Low claimer ran 5 straight, bought by breeder

El Tuscano kicks up his heels on his first day of retirement. He was claimed  last weekend by Jan Vandebos, his original breeder.

El Tuscano kicks up his heels on his first day of retirement. He was claimed last weekend by Jan Vandebos, his original breeder. Photo by Natalie Fawkes

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.

El Tuscano
Sire: Forestry
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.

El Tuscano makes a new friend on the farm run by Florida TRAC.

El Tuscano makes a new friend on the farm run by Florida TRAC.

“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.

El Tuscano is doing great after coming into the fold of Florida TRAC. He will be restarted as a hunter. Photo by Natalie Fawkes

El Tuscano is doing great after coming into the fold of Florida TRAC. He will be restarted as a hunter. Photo by Natalie Fawkes

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.

19 responses to “Low claimer ran 5 straight, bought by breeder”

  1. Nancy Charest

    I think it is especially kind for trainers and owners and breeders to look out for geldings — horses that have made their mark and made good earnings and more likely to be run until they die on the track because so many see no value in them beyond that. My favorite old grey gelding, Leprechaun Kid, died in training at Del Mar because a certain trainer just had to try to get another race out of him in spite of his poor starts in his previous two races. Don’t you think 12 years old is old enough to find a good home for a horse? And it took me almost 2 years to find out what happened to him because when they die, there’s no record book — they just disappear off of the charts. Finally I found out through track gossip and people with long memories who had cared about him and thought the way he died was unfair, too.

  2. SusanA

    Can’t get enough of these kinds of good ending or really “beginning” stories! Kudos to Ms. Vandebos and all involved in retiring this horse. He’s a beauty and I hope he has wonderful life. I am determined that I WILL have an OTTB one day.

  3. fernanda

    eu amo cavalos e achei essa história interessante pois esse cavalo é batalhador e eu os amo por isso

  4. Leona in rosser,MB,Canada

    We have a big Thoroughbred breeding racing operation.We breed all mares in Kentucky and foal them here in Manitoba..Race in Winnipeg,at ASD and Woodbine(Toronto)and some in the States.I try and keep track of all our horses,we usually breed the mares when finished there racing careers,as for the gelding,I sell or re-home as sport horse,polo or riding prospects.Have found in past when I did give 2 horses away, thinking they were getting good homes, but found out different, and was horrified to find out what happened to them. So now I do not give any horse away. I find if you pay for something, you cherish it a lot more. These horses and their welfare on and off track are my most important concern. Don’t want to see one break down because a trainer or owner thinks running them constantly sore is ok.Hoping more owners and trainer see that any given horse should be retired or resold to a good home for a life of leisure. Lucky for me my owner has the same vision for all his horses,breeding mares and race horses.
    Have lost track of a few that were claimed and hope to hell they ended up with good homes or 2nd careers off track..

    1. Terri

      All my thoroughbreds were given to me. I couldn’t cherish them more. Right now my oldest is a MB bred. Pron Regard and That’ Right. He just didn’t want to run. But he loved to jump. He is 25. I have had him since he was 3. My first one was from Arizona and lived to be 30. We still have my daughters first pony (31). Loved living Manitoba and hope to visit when/if we retire.

  5. Delrene in Carlsbad, Ca.

    What a handsome fellow! Thank you for sharing his story. Thanks to all who have him and will take care of him forever.

  6. cheri vaughan

    We are very happy for El Tuscano!! He is a very handsome boy!!

  7. Tara

    I have a claimer. Bought him for a buck and got the papers and a three sentence piece of paper signed showing tranfer. Turns out, he was from a TB farm where I had worked in Midway Kentucky. He is out of Bold Ruler. They nerved him and raced him again. I have his win videos. He was clearly mistreated without a doubt. He hated people and kicked and bit whenever he had the chance. Years later, he is now happily retired and a total sweetheart. His best friend is a very large warmblood that live together. He was my first dressage horse and we learned together thru second level. What a fantastic beautiful horse I have! I will take another x racehorse someday if the opportunity presents itself. They are the most athletic horses out there without question.

  8. Susan Crane-Sundell

    El Tuscano is a beautiful fellow, you can tell he has a lot of fire left in him just by the look in his eyes. It’s great to see another horse that was falling through the claiming ranks get off the track before it was too late. Enjoy your sabbatical El Tuscano. It’s great to see you just being a horse!

    More breeders are starting to take an interest in where their horses are ending up. They can be a powerful voice for change in Thoroughbred retirement. Thank you Jan Vandebos for caring about your fine fellow and giving him a safe haven.

  9. Michelle

    Thank goodness for responsible and caring breeders like Jan Vandebos. I wish all of the breeders were just like her. El Tuscano is a gorgeous horse!

  10. Liz Innes

    Marla that is awful! Always sign a contract. Maybe she won’t catch and they won’t want her anymore. I bred TBs for about 10 years. I rescued one racing at Thistledown – his ankles were the size of cabbages. I have tried to place all the horses that I bred in good homes. If you don’t keep an eye on them in most cases their lives end very badly. El Tuscano is one lucky boy and his breeders are decent people.

    1. debra

      I am a TB breeder on a small scale but have always tried to buy back my “babies” at the end of their career. Saved one from going over the Mexican border to you-know-what destiny. Had been following her career and didn’t like what I saw. She was so excited to come home after 2 yrs. Whinnying all the way down the road in my trailer. She knew where she was and she knew it was home. This was a mare from a foundation mare family, too! Has a beautiful 2 yr old now and is back in foal to deliver this May.

      I wish more breeders kept an eye on the horses they brought into the world. These were good people to have saved El Tuscano!

  11. Darren Fish

    With all do Respect. I honour the life of freedom every horse deserves! Thank God for you all and your loving kindhearted actions. <3

  12. Marla Dunn

    I have been caring for a broke down mare for the last 2 years. Aspetuck Hill. The owner had told me twice that if he didn’t breed her, she was mine. 2 years later, after many hours of turnout and good care, she looks great. The owner came in with an investor, she is going to the breeding shed. He never had any intention of giving her to me. My heart is breaking, she leaves Saturday.

    1. debra

      I know you are heartbroken over this. She had become yours in your heart. Wish there had been some paperwork done over this in originally but owners will be owners. I hope he at least paid for her upkeep and your labor! Also, she now has a value and will be kept at least half-way decently somewhere. Better than the alternative for a lot of these poor horses. Cudos to you for your love.

    2. Patty Hamilton

      That doesn’t sound fair. You should of gotten his agreement in writing. This horse was probably so happy with you. Always keep your eyes on this horse.

    3. Carol Southam

      Marla, I hope you will keep track of this horse.

    4. LL

      Keep an eye on her to see what happens after her breeding days. Sounds like this guy is a real gem. He waited for you to get her in shape and then swoops down.

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