Monthly Archives: July 2017

July 19, 2017

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Bonapaw April 13, 1996 – July 7, 2017

Bonapaw lived with us as a reserved, benign presence. Except for his good looks he didn’t call a lot of attention to himself in retirement, but he sure did attract notice on the track. Bred in Kentucky by Dr. William O. Reed and bought at the Keeneland yearling sale by twins James Richard and Dennis Richard, Bonapaw began racing at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana. At two and three he ran like a pretty good sprinter. At four be developed into an extraordinary one. Having conquered the Louisiana circuit, he went to Oaklawn Park for his first graded stakes win in the Count Fleet Sprint. By this time, Gerard Melancon was his regular jockey.

Bonapaw was on a roll. He marked his five year old campaign with five stakes wins, including the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, where he beat the formidable Aldebaran. For another year he continued to earn at graded stakes level, raced at Kentucky Downs, and won at Keeneland. He retired to the Richards’ farm with earnings topping $1 million and with a race at the Fair Grounds named after him.

In 2009, James Richard, Jr. retired Bonapaw to Old Friends and he began his new career, greeting his fans and introducing his new admirers to the beauty and athleticism of the Thoroughbred.

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Bonapaw in 2009

When he arrived at the Georgetown farm, a surprise came with him—his trophies. When Michael called Jamie Richard to thank him, Jamie answered that since Bonapaw won the trophies, he figured they were Bonapaw’s. Old Friends has been honored to display Bonapaw’s tall silver Vosburgh trophy on the office mantelpiece for years. Maybe even nearer to our hearts is the glass bowl Bonapaw won in the stakes named for Taylor’s Special.

When Bonapaw first joined the gelding herd in the original left-hand back pasture, he laid down the law to them. That’s a ploy some less dominant horses use when uncertain of their reception, but within a week Bonapaw had fit into what would be his place in the pecking order, not the boss, but a herd member they all accepted.

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The geldings watch their herd companions move to the back 40, 2009. Bonapaw is nearest to the camera.

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Bonapaw ca. 2013

With people, Bonapaw was dignified and a bit aloof, polite but not interested in being best buddies. His good looks drew the eye. His bay coat was a handsome burnt sienna with a touch of flash from his bold blaze and expressive eyes.

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Bonapaw plays with Lion Hunter

As the years went by, what had been the original gelding herd gradually shifted to a younger population. Bonapaw became a senior member but continued to fully participate in their races and the frat boy tone of their play. When this herd moved to the big, new front pasture, he was very much part of the breathtaking sight as they thundered over the rolling land.

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Racing with Cherono, Lion Hunter and Ball Four. Bonapaw is farthest from the camera.

Then he grew less able to keep up with the herd. Along with effects of aging, he was diagnosed with EPM. Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis is caused by a single cell parasite to which nearly all horses are exposed, since it’s carried by opossums and other small quadrupeds. It is not contagious between horses. Its neurological symptoms include loss of coordination, but it does not cause pain.

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He and Yankee Fourtune enjoyed each other’s company.

Moving in with quieter companions, Yankee Fourtune and Regal Sanction, Bonapaw received carefully monitored medication and care from Dr. Waldridge. All the barn staff, Carole and Antonio especially, gave him patient and loving care. He seemed so healthy otherwise that we never gave up hope that the meds would catch up with the condition. Looking at his beautiful body condition and bright eyes, it was hard to accept that he was losing the battle, but he was. Then his symptoms sharply worsened. Treatment and his  strong constitution had done all they could. A well-lived life had run its course.

I’ll always remember Bonapaw’s Vosburgh. And I’ll always remember Bonapaw himself as an eye-catching, peaceable presence, the kind of horse that racing people dream of, and a horse whose benevolent composure his companions, human and horse, appreciated.

All photos by Laura except my 2009 snapshots

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Bonapaw, April 2017


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July 12, 2017

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Tinners Way
May 25, 1990 – July 5, 2017

Tinners Way spent a long, full life upholding family tradition, while being very much his own horse. For many fans of Secretariat, he provided a living connection to his great sire. In his golden coat, white markings and handsome head, you could catch strong glimpses of the Triple Crown champion. But in his own right Tinner was an extraordinary athlete and a most definite presence.

Three Grade 1 wins and $1,846,546 earnings, for Juddmonte Farms and trainer Bobby Frankel, attest to Tinner’s prowess on the track. In the first of his two Pacific Classic (G1) wins he nearly equaled his dad’s Derby record. Secretariat ran a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs in 1:59.40; Tinners Way covered a mile and a quarter at Del Mar in 1:59.43.

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Tinners Way’s obituary in The Daily Racing Form

At stud in Kentucky, California, then Texas, he continued to enjoy a good life. As the stallion began to age, owning partner Phil Leckinger had such affection for him that he confided that letting Tinner leave Key Ranch wasn’t easy. I spoke with him on the phone once as he was making the decision to retire Tinner to Old Friends, and I remember thinking that whether Tinners Way retired with Phil or with us, this was a horse who’d always have the best of everything.

Yesterday I phoned Phil to reminisce. “You’re supposed to approach it as a business,” he said, “but a lot of sentimentality went into that purchase. I’d watched Tinner from the beginning. There were high hopes when he went to stud. If you go back to the ’96 Blood Horse, Tinner was on the cover: ‘How the West was Won.’ For us, it was a privilege that we could stand him at stud. Being Secretariat’s son put a special shine on him, but I think he was appreciated for more than that. When the time came to retire, we would have given him the care he’d had all his life. Retiring him to Old Friends was a heartfelt tug, but we wanted him to have the best care and wellbeing. And I’m glad he helped Old Friends provide for other retired horses. He had a good run, any way you want to see it.”

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At Old Friends, we’d given a final home to Secretariat’s son, Academy Award, and we still missed the small red stallion whose sweetness was much like Alphabet Soup’s. “Oscar” let children pet and hug him. Tinner immediately told us he was a different kind of horse. He was fiery, proud, a stallion who expected respect, and got it. But he also reached out to people. He wanted to make friends. When he let us know the front of the farm was too busy for him, we gave him a quieter paddock off the beaten track of the three daily tours and all the other comings and goings. Tinner liked his new digs. A line of tall trees provided him shade and a wind break, and instead of the usual stall-sized run-in shed, Tinner had a luxurious double-sized run-in shelter. Unlike some, he wasn’t really a fan of his shed, though. He preferred the front of his paddock. From that high ground he could see pretty much the whole farm, and we could see him.

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Tinner’s preference for the back of the farm made some inconvenience. Visitors who asked to see him sometimes couldn’t when their schedules wouldn’t allow staying after the regular tour, or when no guide was available to take them up the hill. To all who never got to feed him a carrot I offer heartfelt apologies, but I know you understand that Tinner’s wish for calm surroundings had to come first. For all that, he really enjoyed playing host once every day or three. He liked making friends. A long horse but not a tall one, he’d put his nose between the fence boards for carrots, often huffing and puffing (“I’ll blow your house down!”) just so we’d all understand he was no pushover.

His favorite thing of all was to have his butt scratched. A one person, two handed scratch was good. A two people, four handed scratch on his back and butt was bliss. Phil recalled Tinner’s enjoyment of a good scratch. At OF, Laura eventually brought him a wooden back scratcher of his very own, which he loved her to use. Sometimes when I delivered his lunch he’d ignore the food, sling his fanny upside the fence, and call me over.

But other times, it’d be all about the meal, or the carrots, or the neighbors. Tinner’s relationship with the horses in the nearby paddocks was competitive. Whether it was Williamstown, son of Seattle Slew, or Affirmed’s son Affirmed Success, or Zippy Chippy during the summer he spent in Kentucky, Tinners Way made sure everybody knew exactly who he was.

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Who he was—decidedly in his own right—is impossible to put into mere words. Tinners Way had a big presence. He was demanding but outgoing, feisty but affectionate. He was no pussycat, but he had an honest, kind heart. I know I’m just one of those who will always miss Tinner just because he was Tinner.

Photos by Laura

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