Nearly blind in one eye, and possessing none of the flash and pizzazz of more beautiful racehorses, the plain bay Thoroughbred spent most of his life shirking the limelight.
Well Well was a weird little horse, recalls his longtime rider Priscilla Godsoe.
Though he had a work ethic a mile long, and was one of the most able-bodied and willing mounts on which she’d ever traversed the Pennsylvania foxhunting territory, Well Well was a bit of a loner.
“He didn’t like other horses and really didn’t have any friends out in the field,” Godsoe says. “And the first day I met him, when I was 14 years old, he stood in the back of his stall, pinned his ears, and was tearing at me like I was some kind of monster.”
So naturally, she was stunned last week to see her little project horse of yesteryear in news photos accompanying none other than Kentucky Derby winner Orb!
But there he was. She’d have known the floppy ears, and nonchalant way of standing anywhere.
“The first picture I saw, I could see his ears sticking out, off to the side, and although I could only see half Well Well
Sire: Opening Verse
Dam: Mari Her
Foal date: April 5, 1996of his face in the photo, he had this certain way of standing, and I knew it was him,” she says.
A quick text to her friend Jennifer Patterson, Orb’s exercise rider, confirmed it.
“I wrote, ‘Is that who I think it is, standing next to Orb?’ And, after that she started tagging me (with photos) on Facebook, showing me that Well Well has been going everywhere that Orb has been going.”
She adds, “It made me feel so proud. Everyone wants to say that they’re part of it when a horse wins the Derby, but in this case, it hit close to home.”
Though he’d been bred and entered in racing by the famous Mrs. Richard C. duPont, Well Well only earned about $18,000 on the track before he wound up with Paxton. And Paxton turned him over to Godsoe.
“This was my first significant horse, and I was so exited when he came into my life,” she says. She rode him often, and tried everything, including 2-foot-6 Hunters, and a ton of foxhunting.
Baying hounds and rocky footing never fazed Well Well. And though he was never an affectionate animal, he was no-nonsense and professional at all times.
“He approached everything like a job. If you put him on the cross ties, he didn’t stand there like it was time to get peppermints. He stood still, like he was saying, ‘I’m here to be brushed and groomed.’ That horse was all business.”
Godsoe rode him for 12 years, until while descending a tricky hill one afternoon, she noticed something odd about the way he was holding his head; it was as if he couldn’t see properly.
“He started to cock his head to the right, so he could see out of his left eye,” she says. “And one day when we were out hunting, we were coming down a horrible, crazy cliff-hill-thing, and I could just tell he couldn’t see completely out of his ride side, and he started getting really nervous.”
About two years later, in 2008, Well Well was turned over to fellow foxhunter Duncan Patterson, the father of Orb’s exercise rider, to go to work as a pony for Shug McGaughey.
“I remember they wanted a horse who was fast, who could keep up,” she says. “And Well Well was really fast.”
From Saratoga to the tracks down south, Well Well traveled with his crew to perform his new job as a pony. Godsoe would get word of him from time to time and always felt a sense of joy, knowing her old quirky loner was taking care of business.
But when she saw her old friend standing so placidly next to Orb, her jaw dropped.
Well Well had gone first class!
“Every single day that Orb goes to the track Well Well goes with him. And when Orb was flown to New York after the Derby, only one other horse flew with him; it was Well Well,” she says, her voice filling with pride.
“Honestly, to know that somebody loves him and appreciates him makes me so happy. I see him in the pictures, and he looks just as well brushed and shiny as Orb— it’s just a cool feeling to see.”