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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shades Of His Father

Where do I start? This guy is my hero. I expect you will recognize him:
To me (and a lot of other people), Secretariat was like God reached down and designed the perfect horse. Incomparable beauty, blinding speed, poise, class, presence, you name it - Big Red had it all. When I get around to doing a little photographic tour of my home, you will find that I have Secretariat stuff all over the place. He's in a place of honor on the mantel, he's in the living room practically life-size, he's in the dining room - you get the idea. I love, adore and worship Big Red. Unfortunately, I was a big fat idiot and did not make the trip to Claiborne before he died. I guess I thought I would have time... nobody expected him to go at age 18. It's a huge regret of mine. Therefore, when I found out that a son of Secretariat, much less a red one, had moved to Old Friends, I was pretty darn excited. (Truth be told, I planned this whole trip with an eye on seeing him.)

His name is Tinners Way. He stands 16.1, was born in 1990 and is by Secretariat, out of Devon Diva, by The Minstrel. He was out of Red's last crop, and is considered to be one of his best sons. In fact, he is the very last surviving champion racehorse sired by Secretariat. Here is his race record and a race photo, taken from the website of the farm in TX where he used to stand.

Tinners Way retired as the richest horse in Texas
Multiple Grade 1 Stakes Winner of $1,847,734
* WON - Pacific Classic [G1] twice, Californian S [G1], Golden Gate Fields Budweiser Breeders' Cup
* PLACED - Hollywood Gold Cup [G1], Californian S [G1], San Bernardino H [G2], Goodwood H [G2], Mervyn Leroy H [G2], Bel Air H [G2], Arcadia H [G3]
* Equaled Track Records in both the Pacific Classic [G1] and the Californian Stakes [G1]
Not too shabby, eh? Tinner ran on both turf and dirt. Bobby Frankel trained him, and his complete record says a lot:
In all, Tinners Way led the way to the finish line 7 times in 27 starts, and placed or showed in an additional 10. He ran successfully (top 3 finisher) in 6 of 10 starts on grass and in 11 of 17 on dirt. He participated in 22 graded competitions completing 14 among the first 3 finishers with 4 firsts. He was considered one of the best handicap runners in the U.S. in the mid-1990s. His progeny have exceeded $3 million dollars in track earnings. (From this website)

Here's his stallion photo:
Definitely a resemblance to Dad... I see a bit of The Minstrel in there, too.
But enough of the racing stuff. What was Tinner like now, in retirement at Old Friends? I could hardly wait to find out. When I was with Wendy, I mentioned to her that I was really excited to meet him. She and her husband go fairly often to OF to photograph horses, so I knew she would know him. Wendy told me, "Well, you better be ready. Tinner doesn't look very good. He's a neurotic horse; he runs the fence line incessantly and they can't keep weight on him. They had to take him off the tour because he was upsetting visitors." Oh dear, I thought... what was this guy going to be like? Would I even be allowed to see him? You can imagine my distress at the thought of finally getting myself thisclose to Big Red's DNA, only to be told he was off-limits.

You can bet that as soon as our volunteer tour guide at Old Friends asked our group is there was any horse in particular we wanted to see, I spoke right up and said, "Tinners Way. Please?!?" FORTUNATELY, Melissa and her friend were also interested in seeing him and said so, too. The guide looked us up and down and I guess he decided we looked "horsepeople" enough because he said, "Ok. When the tour is over you guys can go up the hill and see him." Thank heavens.

Accordingly, as soon as the rest of the tour was done and the other people were dispersing, the three of us made tracks towards Tinner's paddock. I had strained for a glimpse of him all along, and I'm afraid I rather left the other two ladies in the dust in my haste to get there. I guessed which paddock belonged to Tinner before I really saw him or read his name on the fence; the ground was very torn up from his hooves. Tinner was standing quietly, lipping some hay off the ground near his waterer. A smallish-looking, NOT too ribby, slightly-hairy horse, modeled in bright chestnut. He turned to look at me. I called his name, and over he came.
Well, HI THERE Little Red!
I was quick to give him some of the cookies and carrot pieces I had stuffed in my pockets. He was a perfect gentleman, accepting the treats gracefully and chewing away. The way the paddock was situated on a hill, we were at a disadvantage since the ground fell away and the fence was really high. I was not able to get a really good photo of him (or hug him around the neck like I really wanted to do) because of that. I did breathe gently in his nostrils and tell him that I loved his daddy and was so very glad to meet him. Tinner and I visited alone like this for a while before Melissa and her friend arrived. All I could think was, I love this horse. He is fine. He is sweet. He's a good boy. Why is he stuck up here by himself? This horse is lonely! (Note: he isn't really alone, Williamstown's paddock is right across from his and they interact with each other. I mean for human company.)

Compare that photo of Tinner to this one of his dad, in a playful mood:
Photo by Steve Haskin, Bloodhorse magazine columnist/blogger and all-around TB racing guru
Maybe I am full of it, and projecting too much of my desire to "know" Secretariat better, but I truly did feel like Tinner and I bonded. I rubbed him all over, as much of him as I could reach. Yes, I could feel his ribs and see them a little, but he wasn't nearly as thin as I'd expected (I know what a really underweight TB looks like and it ain't pretty). Tinner was perfectly happy to let me do all this. There was no sign of hyperactivity, no nervousness on view. Yes, I believe he is that way - hence the chewed-up ground - but with me, he was perfectly alright. I spent a total of at least fifteen minutes with him. 

Here are the best photos I got of my friend Tinners Way :

I wanted to open the gate, lead him out, load him in a trailer and take him home. I had to tear myself away from this horse - oh yes, I kissed his nose, too - and as I finally walked away I could hardly see from all the tears running down my face. I think Tinner is beautiful and special and misunderstood...

I heartily encourage you to visit and otherwise support Old Friends. Besides the stallions, they also house some very deserving TB mares and geldings (including Sea Native/Rhett, who belongs to my friend and reader of this blog!). They get the bulk of my miniscule charitable dollars, and I can't imagine a better use of my money. It's a unique facility and a shining example of what a really top-notch rescue looks like. Zenyatta's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, are enormous sponsors of the place and have done much to publicize Old Friends in the racing community. Several top jockeys, such as Calvin Borel, are also big supporters of Old Friends. I wish I could remember which one visited and climbed right aboard his old mount bareback - believe me, I thought about that when I was standing there with Tinner. Oh, to feel the wind in my face from the back of Secretariat's son... 

I will leave you with this great photo of Tinners Way that someone took of him, shortly after he arrived at Old Friends. I think you can tell why I like it so much - he looks happy and so much like his dad. 

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