On the Canadian track where the little bay racehorse tried his best for those who wished he would win, he rarely put a foot right.
It didn’t take long before folks around the Ft. Erie track began to joke about his performance, and turned his Jockey Club name, Misquote, into a derisive nickname, “Mistake.”
In 32 starts, he crossed the finish line only once as a winner. And, in just two others, hit the board with a second or third-place showing.
It wasn’t until he had been retired from racing, and left to grow his hair long, that someone with a fine eye for good horses looked beyond the rough appearance of a thin, shaggy Thoroughbred and saw his hidden beauty.
“My heart sort of went out to him when I saw him,” says well-respected Canadian coach Linda Hauck. “He was so thin his hips jutted out, and his coat was long and shaggy.”
She hesitated. Although he looked too thin to ride, he possessed such a kind eye that she decided to see how he moved.
Turning him loose in the indoor arena where he was stabled, she was immediately bowled over. No missteps here. In fact, he floated through his gaits with such an over-step, that, in movement, he looked truly graceful.
Race name: Misquote
New name: Simply Ben
Sire: Opening Verse
Foal date: 1997And when he hopped a cross rail with his knees folded into the perfect show-jumping position, Hauck decided to hop on his back for a test ride.
“He was amazing, even in the condition he was in! He didn’t pin his ears, but instead, they went forward, and it seemed as though he said to me, ‘OK, what do you want me to do for you?’ ”
That initial impression, followed by a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, was all Hauck needed.
She “overpaid” for him, writing a check for $2,500.
And, in February 2003, she took home a horse that would quickly prove to be the diamond in the rough she had imagined.
For three months, she worked with him on his fitness and skills. Starting with short, 10-minute walks, they built on their riding foundations. Feeding him hay around the clock, along with a compliment of vitamin/mineral supplements, he became rounder and stronger. And finally emerged as a fat, shiny, willing mount so trustworthy that Hauck allowed her top junior rider Daelin Verkind, to school him.
“The whole time I was quietly bringing him along, Daelin was looking to buy her own horse. I’d be jumping him over anything—at one point I was using a Christmas tree as filler for an oxer and he didn’t bat an eye— and meanwhile, two prospective horses for Daelin failed the vetting.”
Not wanting to seem too pushy, Hauck finally couldn’t contain herself. She asked the obvious question: What did Daelin think of her trusty schooling mount now named Ben?
“She told me she’d always loved Ben, so I told her he was for sale.”
After which, Hauck sold Ben to her student, with a promise that Ben was “going somewhere.”
And off they went!
They successfully competed across Ontario, at Bromont, Midsouth and Stuart horse trials up to the CCI One star level. Ben was twice named top Thoroughbred in Training and Preliminary Eventing in Ontario.
“The two of them gave me the biggest thrill!” Hauck says. “Ben had his ear pricked, and Daelin had the biggest smile” as they competed up to Intermediate level.
Hauck must have seen a little bit of herself in the picture Ben made with Daelin, flying over fences, fearless and free.
From an early age, Hauck had been a dedicated horsewoman. In 1983, she earned membership into the prestigious Junior Ontario Three Day Event Team, and in 1984, she earned her A Level in Pony Club. In 1987, she was a sponsored top junior who trained with Olympian medalist Torrance Watkins.
But one of the biggest thrills of her lifetime was proving that Misquote was capable of more than anyone knew.
“People called him “Mistake” because they thought he couldn’t do anything right,” she says. “That horse could jump like a cat, but he was safe to hack, and so calm that five-year-old daughter could graze him … he was no mistake!”