Goosebumps of pride and peals of laughter celebrated the moment as cameras flashed, and the winning photo was taken. And then all was blighted by the presentation of an ugly red claiming tag, which sucked the breath from Megan Kerford, and dissolved her to tears.
“I went from feeling like we’d won the Kentucky Derby to feeling like I was going to barf,” Kerford says. “Even just thinking back on it now makes me feel horrible. I remember that day like it was yesterday, and how I went into the bathroom at Woodbine (Race Track) and I lied down on the floor and cried.”
And as suddenly as the temperamental chestnut had entered her life, he was gone. Just like that. And from July 2009 until the year 2013, Kerford tried to buy the horse back, followed his every move on a virtual stable, and prayed that he would be OK.
Kerford and Last Tribute blew into Woodbine the previous year. She was recovering from a badly broken hip sustained galloping horses the year before, and he was nursing a sore attitude, snapping at just about everybody.
Barn name: Alfie
Dam: M.S. Secret
Foal date: April 12, 2006
Earnings: $76,000, in 38 starts“I think our story is that same old story you hear about people adopting pets because they need to feel loved and wanted, they need to take care of somebody,” she says. “I’d been an exercise rider and living independently for 10 years. But after my accident, I was taken in by my mother.”
When the chestnut gelding arrived at the shedrow, he was intimidating on the ground, and walked his legs off pacing his confined stall. Nobody else bonded with him, so Kerford offered to play groom.
Ever so slowly, Last Tribute stopped stall walking and pinning his ears, and gratefully accepted her ministrations. “It took about three months before I could (work on) his legs, but over time he calmed down and gained some weight,” she says.
The pair became so tight that when Kerford was cleared to return to riding, he was the first horse she galloped. “He was phenomenal!”
It was no small feat for her to get back in the irons. The year before, in 2008, Kerford sustained a serious injury exercising horses. She was catapulted off a Quarter Horse so fast and so hard that her femur was driven up into her torso. Fortunately it missed her organs, and caused only minor internal bleeding. But her hip sustained a serious break.
By the time she got back in the saddle as Final Tribute’s exercise rider, she had developed such a deep bond with the horse that from the time he got claimed away after that tearful moment in the winner’s circle in July 2009, and for years after, she pined for and tracked the animal’s whereabouts.
In fact, Kerford had a brief brush with him when her trainer tried to claim him back for her, just before he embarked on a four-year campaign of claiming races.
“I was cleaning his stall and getting it ready for him to come back. It was August 2009 and I was listening to the race on the radio before I walked out to meet him after he came off the track,” she says. “On my way, I got a call on my cell telling me we’d been out shook.”
After that, Kerford carried his memory with her for four years. During that time, she entered and graduated from veterinarian school. Her life was full. She groomed great horses, including Canadian Sprinter Hollywood Hits. But she never forgot that one horse. She watched him drop in class on her virtual stable, and she talked about him to all who would listen.
Then last November; the horse mysteriously disappeared from her virtual stable.
And reappeared in a Woodbine shedrow where Kerford’s boyfriend Mike Mehak would surprise her.
“Hey, Megan, I need some help with a horse!” Mehak yelled. And as she rounded the corner and saw the thin, worn horse, she threw her arms around the animal’s neck, and sobbed tears of joy and promised to take care of him.
35 responses to “Weary racehorse comes home to tears, a hug”
TOtally crying….what an amazing story. LOVE LOVE the people who make these stories happen: the exercise riders, the owners, the boyfriends, the
storytellers….thank you all for your gift to these amazing horses!
Great story and best gift ever!!!!!!!
soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo awesome!!!!!!!!!! Crying tears of joy ^_^
I remember seeing this video. What a beautiful story. Gives me hope that some day I will be able to find my mare’s foal who last ran at Charles Town. Thank you so much for sharing.
What a beautiful horse! I am now envious of the happy family: this horse was worth the wait. Good work.
All our equine friends can have happy endings if we act on Congress and persist: we must force Congress to pass The SAFE Act and The PAST Act now, not later: http://www.USA.gov
Every five minutes, an equine is tortured and dies for no reason except fast cash to criminals. Auctions are simply pipelines to death. We know that our best friends need our help now.
Use http://www.USA.gov and tell everyone you know to call and email our taxpayer-supported office holders in Congress.
We only have one year to get these bills passed. This is an urgent issue.
Kleenex time. What a wonderful man to do this for her and the horse. We should all be so lucky!
The stuff dreams are made of…thanks for the happy tears.
The picture says it all. Happy person and happy horse.
How wonderful that Megan and her horse can be together at last! An enduring bond that time and distance could not break! Best wishes to them both!
Megan has 2 awesome guys in her life — Mike and Alfie.
What an AWESOME story!This story has such a happy ending. Way too many racehorse’s end up at slaughter and it’s a sin. So glad they were reunited. What a wonderful boyfriend Megan has! 🙂
lovely story! applause!
Yep, I’m crying too. I LOVE reading stories like this. I wish all horses had a Happy Ending like this one. God Blessed Megan Kerford and Lost Tribute by re-uniting them together! I am so HAPPY for the two of them. Congratulations Megan for graduating from Vet School. You Are An AWESOME LADY :)And THANK YOU, Mike Mehak for making her dreams come true. You are AWESOME as well!!
I once followed a Thoroughbred named D’Tiger. He raced one year ended up in NY in 2012. I saw him race twice at Belmont during the Fall meet, he won both times and obtained his third win in a row at Aqueduct. D’Tiger is a Florida bred sired by D’wildcat. He ran his races as a 5 yr old. He was in claimers and it look like the horse had a future in allowance races. One of his wins was an allowance race.However, he got injured in a race at Parx in PA.
When I first saw this horse I was recovering from a traumatic ankle injury and my husband I decided to go to Belmont Park a place I was familiar with but I have not been to for a very long time, and still easy for me to get around w/ a cane. I learned about the horse’s racing past through Equibase.
I had been checking to see if D’Tiger was still around by using the Internet. Fortunately, he went back to Florida to a rehab and rescue facility and got adopted. He’s now 7 years old and safe.
How I found D’Tiger. I would Google & I check out TB rescue sites and other links and one day I found a story about him so I decided to click the link about a facility in Florida. Tiger turned out to be a recent success story.
Why I follow this horse? I own a cat name Tiger and sometimes he’s nicknamed Da Tiger or Mr. Tiger. Besides horses I do have a love for Tigers in the wild. I sometimes post pictures of Tigers on my FB timeline and to my FB family/friends as a reminder for an endangered species.
Funny story but I’m the girl who adopted D’tiger. I work for Florida TRAC and just fell in love with this sweet boy from the start. I was googling tonight to find out more about him (as I do sometimes for fun…) and I came across your comment about him. I just thought you would like to know he has rehabbed well and is really enjoying life. He is a such sweetheart and showing a lot of promise under saddle. He found a nice, soft landing with me into a second career and forever home.
I’m so happy to hear from you. I was hoping that you would find my comment some day & you would have this information about D’ Tiger. I was not sure how much you knew about your horse. I figure & hope someday he might have promise off the track.
From what you have written he has great promise.
Good Luck to both you and D’Tiger in your new adventure
What a beautiful story!! I wish all racehorses had such an end. By the way, Mike is a keeper!
Okay, I’m crying too.
That is wonderful. I was starting to tear up reading the story, and watching the reunion, tears are streaming. Sounds like he’s got a great group of people around him now.
This brought tears to my eyes, also here at my desk at work like Morgan said. What an awesome boyfriend! Definitely was the right horse, haha!! I am so glad Alfie is in his forever home and will only be loved on and taken care of for the rest of his days. Congratulations also to Megan for graduating veterinary school. I would love to see a follow-up story on this pair in the future.
wonderful she found him again.. tears for such love
Yes, another wonderful ending after all that searching.
And now two great guys in her life.
Oh yes! Another story affirming the incredibly heartwarming connection with the horses. Please help to ban the slaughter of these bonded beings. I don’t know any other way to say it. They reach us, we reach them. It is more than riding or grooming. The bills are in committee, please call your Washington DC senator or representative and tell them to cosponsor HR1094 or S541. This story is a miracle. And I, for one, am so relieved that this horse had humans in his life who “got it.”. Thank you for letting us all start our days with such a spring in our step.
You are great people. Best of luck! Megan, that Mike’s a keeper.
What an amazing story – and an awesome boyfriend! Gonna be hard to top this story in the horsey world ;). What a happy ending for two special souls.
Thank you for my tears of joy this morning. What a lovely story, and straight out of my childhood best reading. I sincerely love what Megan’s partner did to rescue her best friend; sending a virtual heartfelt hug!
Megan’s not the only one crying tears of joy! I’m crying them too for their happy ending. What a wonderful thing to do. Boyfriends like that are really hard to come by. Sounds like something my husband would do.
Good thing I have some kleenex handy! What a wonderful story. I’m glad this one has a happy ending!
Heartwarming story, what a great boyfreind.
So glad they are together again and it is a happy ending…
I’m crying with her–what a great story.
WHat a great story. SO glad you found him and on your veterinary school accomplishments
What a wonderful story with a happy ending!
I am so happy Megan was reunited with her Alfie.
After reading this story and watching the video of her seeing him , I could not stop the tears of joy!
Thank you, Susan, for another great story!
And I’m now bawling at my desk at work.
This is a perfect example of why Susan Salks stories are so well appreciated. Were you asked at work Whats Wrong? Hopefully, Morgan from LongRun can start offering up a few more return pics soon. WEG and HASTINGS should maybe each throw in a couple years hay supply for ‘Alfie’ It seems that shareholders have forgotten how much extra $$ was laying around for BC interests. I believe fans wish racing had more younger couples respectfully involved- like Mehak&Kerford. Personally, I get very upset with racetrackers who still practise willful blindness. Needing to retire from running is D’Wild Affair. Tattoo I 11337 He is a 9yo Ontario Bred – half brother to my mare. Starts 70 Firsts 11 Seconds 13 Thirds 8