Glancing at her cell phone she noticed an insistent message.
“Was Saucy Maisie yours?”
“Yes.” she replied. “Call me!” came the response.
A moment later, the two best friends were on the phone formulating a plan.
It would center on the son of a worn out broodmare who was blind in one eye, and yet, kind to everyone until the end of her days.
The mare was so deeply loved by her last owner, Jessica Creighton-Swift, that a year after the gentle horse died from complications in foaling, her voice still hitches up when she speaks of her.
“Saucy Maisie was really soulful. She was really weathered by life. She was blind in one eye, had a fused hock, and physically was just pretty used up,” she says.
In her lifetime, she gave birth to 13 babies and was unfailingly kind to the other animals and people in her life. One of the last times Creighton-Swift saw her, the mare trotted across a paddock, nickering as she went, until she finally closed the gap to stand near enough to accept a loving hand on her muzzle.
Race name: Auto City
Sire: Carson City
Dam: Saucy Maisie
Foal date: 2000
Career winnings: $336, 837When Creighton-Swift buried Saucy Maisie in a hay field on her farm in Maine, she began searching for the mare’s progeny. By creating a virtual stable online, she was able to keep an eye out for the mare’s babies, and planned on offering retirement homes to them when and if the time ever came.
And this past spring, shortly after Suffolk Downs racing analyst and publicist Jessica Paquette sent that text message, the time did come.
Paquette was perusing the bloodstock information of horses set to run at the start of the Suffolk season when she noticed a strapping 11-year-old named Auto City who had amassed over $300,000 in winnings at tracks such as Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct.
Intrigued, Paquette investigated the gelding’s lineage and saw that his mother was none other than Creighton-Swift’s beloved mare.
“When I saw Saucy Maisie was the mom, I nearly fell out of my chair,” Paquette says. “I sent Jess a text right away.”
Creighton-Swift drove four hours to attend Opening Day and see the gelding up close. Immediately she saw that he possessed the same kindly eye as his mother, and the same regal head.
Paquette contacted the horse’s trainer and was promised that when Auto City was ready to retire, the horse would be Creighton-Swift’s.
A month later, on June 20, Auto City ran his last of 61 races, finishing fifth.
Paquette picked him up and about a week later, he was taken to Maine to “be with someone he meant the world to, even though they had never met.”
“Some horses just leave a permanent mark,” Paquette wrote in her blog on the Suffolk Downs website. “Saucy Maisie was one of those special ones … and when Jess lost her, she was heartbroken.”
Auto City however, has breathed new life into the farm since arriving in June.
Creighton-Swift has taken great delight in noticing his reactions to the simple things, such as turnout in a paddock with other horses. Every inch the professional, Auto City does not race along the fence line or buck wildly. He simply trots around, getting the feel of the grass beneath his feet.
And he’s become fast friends with Paquette’s horse, What a Trippi: “I think they spend their time talking about their days at Suffolk Downs,” Creighton-Swift jokes.
Like his mother, Auto City displays the same even temperament and good manners, but has been just a little circumspect of certain aspects of farm life: namely, pigs and a rear window.
“He was used to having only one view out of stalls on the track, so it made him a little nervous at first to have a window at the back of his stall,” she says. But he’s getting used to that.
But he absolutely cannot abide the pigs on her working farm. “He’s just not convinced that they’re a good thing, especially when they gather under his window,” she adds.
As he goes through his days learning about windows and pigs and pastures, Paquette and Creighton-Swift exchange photos and rejoice that such a good horse has found such a great home.
“What we did for him was one of the most personally and professionally rewarding things of my career,” Paquette says. “Seeing him living out a happy retirement with (my horse) Trippi is very fulfilling. He is an old warhorse and he deserves it.”