Jan Vandebos swooped in like the fairy godmother to retire El Tuscano, a beautiful blood bay who ran five times in five consecutive weeks, floundering in the low claimers of Florida.
Working in tandem with Celia Scarlett, of Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care (TRAC), Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency, and trainer Wayne Catalano, the team collaborated to claim El Tuscano on March 7 after the animal put in a predictably lackluster performance in the fourth race at Gulfstream Park.
Vandebos set in motion an effort to pluck the horse from the racetrack last month after discovering the animal, who she and her husband Robert Naify had previously bred, was floundering.
Dam: Bella Bella Bella
Foal date: Feb. 16, 2010
Earnings: $37,387 in 34 starts“I’d been watching him on my virtual stable and noticed he was running every week,” Vandebos says, noting that by mid-February, when she started to organize an outreach, the horse had run 31 times since his last victory. “I started to worry he was injured.”
Vandebos immediately reached out to Scarlett, the intake director at Florida TRAC, and began planning to get the horse retired from racing and retrained for a second career. She initially tried to purchase El Tuscano on Feb. 16, the gelding’s birthday, but the owner declined, and Vandebos went to Plan B.
She decided to claim the horse in his next race with the help of friend and business associate Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency, who in turn, contacted his friend and business associate Taylor Catalano. Catalano, who is currently training in Florida, claimed El Tuscano for $7,200 after the gelding earned $300 in his last race.
After the claim was made, El Tuscano was transported to Scarlett’s farm 25 miles away and turned loose in a paddock to kick up his heels.
“Celia sent me a picture and he has beautiful Roman nose in the air and he looks so proud,” says Vandebos, who started to get choked up as she described her relief that the weeks of planning had bought El Tuscano a new life.
“It was a great effort by everyone,” she says. “I was so proud … of the way we all worked together for this horse.”
Scarlett notes that she has rarely seen a horse breeder seek out and retire an animal they do not own; and she credits Vandebos for doing something “absolutely wonderful.”
“I actually don’t think it’s really the responsibility of the breeder to repurchase and retire a horse. I think it’s the last owner’s responsibility to look after that horse’s welfare,” she says. “It’s a very noble thing that she did.”
Though it may be somewhat uncommon for breeders to search out and retire their horses, Taylor, who was happy to enlist Catalano to help make the claim, sums it up simply: “Jan and Bob really love their horses and they look out for them,” Taylor says. “I think most everybody in the horse business wants the horses to have a good outcome in the end.”
And in this case, it looks like El Tuscano is well on his way to living happily ever after.
Described as a super-clean bodied horse with a very sweet demeanor, Scarlett predicts he’ll make a very fine hunter.
“He’s big and beautiful and looks to be a decent mover,” she says. “He’s a little sore. I mean, come on, he’s raced five times in five weeks—this is a tired horse.”
And a lucky horse!
El Tuscano is now being treated for ulcers, and given some time to enjoy being a horse, frolicking in the paddock and making friends.
And Scarlett suspects with his good looks and charming personality, he will be well on his way soon enough to enjoy what some kindhearted horsemen have bought him. His freedom.