Monday, December 21, 2015

THIS is How to End a Partnership

[NOTE: This was originally published on 8/24/08.  It was the last races of Star of the North Partnership under the direction of David Miller.  We closed it off with a win and a home for each of the horses involved.  It was a great finish for a group of great people]

It was to be their last starts. Sister and brother duo of Somerset Wish (4-year old) and Somerset Sam (3) were more than likely going to retire after this weekend. Coincidentally both were running in Minnesota bred $7500 claiming races going six furlongs over the main track. Sammy on Saturday and Wish on Sunday.

On my way to the track on yesterday I needed to stop at an ATM. Of course the drive-thru ATM was closed so the line at the other was backed up 10 cars. But I had some time, so I waited. Apparently there were some folks re-financing their mortgages while I was waiting and it took almost 20 minutes. If you've ever been in a drive-thru ATM line, once you are in, you aren't getting out. After trailing folks who seemed to feel that driving 10 mph under the speed limit in the left hand lane of the Interstate was OK, I pulled into the parking lot at Canterbury in time to hear Paul Allen calling the first race. My pick was Your Imagination. I figured I'd get 6-1. Turns out he scores at over 25-1 triggering a $55.25 win mutual. To add insult to injury, or injury to insult as it turned out, my pick in the second race finished up the track with some obvious physical issues. What a start...

It was an absolutely gorgeous late summer day in the Twin Cities and there were some fun races throughout the day. I even managed to hit an odd trifecta (4-5 with 18-1 with 13-1) to pull better than even and helped erase the first race sting. When the 8th race came around I packed up my Racing Form, glasses and binoculars and headed down to the track photographer to pick up Fizzy Pop's finish line photo from his last race and close out my account with the hotel bookkeeper. I'd like to take a second here to thank both Beth Rutzebeck, Canterbury photographer, and Terri Hoffrogge, horseman's bookkepper. Both have been wonderful and professional to deal with and helped make our first summer racing a delight. Then it was over to the paddock to see Sam get saddled and be on his way.

The feeling watching Sammy get saddled up and prepped to go was mixed. If he could run well here we'd see him move on to Remington and continue to ply his trade. However I got the feeling that he really wasn't enjoying what he was doing. He tried hard, but was so big that it was hard for him to turn his stride over. When he showed us that he couldn't go long, well, if you don't have speed and you can't go long...time to find a new job. Once you get in the walking ring, though, doubts disappear and you start thinking, "yeah, we can beat this group. Sure we can. And once we're in Oklahoma, well, he'll just get better!"

I watched the race in the horseman seats on the mezzanine. Bernell Rhone and his brother Russ came by and sat with me as we watched the race. Sam broke OK but was bumped. Not badly shaken up, he was back on track and tracked the leaders in fourth but wide most of the way. In the stretch, Sammy really didn't improve his position. I The Jury smoked the field by 15+ lengths and Sam finished 5th, seven lengths out of second. Bernell and I looked at each other for a second and I said "That won't keep him racing." Bernell nodded and agreed, "Not with that time. Probably best to let him go."

David Miller, managing partner of Star of the North Racing (with whom we own Sam & Wish), will keep an ownership interest in Sam in order to monitor his retirement. He found a nice farm up in rural Minnesota for Sammy to retire to. He'll be retrained as a riding horse and should live a nice sedate life trail riding. Sam has a great disposition for that kind of life and kudos to David for being responsible and a leader in the truest sense.

If it's at all possible, today dawned nicer than yesterday. I'm sure most of the country would view this as a nice early fall day. For us up here this is a fine late summer day! There were no tie ups on the way to the track this afternoon. After one quick stop at the bank to deposit the Canterbury check, we were on our way to Shakopee for probably the last time this summer. We got there early and listened to Paul Allen and Kevin Gorg dissect the card and enjoyed a bag of nuts from Canterbury Park's 'Nut Lady'. Only one of them even mentioned Wish, and that was to finish second.

Rianne walked Wish into the paddock and Wish looked good. After "rider's up!" we talked a bit with trainer Larry Donlin about how well Canterbury promotes racing and how some other locations rake in slot money while doing nothing to promote the racing product. The perfect storm of utilizing slots to market racing - not just tolerate it - could be seen someday if the folks at Canterbury ever get the gift of slot revenue.

Wish broke a bit awkwardly but hustled up to track the leaders perfectly in third position through the turn. I had the glasses trained on her and partner Brian Nodolf kept asking, "How's she doing? How's she doing?" I kept saying, "he's not moving, he's still not moving. NOW - he's asking her!" as she surged to the front. But her stablemate, Squeezable, was not ready to give in, pulled alongside of Wish and got a neck out in front with about 100 yards to go. At that point we all thought it was a good second. Then we watched the slo-mo of the finish - she fought back along the rail and may have won! For the second time in three races I was waiting for the numbers to get posted. They showed the finish a couple of times and it looked like we got the head bob, but it was hard to tell because both heads were moving in the same direction in tandem. Finally Paul Allen announced, "the winner issssss...NUMBER ONE, Somerset Wish!" and we went nuts! We hustled down to the winner's circle and there was quite a crowd to see Wish off - Larry and his wife Maureen, Brian and his girlfriend Andrea, David, her breeder Jack Welch with his two grandchildren, exercise rider and assistant chart caller Lisa Johnson and even tout sheet seller Big Jake Mauer. It was a big and very happy crowd.

The last race was typical of Wish's career. In 11 career starts she had two across the board: two wins, places and shows. Add to that another 4 fourth place finishes and she was always close. You left her out of you superfecta ticket at your own peril! She was always in the hunt and she always tried hard. Her heart is a big as all outdoors and the way she fought back to win at the wire was typical of everything we have enjoyed from her the past two seasons.

Wish is off to live on a Wisconsin farm courtesy of Brian. Again, another partner and friend stepping up and doing what is right by the horse. Apparently this is a polo farm, so maybe she'll make some polo ponies in her future? I love to think of Wish as a mom.

David has always had the finances up to speed and in no time this partnership will be closed out once the final bills are in a few weeks. We did what was right by the horses and they did well by us. My rough figuring is that we'll walk away with three photos, great memories, lessons learned and little, if any, cash. Success? You bet your life savers it was a success.

In contrast to what I have written about in the past, THIS is the way things should be done. Very publicly I would like to once again thank my friend, mentor and partner David Miller for the fabulous job he has done with this, his first public partnership. Also thanks need to go out to Brian, Jack Gresser and Tony Miller who round out this partnership. Without all of us, this wouldn't have been possible. I hope we all stay in touch and get involved together again. It was a great ride. Finally, all the thanks in the world go to Somerset Sam and Somerset Wish. Two horses that I got to know and love. Thanks for showcasing your unique personalities on every barn visit and your hearts in every trip to the track. I hope you enjoy your retirements and I look forward to visiting you all as often as I can get out there to see you both. Well done everyone. Well done.

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