Crooked knees and an offset gait made the little colt appear more seaworthy than race ready.
And so Marqued Heart ran wide of his father’s stellar racing career, and instead, wound up with a jockey who promised never to ride him.
It was a turn of fate set in motion in early April 2006, when Marqued Heart entered this world with front knees so crooked he struggled along with a wide step up front, giving him an offset and twisted look all over. And then, at age 2 months, the little colt somehow put a foot wrong and shattered his hind sesamoid ending any hope he would follow in the footsteps of his famous sire, Marquetry.
When he was fully recovered he was declared unfit for riding.
Barn name: Rocky
Dam: Lady Lake, by Salt Lake
Foal date: April 5, 2006Though this was not a great recommendation for a Yearling sale prospect in a world where horses need to earn their keep, the little guy’s plight caught the eye of longtime jockey Brenda Zoppo who was on a personal mission to do a good turn for a horse in need.
After 16 years of racing, the Ocala-based leading apprentice jockey in 1984/1985 at Calder, Gulfstream and Hialeah, had had her fill of sitting atop galloping horses. Her goal, when she offered Marqued Heart a home, was to fill a void left after the death of a beloved personal horse, who died after breaking a leg while playing in his paddock. All she wanted was to offer a nice life to a horse.
“It didn’t matter to me that he couldn’t be ridden,” she says. “I rode for a living … and my feeling was that he needed a home and I wanted another horse.”
But Marqued Heart wasn’t so much interested in her soft feelings. And when he stepped off the trailer on March 28, 2007, he was about as mean and ugly as a horse could be, she says.
“He was rotten! There was nothing really nice about this horse when I got him. It wasn’t from abuse; he’d been handled really well by his people. But his mother was an Alpha mare who ran a field, and my guess is that it affected him.”
For the first two years, Zoppo spent time dodging his kicks and walking on eggshells. “When he was 2 I was bathing him, and I told him to move over and gave him a push, and he double-barreled me in the chest,” she says. “I broke a rib off my sternum; that’s how dangerous he was.”
Although she considered humanely destroying the animal after that incident, Zoppo stuck with him for reasons unknown.
And so a budding friendship took hold and blossomed, and life has straightened out for the crooked foal with the bad attitude.
Zoppo now proclaims Marqued Heart to be “the most human horse I know.”
“He’s in a barn 50 feet away from my house. So he can see into my kitchen from his stall. If my lights are on, he kicks his stall door if he needs something. He doesn’t kick when the lights are off at night, unless he’s sick or he’s hurt himself,” she says. “I swear this horse did everything in his power not to become a racehorse … and I feel animals are brought to people when they need them. He would do anything for me, and he will have a home with me until the day he dies.”