In for 10%, Dippy the racehorse pays out in love

Diplo is flanked by Barb Thompson, left, assistant to Amy Hess, and by Deirdre Barnhart. Photo courtesy John Chun

Diplo is flanked by Barb Thompson, left, assistant to Amy Hess, and by Deirdre Barnhart. Photos courtesy John Chun

A 10-percent share was all Deirdre Barnhart owned of the racehorse, but the racehorse owned every bit of her.

It was a fair exchange; one that began during a casual visit to Hollywood Park. Barnhart had gone to visit a big bay named Diplo, whom she had purchased a small share in, and the animal’s famous trainer Doug O’Neill took the unusual step of pulling the T-bred out of his stall for an inspection before handing the lead rope over to her.

“He said I should take him for a walk. It was very unusual to do, because I wasn’t a big owner. But, I took the rope and walked with him, and right away developed a connection,” she says. “He was super cool and super friendly.”

And super unforgettable.

From that moment on, Barnhart’s off hours were devoted to the horse. Leaving her hectic job at the UCLA Medical Center on a Friday night, she drove home happily planning her Saturday pilgrimage to Hollywood Park. She packed apples and carrots and made the one-hour drive toward her personal Shangri-La.

From her seat at the track, back in 2010, she cheered the beautiful gelding on as he raced, and afterwards, in the quiet of the barn, the plucky little horse would welcome her.

Barn name: Dippy
Sire: Pleasant Tap
Dam: Blackjack Angel
Foal date: Feb. 10, 2007
“He would hear my voice as I spoke to his groom Jose, and his head would pop right over the top of his stall, and he’d just whinny and whinny and whinny at me,” she says. “It got to the point where everybody treated me like I was a big owner. People couldn’t believe how this horse responded to me.

He really was hers in everyway but legally; and everyone said so.

But after the last race of the day, on July 18, 2010, Diplo was claimed away. Shaking off her initial shock at losing the fine animal to a claim, Barnhart sadly yet graciously extended her hand to Diplo’s new trainer, Molly Pearson.

In a good turn however, Barnhart was invited to visit the horse at his new barn. “People had warned me about going to see him. You’re not supposed to go into another trainer’s barn. But because I loved the horse so much, I met Molly, and she invited me to see him the next morning,” she says.

Amy Hess, a well-known trainer, rides Diplo to win at the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show in California last weekend.

Amy Hess, a well-known trainer, rides Diplo to win at the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show in California last weekend.

Overnight, Diplo took sick from a bad stifle infection. His leg was blown up, and he was tied in his stall to keep him calm. But the second Barnhart entered the barn, he started whinnying and nickering his usual hello.

Pearson witnessed the affectionate exchange, and assiduously kept Barnhart in the informed about the horse’s health as he convalesced during a seven-month layup at owner Tom E. Ramsey’s Arizona farm.

When the determined Thoroughbred finally returned to racing, running at Turf Paradise and doing pretty well, Barnhart watched his races on her computer and texted his connections at the end of each race. “I think I made a real pest of myself,” she says, laughing.

She even managed to finagle a meeting with Ramsey, and told him how much she loved his horse. She offered to take him when his race days were over.

Ramsey never forgot that offer.

In February 2012, after Diplo finished second at Turf Paradise, Ramsey turned to Molly Pearson and said, “Do you still hear from that nice woman from California? I think I’m going to go ahead and give her back her horse.”

Dippy and Deirdre Barnhart are enjoying the fruits of the hard work put into his training by Amy Hess.

Dippy and Deirdre Barnhart are enjoying the fruits of the hard work put into his training by Amy Hess.

Since that momentous occasion, Barnhart has enthusiastically shepherded her ex-racehorse, whom she calls Dippy, into a new career as a competitive Jumper.

Placed in training with well-known trainer Amy Hess, Diplo has slowly adapted to a new career.

In a big way.

Last weekend, pretty Dippy won the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show Jumper Stakes in Los Angeles and was Reserve Champion in the .95 meter division.

“After he won, I thought of something Tom Ramsey said when he gave him to me. Tom doesn’t know a thing about Jumpers, but he said to me, ‘Deirdre, the way this horse jumps around on the track, I think you’re going to have yourself quite a Jumper on your hands.’ Little did he know, he was right!”

11 responses to “In for 1011, Dippy the racehorse pays out in love”

  1. Linda Chartier Scala

    Great story! Are you by chance the same girl who rode at AWF back in the heday? If so , you were a sweetheart then, and I guess have not changed. So nice to see people in it for the love of horses and not just the ribbons.

  2. cheri vaughan

    Love you both! What a great pair.

  3. Deirdre Barnhart

    Many many thanks for all your wonderful comments! When Dippy was away from me for all that time I would watch each one of his races and talk to the monitor like an idiot!! Saying ” Hey Dip… You WILL make your way back to me..!! “I’m BEYOND HAPPY THAT HE DID!!!
    He is my ” kid” and has a personality that would warm your heart!
    Sometimes love does conquer all!!! Xxxx

  4. Susan Kayne

    <3 Deirdre & Dippy! Beautiful end for an O'Neill horse. A great lesson for all those in racing partnerships…Go to the Shedrow, Be Proactive in the care of your horse AND Don't be afraid to Speak Up! Congratulations to all.

  5. Michelle

    Deirdre and Dippy are a match made in heaven! I remember the first time I met Dippy in Doug’s barn at Hollywood Park. I was with Deirdre and as soon as she said his name firecrackers went off!

    He heard her voice and you’d think he saw a big carrot walking down the shedrow and right to his stall!! The chemistry between the two of them is amazing. The match was meant to be right from the start.

    These wonderful horses have so much love to give. Each one deserves a Deirdre.

  6. Susan Crane-Sundell

    A lesson in how to treat a racehorse. Every connection played a part in ensuring that Diplo received a soft landing. A concerned owner who stays in touch is a valuable asset to a Thoroughbred as they navigate the circuitous route of their racing career. Deidre really looked out for her boy and by staying connected ensured his safe treatment and easily-transitioned retirement.

    Here’s to a watchful eye and a heart full of love!

  7. Stephanie Morse

    What a fabulous story. This is one that needs to go all over the world. All the race connections were stand-up people to make sure this horse got back to his girl.

    Hope he has many wins in his new career!

  8. Cynthia

    Wonderful, wonderful story. I wish that there could be thousands more like it. Thank you for sharing. The bond between humans and Thoroughbreds is magic.

  9. Jsmith

    True Love. Great story. I wish all horses had a Deirdre to look out for them, and racing connections that recognize a bond as these did. Another good reason to attend a Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show is to see connections between horse and owner like this. You can walk by the stalls, and enthusiastic owners are only too happy to tell you all about their OTTB. But there is positively a radiance when you get to Dippy and Deidre they really do have a special bond. P.S. take plenty of mints!

  10. Michelle

    What a great story to read! So interesting to read how all the parties came together to make sure this horse and Deirdre Barnhart stayed together through the years. That was such a nice thing trainer Doug O’Neill did for Deirdre that first day (and an interesting side story about him when I clicked on his name!). I’m glad Molly Pearson and Tom Ramsey were so open to Deirdre. Another happy ending for another great T-bred!!

  11. Karen Lawrence

    So happy for Deirdre and Dippy. Watched this story unfold on facebook. What a wonderful thing for both of them.

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