Breeding

Off to the Races


There are many events that have provided me much excitement in the racing industry. Covering big races and horses as a journalist, meeting racing people I worshipped as a child, and cheering home my first racehorse in his debut (which sadly didn’t end with a win), are all high on the list. But the biggest thrill to date came last Thursday at Gulfstream Park.

To people watching the fifth race that day, the source of that excitement was known in the program as Jimmy Idontknowya, or just “the No. 3 horse.” But to me, he is plain old “Blade.”

Blade is the first foal out of the winning mare Blade’s Edge (hence his nickname), and I have the fun claim of being the first human ever to touch him. He was born during my first season working as a part-time night watch on a Thoroughbred farm in Central Kentucky, and by the night he was born there was a running joke that my shift was always the night the mares took off from foaling. In my first eight weeks on the job only one mare had foaled, and so many people had been in the barn for that early evening foaling that I hadn’t really done anything but pass foaling equipment into the stall and make sure the foal nursed.

But Blade’s Edge was determined to change that.

If you’ve ever been around a maiden broodmare you probably know they are more unpredictable than your average mare due to foal, and Blade’s Edge was no different.

She didn’t give any signs she was going to foal that night and was standing quietly napping when I left the barn to go check on our post-foaling barn just a few steps away. Sure enough, in that short window of time, Blade went from sleeping to foaling (living up to our farm motto: “Anything in this barn can, and will, foal at any time.”). Luckily, she was considerate enough to hold off the water break until I was standing in front of her door.

A call to the broodmare manager Luis to tell him it was time to come to the barn and a check of the foal’s position (and the relief that comes with feeling two legs and a nose in the right position), followed by a run to the tack room to get the foaling cart didn’t take long. But, sure enough, it was enough time for Blade’s Edge to decide she wasn’t waiting on Luis to arrive and it would be just her and me bringing her first foal into the world.

“Blade” with mom. Photo courtesy of the author.

I’d assisted in a few foalings in my life so I had a good idea of what to do. It also helped that both mare and foal followed the textbook when it came to the actual foaling, so it was a nice gentle push into the shallow-end of the foaling pool for me. As Luis walked in, Blade’s Edge gave her final push to bring her new baby boy into the world (talk about good timing all around).

Since then, I’ve followed little Blade closely. First, it was visiting him on the farm every week (or more than once a week in many cases) as a foal and then a yearling, then watching him go through the sales ring last September. As I did with all the foals born on the farm in 2015, I entered Blade into my Equibase Virtual Stable as soon as he was put into training. Then, the waiting game to see if he’d make it to the track began.

Blade’s Edge on March 20, 2015. ©Melissa Bauer-Herzog

While over 20,000 Thoroughbred foals are born in North America every year, getting them to the track is a feat in itself. Just like other disciplines, there are many reasons a horse may never see the racetrack, even just to start training. Some decide they don’t want to be racehorses, some have injuries, and some just end up with people whose life circumstances after they buy the horse keep them from ever putting them in race training. So when Blade’s first workout notification appeared in my inbox in March, it was reason to celebrate.

In early April I got a notification that he was the first of my 80-something babies from that year to work from the gate, so I figured he was close to his debut. All Thoroughbreds need to get their “gate card” (basically saying that they are professional enough in the starting gate to be safe in a race) so odds were good that he would probably be the first of my foals to make it to a race. Still, I was surprised to get an entry notification only a few days later.

Blade’s debut came last Thursday at Gulfstream Park, and while he finished six lengths behind the leader, it was actually promising to see him closing late to get that fourth spot.

I’m not sure what’s in the future for Blade, but I certainly hope it’s a successful racing career. In a perfect world he will win many Grade 1’s and return to Kentucky to stand at stud, which is a hope I think many of us working in the Thoroughbred industry have for “our” horses. But no matter what happens, I’ll be cheering him on every step of the way, and if there comes a time he needs a soft place to land after his racing career, I’ll be here to help with that as well.

While the excitement of watching Blade make it to the races may one day be passed by something else, it’s doubtful I’ll ever forget the excitement he’s given me and hopefully will continue to provide for years to come.

 


About the Author

A native of Vancouver, WA, Melissa Bauer-Herzog followed her passion for all things equine to Central Kentucky. She is a frequent contributor to America’s Best Racing, and publishes a blog on international bloodstock, All Equine All The Time.