No sooner had the dusty black Thoroughbred landed at the Texas livestock auction Sept. 18, his old friends came running to help.
Within 24-hours, Handsomely was identified by his lip tattoo, and rescued with the help of a jockey who won her first race on the good-looking fella, and a past trainer who once pinned his hopes and aspirations on the fine figure of a horse.
“In no time, I had enough money to buy him, pay for his quarantine and his feed,” says Donna Keen, of Remember Me Rescue of Texas. She notes that she was once again touched by the speed with which good people in the horse racing world circled the wagons for one of their own.
“When we find a horse like that in trouble, thank God we have this really great support system,” Keen adds.
When Jockey Cassandra Buckley Naupac saw Keen’s Facebook notification that an OTTB named Handsomely had turned up at a livestock auction, her heart jumped into her throat. “I got a hold of Donna and asked if this was the Handsomely, and told her if he was, that he was the horse I won my first race on.”
New name: Handsomely Ever After
Dam: Raging Dancer
Foal date: May 22, 2005Quickly reaching out to the horse’s past connections, she was first in line to offer to adopt the horse who brought her the victory she remembers like it was yesterday.
“I remember every detail of that day,” Naupac says. “We were at Louisiana Downs, and it was the 4th of July 2010. Handsomely was my third racehorse.
“He was going really well, but by the 1/8th pole I thought I’m going to run second. There was a horse on my outside, and I didn’t want to go to the crop because I was afraid I was going to drop it, so I just yelled, ‘Come on Handsomely, come on!’ They could probably hear me in the stands.”
It was victory by a nose!
And last week, Naupac triumphed again. Keen, who facilitated Handsomely’s rescue to her Texas racehorse haven, gave Naupac the good news over the weekend: her adoption request had been approved, and the horse would be Naupac’s.
“I truly think it was fate!” Naupac says. “I think certain situations for me didn’t pan out this summer in order for me to be available to take him.”
She adds that Handsomely is “incredibly lucky” he was discovered: “I feel like it’s a blessing, and that we were meant to find each other again!”
As she arranges transport from Texas to a barn outside of Louisville, Ky., Naupac has created a blog and a Facebook page in honor of the horse she will rename Handsomely Ever After.
Although Keen was never short on offers—the horse’s breeder also offered to adopt him, and approximately 20 horsemen donated funds to rescue and care for the animal —Keen says it seems fitting to send the horse back to a jockey who remembers him so well.
“Cassandra recently had a son in January, and she was thinking that it would be nice to give him riding lessons on the horse she won her first race on,” Keen says, noting that Handsomely and the 25-year-old rider’s life seemed to have come full circle.Author’s note—This story was originally published on Sept. 23, 2013.