Rand Bill was a racehorse with “a lot of try in him.”
On the track, he hit the board a number of times and even won three races after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct.
Off the track, when he was lined up with a jumps course in the schooling ring for the first time, and even though lifting his feet did not come naturally to him, he simply wouldn’t quit. He gamely faced the new challenge until he got it, says owner Joy Dunn of Mint Hill Farm, N.Y.
“He was such a klutz in the beginning,” she says. “I remember a friend of mine said to me that I shouldn’t even try him over over 1-foot, and my trainer said he didn’t know if Bill would ever jump anything.”
But the horse wouldn’t give up, and one then suddenly one day “the light bulb went on,” she says.
From those tentative first steps, the 17.1 hand horse with the big, steady gait went on to win over 3.6 foot jumps, collecting ribbons at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Fla., and winning the Connecticut Adult Medal Finals at Fairfield Hunt Club. Other victories included classes at Old Salem Farm, Farmington, and HITS.
Race name: Rand Bill
Name: Coral Island
Dam: Hearts are Trumps, by Bold Bitter
Foal date: April 6, 1982
“He won and he got great ribbons at all the A Circuit shows,” Dunn says, noting, “I think he just needed to figure it out first. He was a very big horse with a huge stride and a rhythm like a metronome.”
Throughout both careers, Rand Bill gave it his best while maintaining a “pleasant” expression on his face. The whole package was perfect for Dunn, a deeply experienced horsewoman who for 26 years has held a judge’s card for hunter/jumper.
But when her Thoroughbred died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 1995, it took Dunn a long time to find another horse who measured up to the horse she claimed for $35,000 just 10 years earlier.
“He was such a great horse that he made me want to find another one just like him,” she says. “But it was a while before I got another one.”
As it turns out, she didn’t get another one. She got three!
Among them, Nightintheslammer, was a horse she saw on TVG’s coverage of a race at Aqueduct. “They were filming in the paddock and it was one of those terrible, windy days. All the horses were on their toes except this guy. His walker hardly had to hang onto his lead rope” because he was just that calm, she says.
She kept her eye on the horse, following his progress through low-level claiming stakes. “I just kept calling the trainer every couple of months because the horse didn’t show much on the track.”
Eventually he wound up with a chip in his knee, and Dunn stepped in to offer him a retirement home. “Luckily, he’s very nice to be around on the ground, so I’m happy to just let him be a turnout horse.”
Race name: J Jacqueline
New name: Linden
Sire: Jazzing Around
Also in the last year she purchased gelding Julie Forsure and mare J Jacqueline (renamed Linden) from Suffolk Downs. Both horses had kindly trainers who wanted their horses to find good homes.
Julie Forsure’s trainer gave Dunn a pound of peppermints and a pound of sweet feed when she showed up to take the horse, and Linden’s trainer had his “heart in the right place” when it came to making sure the seasoned campaigner went to a good home, she says.
“Linden had over 60 starts and ran her heart out from Washington to Canada to Suffolk Downs. She deserved a good place to come home to.”
A good home for her off-track Thoroughbreds is something Dunn is committed to offering the horses who follow in Bill’s footsteps. Whether they go on to win ribbons, enjoy retirement on her pastures, or are re-sold to good homes, they all deserve a warm stall and good care.
A friend once warned Dunn not to start collecting horses after she bought her farm in 1996, but she didn’t listen.
Admitting she has “accumulated” more than a few over the years, she always remembers the good-hearted trooper and how he tried for her.
“Bringing Bill along .. and seeing the progress he made was so satisfying that the emotions I felt when he made any amount of progress were an amazing feeling,” she says. “The personal satisfaction I got from my experience with Bill and the urge to find raw talent is what keeps me going onto the next one.”