by a head to remain undefeated. Parx’s total handle on the 2012 card was $4.3 million.
Todd Pletcher trainee Dreaming of Julia has been confirmed for the Cotillion. Princess of Sylmar, owned by Ed Stanko of Malvern, Pa., cemented her status as the 2013 leader of the division with an authoritative six-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. Also trained by Pletcher, Princess of Sylmar was slated to run in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes in Saratoga in late August with her next race possibly the $1 million Cotillion.
Challenging Season for Fox Hill Farm
No hoof, no horse. On Aug. 9 Porter confirmed his talented 3-year old colt Normandy Invasion will miss the remainder of the season.
Normandy Invasion took the lead heading into the stretch before fading to fourth behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby. Porter elected to pass on the final two legs of the Triple Crown hoping to have a fresh horse for the summer with the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes as the colt’s number one goal. But the son of Tapit missed training in early July with a foot abscess that derailed those plans. He returned to galloping at Saratoga Race Course in late July but did not breeze before Porter and trainer Chad Brown decided to shut him down.
"We were going to shoot for the Pennsylvania Derby (Grade-2) in late September, then I started saying, 'Chad, you're never going to get this horse 100 percent right after this long of a layoff to the Pennsylvania Derby," Porter said. "It's not like we're going to use that as a prep for something; there's nothing else to run in. There was no way we were going to run him in the Breeders' Cup with one race under him."
Normandy Invasion will be turned out at Winstar Farm probably through September. Porter said he and Brown would come up with a plan for next year working backward from a 2014 marquee race to determine when to put Normandy Invasion back in training.
"These sons of Tapit get a lot better with age, so maybe it's a little bit of a blessing in disguise,” Porter added.
Normandy Invasion, a nine-length maiden winner in his second career start at Aqueduct, finished second in the Grade 2 Remsen at 2 and second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at 3. He has a win and two seconds from six starts, with earnings of $400,240.
Rockport Harbor, Porter’s first standout colt, was euthanized due to laminitis on August 3. “Rocky” always held a very special place in his owner’s heart.
“After going three for three as a two-year-old, topping it off with a dominant and electrifying win in the Remsen, he’s the first colt to give me “’Derby dreams,’” Porter recalled.
“What a horse, and what a stride. And after he retired he was also one of the best Pennsylvania stallions (at Pin Oaks Farm in New Freedom, Pa.). Rocky also started something else very important — Rockportharbor.com. Through the forum, I interacted with fans, and even after Rocky retired, we kept the website going, eventually morphing into FoxHillFarmStable.com and a Facebook page. Rocky is responsible for a lot of the joy that I’ve gotten from horse racing, and I’ll never forget him.”
On the good news side of the ledger, Porter’s Joyful Victory scored an impressive front-running 7 ½-length win in the $195,000 Molly Pitcher Stakes July 28 at Monmouth Park. The 5-year old gray mare took command going into the clubhouse turn with Rosie Napravnik aboard. They left the competition behind on the far turn while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:46.09 over a track rated fast.
She was just cruising around there today," Napravnik said. "In her last race (the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park), the pace was really fast and she was down on the inside so there were no breathers. Today she was able to do her own thing on the lead."
“We have always believed in her talent, but she has grown and matured so much from her 4-year-old campaign,” said trainer Larry Jones. “Rosie is amazing in getting her to relax so she can show that fantastic cruising speed.”
Jones has penciled in the Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita (Grade-1) on Sept. 28. It will be used as a prep race for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, on Nov. 1. The Molly Pitcher was Joyful Victory’s sixth stakes win, and the Ontario-bred mare now has 7 wins, 5 seconds and 3 thirds in 19 races, increasing her lifetime earnings to $1,222,679.