All hands on deck to help Suffolk T-breds

Golden Heartland is among the hunky T-breds listed for sale at Suffolk Downs. All sale horses may be seen on CANTER New England's Trainer Listings.

Golden Heartland is among the hunky T-breds listed for sale at Suffolk Downs. All sale horses may be seen on CANTER New England’s Trainer Listings.

An outpouring of help from horsemen, volunteers and businesses has coalesced into “a remarkable hands on effort” to help ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds in the somber waning days of the Suffolk Downs racetrack.

So says Dawn Carey Kirlin, CANTER New England board member, who along with Kim Rigolini and many other CANTER volunteers, is working hard to make sure racehorses have some place to go when the track closes Oct. 4.

An Open House set for Saturday, Sept. 27 has attracted the support of businesses such as Dover Saddlery and Poulin Grain of Vermont, as well horse shippers, who will stand at the ready to help transport the lucky animals.

“Basically, everybody is trying to do everything they can to help,” Kirlin says.

Since the closure of the 79-year-old struggling racetrack was announced a week ago, the number of horses listed for sale has continued to grow, Kirlin says. Though horses are selling to new homes at a brisk pace, new horses are being added on almost as quickly as others are being sold, she explains.

“We still have over 100 horses listed for sale,” she says. “But, we’re also selling quickly. Last weekend we sold 20.”

Rich Hero, pictured, and Soccer Goalie will travel together this week to ReRun, Inc., in Virginia where Lisa Molloy has welcomed them into her re-training program.

Rich Hero, pictured, and Soccer Goalie will travel together this week to ReRun, Inc., in Virginia where Lisa Molloy has welcomed them into her re-training program.

Because of the heightened activity, it has been a challenge to update the CANTER New England Trainer Listings page, she says, noting that a horse may sell before that information is updated on the horse’s advertisement on the sale page.

As news has spread about the track’s imminent closure, other Thoroughbred organizations have reached out to help.

Lisa Molloy of ReRun, Inc., of Virginia, contacted Thoroughbred advocate Lorita Lindemann and agreed to take two horses: Rich Hero, who has earned $250,000 in lifetime starts, and Soccer Goalie.

Molloy explains, “I had a gentleman looking for a very specific type of horse, and I contacted Lorita to see if there was such a horse at Suffolk. I happened to mention to her that due to the high number of adoptions we’ve had lately, I’d be willing to take a horse or two. That’s when she told me about Rich Hero, and that he was in dire need of a home. I agreed to take him, and then we adopted another horse, so I called her and told her we had another stall open up, so to put someone on the van with Rich Hero. And that’s how we got Soccer Goalie.”

Lorita notes that another Thoroughbred is en route to a good home in New Hampshire, to live with a family involved with 4H.

Mrsmargie is a 5-year-old, 16.1-hand mare currently looking for a new owner at Suffolk Downs.

Mrsmargie is a 5-year-old, 16.1-hand mare who has just found a new home.

As incentives to prospective buyers, both Dover Saddlery and Poulin Grain have sweetened the pot. Dover Saddlery has donated “starter kits,” which include items such as lead ropes, halters and other goodies to be given to new owners. And Poulin Grain is giving out valuable grain coupons to new owners.

As efforts to re-home horses move into high gear, Kirlin notes the track has been very supportive, opening up its backside, and allowing free access for CANTER volunteers to take new horse listings. “We have someone out there now taking a listing for a horse who lost an eye in a race,” she says.

While some horses are being moved back to their New England farms, because local stallion farms have seen their business prospects evaporate with the loss of Suffolk Downs —there’s no further need for Mass bred horses, Kirlin explains. Those breeders and owners will likely have to recalculate their future plans for the horses they own.

For more information about available horses, please visit CANTER New England’s Trainer Listings, or this CANTER file of horses and Open House information, and consider attending the Open House at Suffolk Downs this Saturday. ♥

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A T-bred named Phoenix flies away safe

Phoenix flew like a pro, from Cayman Islands to Miami. She was so good she didn't need tranquilizers.

Phoenix flew like a pro, from Cayman Islands to Miami. She was so good she didn’t need tranquilizers.

Phoenix waited for months for a plane to come and lift her away from the Cayman Islands, where she had suffered and was saved.

When a big, DHL flight finally arrived that could transport horses, the pretty bay Thoroughbred mare walked on with such calm that a veterinarian was overheard to ask if she’d been tranquilized. She had not.

But perhaps a sixth sense told her that getting away from the scrubby island where she’d nearly starved to death was her ticket to something far better, and she eagerly stepped onto the plane, and confidently rode 33,000 feet in the air. Destination: Miami.

Star of Reality
New name: Phoenix
Sire: Slice of Reality
Dam: Water Star
Foal date: March 19, 1999
Earnings: $65,809
“I talked to her a lot” before she left, says her owner and rescuer Tricia Sybersma of Ontario and the Cayman Islands. “I told her that friends were waiting for her, and reassured her she would be OK.”

After she touched down on Jan. 9, Phoenix (Jockey Club: Star of Reality) agreeably waited out quarantine before wintering in Ocala, Florida at Forever Spring, a farm owned and operated by Sybersma’s friends Bill and Claudia Parkhurst. “They welcomed her into their herd in the spring, and I flew back and forth, visiting her,” Sybersma says.

Then finally after the long, miserable winter in Ontario yielded to spring, Phoenix walked onto a van in May and traveled from Miami to Ontario to begin the new life she was promised years ago.

This was how Phoenix looked when Tricia Sybersma found her in the scrubby woods of the Cayman Islands.

This was how Phoenix looked when Tricia Sybersma found her in the scrubby woods of the Cayman Islands.

Sybersma rescued the plain bay mare in 2011 from a wooded, scrubby lot on the Cayman Islands. The half-time Cayman resident, who stresses most horses are treated very well on the island, noticed the one Thoroughbred who was suffering. Shortly after the mare disappeared from her usual field in 2010, Sybersma went searching for her.  She had always admired the beautiful T-bred from afar, and worried when she didn’t see her in her usual spot.

She later discovered her tucked away on a dirt road, lying down among a band of horses. Sybersma thought the mare was near death. And her only plan was to make her comfortable, and treat her well in her dying days. (Please see an earlier story in Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com).

But those days it turned out were far, far away. And with a regimen of fine imported feed buttressed by and abundance of TLC, the mare regained her health and by 2013 Sybersma started making plans to transport her to Ontario, where she would begin a new life.

Phoenix (JC name: Star of Reality) on the day she arrived in Ontario.

Phoenix (JC name: Star of Reality) on the day she arrived in Ontario.

When the odyssey finally brought Phoenix to Ontario in  the spring, the excitement on her Ontario farm seemed to affect everyone, even the other horses.

“She had met my horses on the Cayman Islands, so when I introduced them again, the recognition was instant,” she says. “I brought her into the barn first, and then I brought them in and the expressions on their faces showed instant recognition. They were alert, but soft with each other. The next day I turned them out together, and they groomed each other and all shared hay.”

Sybersma is also folding herself into Phoenix’s herd. The pair recently attended a four-day natural horsemanship clinic in an effort to build the connection between her and the mare, to reassure the 15-year-old animal that even when life feels scary, she will be there to help.

“When something triggers her” insecurity response “I want her eyes to refocus on me, and to understand that I am here for her.” ♥

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From Suffolk with love, race fan gets a T-bred

Longtime Boston-based Thoroughbred advocate Jennifer Montfort adopts a Suffolk Downs racehorse as an era ends, and the track closes.

Longtime Boston-based Thoroughbred advocate Jennifer Montfort adopts a Suffolk Downs racehorse as an era ends, and the track closes.

After spending years helping others find their dream horse at Suffolk Downs, longtime horse advocate and volunteer Jennifer Montfort went for it last weekend: she bought a horse!

In horse country, a bold step like this may elicit a shrug or a comment like, “So what?” But, in Boston, Mass., where affordable stabling is about as hard to come by as affordable anything, Montfort decided to throw caution to the wind and purchase 4-year-old Caristo.

“It all happened very quickly,” Montfort says. “I first met Caristo last year when he was a new 3-year-old in John and Kathy Botty’s barn, and I immediately liked him. He’s very much my type of horse. I actually have a picture on Instagram from over a year ago with me saying that he was my new horsey boyfriend.”

Caristo
Sire: Langfhur
Dam: Gemilli, by Lemon Drop Kid
Foal date: March 23, 2010
While visiting the gelding’s owners on Saturday, Montfort lamented that with the imminent and permanent closure of the 79-year-old racetrack, her dream to one day adopt a Suffolk horse would forever be just that; a dream. Montfort previously worked for years for CANTER New England, taking trainer listings and networking specifically to help Suffolk Downs horses find new homes. And as she discussed her disappointment with the Botty family, they chimed in, “What about Caristo?”

“I had to think about it. I haven’t owned a horse since I moved to Boston in 2006, so it’s a big deal to contemplate,” she says. “But, after a little bit of thought, and some very quick plan making, and a lot of enabling by my horsey friends—I thought it was probably the right time and the right horse.”

Caristo, on left, will be leaving Suffolk Downs soon to winter in Maine.

Caristo, on left, will be leaving Suffolk Downs soon to winter in Maine.

It seems the match was written in the stars and in his Jockey Club papers to boot.

Says Montfort, “I attended Sweet Briar College. And there are two names I saw when I first looked his pedigree up. They were: “Sweet Lady Briar” and “Sweet Briar Too.” How hilarious is that?”

Though disappointed that Suffolk Downs is closing due to losing out on a casino deal, which would have brought much-needed revenue to the struggling racetrack, she is thrilled to take a piece of Suffolk home with her.

“I’m devastated that the track is closing, but so happy to have a horse that was part of its history from people who have taken amazing care of him,” she says. “It’s nice to have a bright spot with the track closing, and I’m glad to be able to give a horse a home and a new job.

“The horses at Suffolk are so worthy of their happy endings and have been so lucky to have such a great supporter of TB aftercare in Suffolk Downs—it’s been so gratifying to see so many go on to great homes in my time there, and I’m honored to be a part of that with a horse of my own.” ♥

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