More than a decade ago, I entered a group of horses into my Virtual Stable account with Equibase. They all had one thing in common: they were from Silver Charm's first crop of foals. Back then, finding information wasn't quite as easy as it is today, and I picked through trade publications and sales catalogs to gather the names.
Years came, years went, and slowly but surely, I began getting fewer and fewer notifications. A lot changes in the span of 11 years. Not only did I pretty much stop using that AOL account, but I became a turf writer, Silver Charm relocated to Japan, and almost all of those first foals retired.
There were two names, though, that kept popping into my old inbox, which meant I kept checking it: Silver Indy and Rat Like Cunning. Both geldings were born in 2001, both are gray, and combined they have made 184 starts.
Rat Like Cunning has run 91 times and has a record of 13-8-4 with earnings of $123,066. Silver Indy has run 93 times and has a record of 8-14 -9 with earnings of $139,954. Silver Indy ran on Jan. 11, while Rat Like Cunning last started on Dec. 17.
Another thing the 13-year-olds have in common is that as of last week, both warriors of the claiming ranks have officially been retired.
Given my not so secret love of Silver Charm, the folks behind both retirements let me know, and finding out the news brought a smile to my face. But why write about it? Because while neither of them are horses that the general public would know or care about, they show a side of racing that often doesn't get the credit it deserves.
I know not all horses end up in the best situations at the end of their careers, but I also think it is important to give praise to people who do the right thing.
More than that, it turns out both of these horses were loved by the people who crossed their paths through the years. It's not just the champions who wiggle into the hearts of horsemen and women.
So here is how two racehorses linked by only their pedigree started on the next phase of their lives:
When Silver Indy ran in January, the race notification caught the attention of the folks at Three Chimneys, where Silver Charm had begun his stallion career. The farm's stallion manager, Sandy Hatfield, always had a soft spot for the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, and wondered if this son of his needed a home when his racing days were through.
Enter Silver Indy's co-owner and trainer, Judy Behler. Silver Indy, who picked up the nickname Grandpa, became part of her stable when he was 6-years-old, meaning he spent more time with her in his life than anyone else. It also turns out, he was definitely the barn pet.
Once he joined our barn, it didn't take him a long time to figure out that there are goodies in our pockets, that the peppermint crinkle sound is the best thing in the world, and that the carrots will be coming.
”-- Judy Behler, trainer Silver Indy
"He is quite a character," said Behler. "Once he joined our barn, it didn't take him a long time to figure out that there are goodies in our pockets, that the peppermint crinkle sound is the best thing in the world, and that the carrots will be coming.
"Every year when we would get back to the Fair Grounds, exercise riders would come by and ask if Grandpa was still with me. He is very professional, and he is all about the game. He was sound, liked being a racehorse, and I have protected him like he is a stakes horses."
That said, Behler also always wants to find good homes for her horses and saw this as an unmistakable chance for her barn pet to have a wonderful second career.
"As long as he wanted to train, we were going to keep going this year, but when this opportunity arose for him, I said we are done," she said. "I took him off his high protein feeds, and I began letting him down slowly. I am so excited about it. He is the coolest horse, and I am sure Sandy is going to have lots of fresh stories for me. Now it is time for him to have a new adventure in life."
When the horse transportation company Brook Ledge heard about Silver Indy's retirement, they offered to ship him to Kentucky for free. Last week, the gelding arrived in the Bluegrass to begin his next chapter, and Hatfield could not be more pleased to have him.
Before Grandpa left his home in Louisiana, old friends stopped by, including one of his hot walkers, who had a giant purse full of peppermints. They wanted to send him off with a few sweet treats. One thing they won't have to worry about is if Silver Indy has ended up in a good home.
"I have always wanted a Silver Charm offspring," said Hatfield. "I think Silver Charm was one of the coolest horses ever -- he had such a special quality about him. When it looked like Silver Indy's owners might want to find him a new job, I started really thinking about 'me' as an option for him. Now it seemed like it was meant to be."
Silver Indy is currently getting accustomed to his new surroundings. Eventually, Hatfield plans to take him out on trail rides, but for now making sure he is enjoying life while they get to know each other is her top priority.
"He is doing fantastic," she said. "He is in great condition, clean legged, sound, happy and healthy. I have him at a friend's farm. Right now he is going out in a paddock alone, but they have also have a retired gelding so in the near future we will get them out together. I think his future looks bright."
With Silver Indy well on his way to a happy retirement, it brought up questions of Rat Like Cunning. A few phones calls were placed, and his trainer, Sheryl Schuette, confirmed that the gelding was still in training.
However, a few discussions later, the horse's owner, Robert Glick, thought donating the horse to New Vocations would be a proper and fitting retirement.
Rat Like Cunning was accepted at New Vocations, which provides a peaceful environment and skilled hands to assist horses transitioning from racehorse to pleasure horse. In time, he will be offered up for adoption to the right home.
"For now, he will just be settling in," said Anna Ford, New Vocation's thoroughbred program director. "We will get him acclimated to turn out, get his diet adjusted, find him a buddy and monitor his soundness. His legs look amazingly clean for the amount of starts that he has had. I am pretty optimistic there are no major issues."
Once Rat Like Cunning has adjusted to retirement, he will be worked under saddle to see what his strong suits are and what kind of home will be best for him going forward.
"We are happy to have him," said Ford. "Walking off the trailer, over the ice, to the barn and into his stall, he acted like he is a very smart horse. He was super quiet, went in his stall, rolled, and then looked for his hay. He did everything exactly the way you would hope a horse does. He was showing his class. He has that classy eye, and I think he is going to be a nice individual."
Word spread that Rat Like Cunning had been retired, and like Silver Indy, people from his past wanted to say goodbye. One of those is farrier Dan Ethridge.
"That was my boy," said Ethridge. "We were together a long time. He was almost black he was so dark when I first started working on him, and now he is ghost white. He is just a class horse."
Ethridge has win photos from every race the gelding won while in his care, and plans on visiting New Vocations to see his old friend, who answers to the somewhat comical name of Rat.
He also noted he isn't the only person from the horse's past who wanted to check up on him, adding that trainer Webster Rosello and jockey Edgar Paucar were fond of the gelding, too.
"He is a smart old horse, and we love him," Ethridge said. "I guarantee when I walk in that barn and holler at him, Rat will come looking for me. He loves carrots and candies and being spoiled. I'm just glad he went to a place where he deserves to be."
As for me, it will be strange to no longer receive those Equibase notifications, but I couldn't be more happy about it. I also can't wait to meet these two sons of Silver Charm who have been constantly in the background of my life for so very long.
That chapter is finally done, and I love that it ended on a positive note.
Amanda Duckworth is a freelance journalist who lives in Lexington, Ky. Among her other duties, she is an editor for Gallop Magazine. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.