(The Player sat in his stall at LSU during his long-term recovery from fractured sesamoids with his friend, pal and soulmate Buff Bradley)
The Player is one of the most amazing and interesting stories to fill the tablets of Thoroughbred racing in 2018. The 5-year-old son of Street Hero lived up to his name and reputation, for sure.
He become a hero, alright. A folk story. A happy-ending, feel-good story.
And, on Sunday, the horse took another giant step forward in his storied career. It was announced by owner, trainer, best friend and ally Buff Bradley that the horse will get an opportunity to stand as a stallion prospect at Crestwood Farm in Lexington, KY. beginning in 2019.
The final details on the stud fee, and the exact date on when the horse will be moved from his home at the Bradley farm in Franklin County have yet to be finalized, or announced.
But it will definitely be another milestone in this horse’s star-lined, and, at times, star-crossed career. And, it will be another monumental success to a story that has yet to have a final chapter written.
“Crestwood is going to stand,” texted Buff Bradley early on Sunday morning. “Not sure of price or contact person yet.”
Bradley has been looking for a stallion operation that would be interested in his prized runner, ever since he was able to make the trip up from Louisiana State University and relocate back home at the family farm.
He wanted a chance to breed some of his mares to one of his most favorite horses of all time, and a horse that has stolen his heart and mind ever since his quirky days as a baby all the way to his amazing, historic, and gutty recovery from a massive injury that he incurred while running in the G2 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds on March 24.
Now, both Bradley and his buddy will get their chance. Crestwood Farm — owned and operated by Pope McLean and his sons, Pope McLean Jr., and Marc McLean — has agreed to give both the horse and Bradley their chance.
Crestwood Farm was founded by Pope McLean and has owned and operated their full-service, 1,000-acre farm since 1970. Since then, the farm has bred, and/or raised multiple Hall of Fame inductees, multiple Champions and over 250 Stakes horses.
In addition, Crestwood is the only far to have raised three fillies that earned $2 million in purses or more. Two of them are Hall of Fame inductees Serena’s Song and Xtra Heat.
In 1994, Crestwood Farm began its’ stallion operation when it stood the highly successful Storm Boot — the first son of Storm Cat to make a significant impact on the breed and the industry as a stallion. Currently, Crestwood now stands Firing Line, Get Stormy, Jack Milton, Taste of Paradise, Texas Red, Tisdejavu, and Tu Brutus.
Soon, they will be joined by The Player.
(The Player winning the Hagyard Fayette Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
(Buff Bradley and Calvin Borel celebrate after the Fayette / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
The Player, who was bred and owned by Buff Bradley and his long-time friend and partner Carl Hurst, looked poised to have an outstanding 2018 season early this year. After all, he finished the 2017 running season by capturing the G2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes at Keeneland.
After running fourth in the Louisiana Stakes on Jan. 13, The Player may have had his most impressive and convincing performance in winning the G3 Mineshaft Handicap at the Fair Grounds on Feb. 17. He won the 11/16-mile race over the dirt that day by a whopping 41/4 lengths and defeated a nice field of Thirstforlife, Scuba, First Premio and others.
The future certainly seemed bright.
And, it looked like the lights were going to turn on yet again in the G2 New Orleans Handicap on March 24 at the Fair Grounds, as well. Early on in the 11/8th-mile test, The Player — with his regular rider, Calvin Borel, in the saddle — took command and was just galloping along on the lead heading into the final turn.
They were poised for another run. They were ready for another win.
Then tragedy struck. The colt took a bad step. He shattered both the sesamoids in his right front leg. Amazingly, Borel was able to sense the situation, and immediately was able to get the horse to pull himself up and stand quietly and stoically until the horse ambulance arrived.
The Player was stabilized and the next day headed to LSU for extensive and amazing surgery. Dozens of screws were inserted into his leg to stabilize the many fractures. Only hope and prayers remained for a miraculous recovery.
A recovery many didn’t think possible. A recovery that Buff Bradley and The Player would never let go.
Amazingly, the horse survived. Amazingly, the horse grew stronger, and the splinters and fractures began to heal. Amazingly, the horse not only survived, he learned to walk again. Amazingly, Buff Bradley — who routinely would travel back to Louisiana nearly every month to check on his buddy — was able to bring The Player home about seven months after his near-fatal injury; and nearly seven months after his remarkable surgery; and nearly seven months after his amazing recovery.
The Player — who became known as a pure personality with his quirky nuances and fan friendly personality — was back. He was back to sitting on his rump in his stall — just like your favorite pet dog. He was back to squirming all the way from his stall to the shed row, where he would nestle his head on his favorite pillow. He was back to welcoming his family and friends with a nod and the closest thing to a smile that a horse can muster.
He was back.
And, he is back.
(The Player greeted two of his favorite photographers at his home in Frankfort, KY — Holly M. Smith on the left, and Brianna Vitt, on the right)
Although he will never be able to race again, The Player now may be able to pass along some of his magnificence to some off-spring in the future. It is not certain how many mares Buff Bradley will send to his pal in the months ahead. It is not certain how many commercial breeders may do the same. It is not certain.
But it is certain that The Player has another chapter to his amazing life coming up soon. Stay tuned.