(Seek N Justice in his stall this morning at the Buff Bradley barn / Photo by Gene McLean)
Headed out to Churchill Downs early this morning to catch up with good friend Buff Bradley, and watch our latest addition to the racing stable, Seek N Justice, get in his morning routine around the historic, scenic and beautiful Churchill Downs dirt oval.
Seek N Justice is a 2-year-old colt by Caleb’s Posse, and out of our ill-fated mare Diamond Seeker. If you have been following along, Diamond Seeker is a filly that I bought in training as a 2-year-old. After a couple of very promising starts for trainer Stephen Lyster at the Fair Grounds in her 3YO year, she fractured a knee and had to be retired from racing.
Such a disappointment. She showed so much potential and class.
So, instead of finding an adopted nursing home for Diamond Seeker, I had her shipped home and decided I would make a broodmare out of her. Her first foal is Seek N Justice, who was a June foal and is just now beginning his racetrack lessons. Her second foal is by Jack Milton, and is a beautiful yearling housed at Legacy Springs Farm in Lexington. The third foal is a baby filly by Majestic Harbor, who was orphaned at a month’s age when her mom was stricken was a severe bout of colic that ultimately took her life.
It has been a long labor of love, frustration, work, blood-sweat-tears, and did I mention love.
Well, it has been all those things — all rolled into one of life’s many learning / teaching moments.
We have fought long and hard for the baby this Spring and Summer, and she is doing much better with her adopted mom, Gerri, out at Deerfield Farm in Oldham County. Growing like a weed, with a mind of her own, the “baby” is recovering from a fractured sesamoid that she likely sustained when her mom was fighting the colic issues. She is able to go into the field some these days, and she loves her surroundings, and her nurse mare — who has been a doctor, a mentor, a mother, a protector, a shrink, and, most of all, a God Send.
But, all the while, the oldest and first of the off-spring has been growing, and learning, too. He spent the Winter at Buff’s Farm in Franklin County, where he was expertly cared for by Maria Kabel — a former exercise rider at the track, and now a master teacher/horse whisperer. Then, earlier this Spring, he was shipped over to Buck Pond Farm of Doug Arnold. It was there that he was taught how to accept a saddle and a rider upon his back, and he first learned how to gallop. In a field of green that reminds me of a true horseman’s “Field of Dreams,” I got to see Seek look and act like a racehorse for the first time. He jogged and galloped and looked bright and happy.
After a couple of months, though, it was time for him to graduate. To the big leagues. To the big time. To Buff’s barn at Churchill Downs.
(“Seek” headed to the track this morning / Photo by Gene McLean)
I went out to see the colt go the very first day on the track. He looked like your little boy going to school for the first time. Wide eyed. Bushy tailed. Scared muck-less. After a trip around the track, it looked like he needed to stop and get a rest break. Buff looked at me then and said, “Give him a month. He will look and act entirely different; like a whole other horse.”
Today, I went to see. And, it was a wonder. “Seek” looked different, alright. He is starting to lose that grass tummy, and starting to gain some weight in all the right places. Even spotted a few muscles starting to pop through his coat. And, he acted differently, too. He acted like a racehorse. A real racehorse.
Don’t know what the little guy — who is a bit over 15 hands at this stage, but is likely to grow some more due to his late foaling date — will amount to. Too early to say. Way too early to predict. He has just been “two-minute licking” twice a week now. So, there is still a long ways to go.
(Seek gets his post gallop bath / Photos by Gene McLean)
But it was surprising to see him jog once around the “opposite way,” and then turn and gallop towards us. It didn’t take him long to stride right out. Ears pricked. Damn if I didn’t think he smiled at me on the way by the clocker’s stand. It was like watching your kid ride a bicycle for the very first time without training wheels. You know the feeling. You’ve seen others do it a million times before, and it is no big deal. But when your kid does it? Now, that is a big deal. Something akin to the discovery of electricity.
So, on the way back to the barn, I strode alongside of our newest brainchild. Don’t know who was prouder. Me or Seek. But it was fun. All I know is that it was fun.
Can’t wait to get the call from Buff again in a few weeks to see when I might make another trip out to watch. It is times like these that you fully realize why you own a racehorse. It is times like these that you fight for race mares like Diamond Seeker. It is times like these that give you reason to beat the bushes to find a nurse mare for an orphaned foal; sit up all night waiting to see if the nurse mare and baby will be a match; and fret over every ache and growing pain.
It is times like this morning that give you hope, faith and love. And, the greatest of these is love.