Sunday, February 27, 2011

Adios Gemmer

Gem at Flamboro as a 7 year old
I was handicapping the races with my “internet friends” on a racing chat site a long time ago now. One of the participants and I hit it off. Vern, who had never owned horses before but always wanted to, responded quickly when I asked “do you want to take a shot on something at the SC sale in August?”. 

These two bettors, who never even met in person, wanted to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on a horse who fit the maiden, who had a little bit of potential upside. After leafing through the pages we settled on three or four horses. We thought a couple might go for too much, including a Blair Burgess cast-off called Stonebridge Gem.  Vern, who hailed from the province of Newfoundland 1500 miles away stayed home, and I headed to the sale.

A couple of the ones we liked had moved out of our price range, but when Gem came up the bidding stalled at $11,000. I bid $11,500 and then $13,000. Sold! Vern called and said "good job". We got the one we wanted.

Dresden Raceway 2006
It’s hard to believe, but fast fowarding many years and after 140 starts for our stable, he had his last race yesterday. He motored to the lead, his usual spot, and he looked great at the half mile, but packed it in before the three quarter pole. He just can’t do it any longer, so it’s time for him to retire.

For a horse that was a big liability on the stable balance sheet most years, you might think we’d not have fond memories of him, but we do.

Early on he got Vern’s first ever win as an owner, going wire to wire to break his maiden at Windsor. A few months later, he was one of the favorites in the $47,000 Middlesex and he got a check (coming 5th). We were there to watch and we were thrilled.

The following summer he raced at little Dresden and won a few in a row. I made it to the track for those races and had to call Vern on my cell to let him listen to the racecalls. Dresden was not simulcast and there was no live video. When all was totaled, he won ten races and we have every win picture. Nice memories.

Win pic, signed by Al for Vern's Daughter
Vern’s daughter came to Ontario with him, too, to see old Gem. When he turned five and from then on for a few years, we could not place him in a cheaper claimer because she’d be sad to see him go anywhere. We didn’t mind.

In the latter days of his career we moved him to trainer Nick Boyd’s stable and Nick raced him and enjoyed doing it, despite his sub-par record. The horse could leave like an invite horse, so even when he was outclassed he gave it a speed try. He was fun for us to watch and you could not help getting attached.

I very rarely (if ever) speak of our horses here on the blog, but after all those starts and having him for so long, please forgive me. He brought me some new friends and it proves to me that although making a few dollars is needed as a horse owner, if you own horses for that only, you are missing out. Horses like Gem prove that each every day, as many of you out there know, I'm sure

 Adios old fella, and thank you.

Note: If you made it this far and know anyone who is looking for a sound horse in Southern Ontario (to hopefully become a riding horse) please let us know. We can be reached at pullthepocket@gmail.com. Thank you!

9 comments:

Jean in VA. said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes.
It sounds like the two of you have really loved Gem and I hope that he finds someone to love him and care for him and give him a great retirement.

Anonymous said...

I have owned my share of poorer-than -average horses..... and I loved every one of them; my family did too. I see where you guys are coming from.

Phil

Walleye Willy said...

Bud job well done wish I had made it there yesterday.

Pacingguy said...

This is what horse ownership should be about, not just a balance sheet item, but a love for the horse and sportsmanship.

The_Knight_Sky said...

This Stonebridge Gem....

Any relation to the Big M great Stonebridge Skipper ?

Pull the Pocket said...

Hey Knight,

There are quite a few "Stonebridge's" in racing since it is a farm name. It's actually a pretty prevalent thing in harness (Hanover, Stonebridge etc etc), but much less-so in the thoroughbreds.

PTP

Vern said...

Two sad days in a row thinking about the big guy's retirement but thanks for the blog post, memories bring back smiles! Gonna miss the carrot attacks.

Holly said...

Beautiful post! I saw this shared on facebook. I shared it also. We have had 2 retired harness horses. One of them had an owner who felt the way you did. The horse's name was Slugger Hanover. He just died the week before Christmas at the age of 30 (twisted gut & we had to put him down). We are taking in another retired standardbred in a couple weeks. His name is Super Eighty Eight, he last raced in July, is 9 & his owners have been holding onto him until they found a home for him as well. So wonderful to learn of the many racehorse owners that care enough about their horses to see that they retire to a good home. They make wonderful family horses! I hope you find a good home for him soon-I know his picture & your blogpost are circulating in horse facebook groups :) Best of luck to you! Holly

Anonymous said...

Thank you Holly and everyone else who is sharing the link. I love it!!!

We've had him for over a year now at a farm, so he's doing okay, but we'd love it if someone took him home. Like most standardbreds, he wants to go to work!

Thanks again and please let me know if you hear anything!

Dean