An eight-month mission to obtain and return a majestic Thoroughbred gelding to a woman who sold the animal six years ago, but carried a torch for him ever since, ended yesterday with tears of happy surprise as the statuesque horse came walking back into the life of Britt Wadsworth.
Thoroughbred gelding Flexnow, a son of Hall of Fame racehorse and dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, was delivered to Wadsworth at the Saratoga, N.Y. offices of equine hospital Rood & Riddle, where she now works, after a yeoman’s effort by Wadsworth’s boyfriend Sean Mahoney, and their friend, pinhooking business partner and fellow horseman Danzel Clarke Brendemuehl.
“I was working at Rood & Riddle when Dr. (Travis) Tull came to tell me a lameness case had shipped in. He told me (the horse) was walking a little funny, and could I come out and look at him, and maybe give my opinion,” says Wadsworth, a horseman who rides for famous trainer Shug McGaughay in the summer, and who formerly sold yearlings and 2-year-old Thoroughbreds professionally.
Dam: Fleas Louise, by Storm Cat
Foal date: Feb. 8, 2008
Earnings: $77,151 in 29 startsMoments later, Wadsworth accompanied Dr. Tull to a turnout area, and focused her attention on the animal’s gait. Watching him walk and seeing nothing “off” about him, her puzzlement soon turned to shock when she lifted her gaze up and studied the big ears and the handsome face from her memories.
“I was very surprised,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m looking at him, and looking at him and then he walked right over and buried his head in my arms.”
Her boyfriend, who for years had become familiar with the horse from an old picture that Wadsworth had kept, slipped from a hiding spot and photographed the reunion that had taken months to bring to fruition.
Those few minutes on a muddy, puddled parking lot in Saratoga brought nearly as much joy to the man who spearheaded the effort after listening to his girlfriend talk about the long-lost horse.
“When we moved in together a few years back, she brought with her this picture of her sitting on Flexnow’s back, while he’s lying down with his legs tucked under him. She told me his name and that she loved him, and that she hoped one day she could get him back,” Mahoney says. “She kept track of his races and about a year ago, I noticed he was running for less money. So that’s when I started to think of ways of getting him back.”
Soon after, he enlisted Brendemuehl’s help in the effort to surprise his girlfriend with her favorite horse.
Brendemuehl jumped in with both feet, contacting the horse’s connections. Early enthusiasm was soon dampened however, when the horse’s trainer indicated he wasn’t ready to let the horse go. After winning his last race at Churchill Downs, Flexnow had shipped to Arkansas and was prepping to run at Oaklawn when hopes were momentarily dashed of getting him back.
“I started watching the races and thought that in the worst case, we could pull the money together and try to claim him,” he says. “And sure enough, he won his last race. I was devastated.”
And then came a change of heart.
Flexnow’s trainer Ron Moquett contacted them and offered to give them the horse, provided they promised not to race him.
And a mad-dash scramble soon began. Brendemuehl contacted a shipper, found temporary stalling between Arkansas and New York, and even Wadsworth’s colleagues at Rood & Riddle got in on it.
“We had text messages going back and forth and at the end of each one, we’d say, ‘Delete this text!’ because we didn’t want Britt to find out. It was so much fun,” Brendemuehl says. “And people everywhere stepped up to help us.”
Sally Thomas of Kentucky opened her barn to the horse, and shipper Jerry Price drove all night sneaking the beautiful bay Thoroughbred to Rood & Riddle, where, too, “everyone was in on it,” Brendemuehl says.
Still bemused that on a fine day in February, the horse whose picture she carried for years was standing right next to her, Wadsworth was nearly at a loss for words.
“He never turned out to be a great racehorse, but we always had a neat bond,” she says. “He was the one horse who was always looking for me when I came into the barn. And after we sold him, I never forgot him.”