Remembering Dorothy - UPDATED!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reprinted with permission from David Corwin.

The story is so amazing, it has to be told: The 6th race at Hollywood Park this Sunday will carry special significance I thought you might be interested in...
 
On August 3, 2000, the Corwin family set south on our annual summer trip to San Diego with obligatory stops at Qualcomm Stadium and the Del Mar racetrack.  Arrangements for the day at the races had been set for that Thursday for weeks, and we decided to proceed with our plans even though we were mourning the death of my incredible grandmother (Dorothy aka Dee Dee) who passed away eight days earlier.  After all, she loved horses...gray ones in particular.
 
Toni and Bruce headed down first with Kara and me and Danny and Zoe to follow.  By the time I had opened the newspaper to see that a horse named Remember Dorothy was running at Del Mar, I could not reach my dad because he was trying to call me with the news at the same time.  A sentimental bet would certainly be in order for most, but that would not be enough for Bruce during this emotional time.  "We have to claim this horse," he said.  We were of course not set up with an account at the track, or a trainer for that matter, so I called Billy Koch to see if he could help with this spontaneous mission.  Billy scrambled and got trainer Jack Carava to agree to put in a claim under Billy's name if we could get $32,000+ wired to the track and the horse could walk.  I managed to wire the money just in time, and our journey was set to begin.
 
Remember Dorothy was a gray two year-old daughter of Smokester who was running in a maiden claiming race for the first time after two uninspiring straight maiden races at Hollywood Park.  With Laffit Pincay aboard and the drop in class, she was 2-1 in the 8th and final race.  Jack wanted to make sure Dorothy wasn't crooked so he watched her walk around the paddock before entering the claim.  He said she wasn't the best looking horse he'd ever seen, but that she had made it to the races and looked fit enough.  The claim was entered, and our anticipation grew.
 
Dorothy ran a distant third, and a red tag was placed on her after the race...but there were FIVE claims!  Jack and I headed to the track as the few remaining souls left with the sun descending.  Of course, no one else with a claim knew the significance of ours, but someone must have.  I'm not a believer in karma or the power of exterior forces, but it was truly remarkable when our number was drawn.  Even Jack seemed to be in awe as we shook hands and gave thumbs up to my dad who couldn't hold back the tears.
 
Now what?!  We visited Dorothy at the barn, and Bruce spoke to her as if she possessed his mom's spirit.  The poor horse had no idea what she was in for.  In the end, she has undoubtedly been treated much better than her otherwise ordinary fate would have allowed.  Dorothy raced once more at Del Mar, finishing third in a maiden $50,000 claimer, which was followed by a second place finish in a straight maiden race at the Pomona fairgrounds, a place Dee Dee never would have traveled!  Remember Dorothy broke her maiden in a $50,000 claimer at Santa Anita on October 13, 2000.
 
Knowing the emotional attachment to the horse, Jack somehow persuaded us to run Dorothy back in a $40,000 claimer at Hollywood Park four weeks later where she rallied from 7th in the stretch to win by a neck at 9-2 to make it two in a row...but she was claimed!  This wasn't supposed to happen; Bruce and Dorothy had to part ways after a magical four months.  Dorothy provided a good return on investment in a short time and more importantly helped my dad through the healing process as he told the story of Remember Dorothy over and over.  Perhaps this was to be the end of the ride.  But as anyone who knows Bruce could easily predict, the adventure was far from over.
 
Bruce insisted I follow Dorothy's whereabouts so he could claim her back and breed her and continue her (our) heritage. She raced in southern California for the next 18 months, winning twice for $40,000, and I successfully kept dad from overpaying for her while she was claimed four more times by others.  I ensured him she could be purchased for a lot less at the end of her career if he had to have her, hoping he would in time change his mind.  In May 2003, Dorothy was sent up north to run for $12,500, and dad couldn't take it anymore.  He had trainer Don Chatlos and Billy find a northern California trainer to enter a claim at Bay Meadows. Dorothy won the race at 5-1, but there was one other claim, and "we" lost the shake.  Maybe, it was no longer meant to be. This seemed true when the new owner shipped Dorothy across the country to Monmouth Park where she was claimed again in her next race for $18,000.  But maybe Dorothy knew of her destiny and had raced enough.  She ran back to finish 8th and last for the only time in her 34-race career next time out and was quickly dropped into a $5,000 claiming race.  This was it -- Bruce was determined to bring Dorothy home, and the price was right!  But he lost another two-way shake after Dorothy's sixth career victory.  He had had enough so he tracked down the new trainer and offered to buy Dorothy for $10,000 (I think...he may have lied to me and paid more); a deal was consummated and next thing Dorothy knew she was retired as a winner and on a van across the country to Magali Farms in Santa Ynez in September 2003.  From the hot and smelly Jersey shore to Santa Ynez -- the good life was about to begin!
 
I sat Bruce down and reviewed a chapter on breeding in a horse ownership book so he would be clear on what he was getting into and how expensive it would be to feed and house Dorothy and to breed her and care for her foal(s) while he waited and hoped her offspring would make it to the track.  He didn't care at the time.  With him taking sole responsibility for this venture, I relished the opportunity to find the right stallion for Dorothy and learn what I could about breeding, knowing it would be years before we knew the results.  Bills came in monthly as I investigated the crop of California stallions.  After all, I couldn't rationalize throwing away more of Bruce's money on a proven Kentucky stallion when we had no idea if Dorothy could drop a straight horse with four legs, let alone one who would make it to the races. 
 
Rather than breed Dorothy to one of the more proven California stallions, I was drawn to little known Bartok who had limited success with a small number of below average broodmares and was an A nick with Dorothy.  My grandmother also loved classical music, and Bartok was named after a classical composer.  More importantly, there seemed to be some upside (if only I had gone with Unusual Heat!).  I loved the analysis, but what did I know?  I had charts on dozens of stallions, had spoken with several farm managers and breeders, and had to make a call so Bartok it was.  And on February 21, 2005, Dorothy delivered a somewhat crooked colt.  We soon visited the farm and were amazed at what "we" had created, what an innocent trip to Del Mar four and one-half years earlier had led to.
 
There was little time to bask in our creation as Dorothy had to be bred again, but "How can we do that to her?" asked Bruce. "She needs a break."  "She's a broodmare," I told him, and "we won't know if she can produce a runner for some time so we have to keep her going and keep paying the bills."  He succumbed, and Dorothy was bred back to Atticus at Magali.  Atticus had limited success in Kentucky and was new to California and had a successful colt (High Fly) on the Derby trail.  I was still numb from overanalyzing stallions the previous year so knowing that Atticus looked great in person, was on the home farm, and Dorothy matched up well with the Nureyev bloodline was good enough. 
 
Meanwhile, Dorothy's first foal grew up fast with his feet straightening out a bit, but he was far from a beautiful specimen.  He needed a name, and despite Kara's efforts to go with Chutzpah because of the colt's feistiness, Bruce couldn't veer far off course and named the colt Dee Dee's Legacy.  A year later, a much better looking colt (Bruce's Dream) was born to keep the family and expenses growing, much like ours since the initial claim. The cost was getting to Bruce so Dorothy took a year off before being bred to Momentum (another son of Nureyev) earlier this year as I convinced dad we should take advantage of a unique breeding deal that would guarantee us a sales price of three times the stud fee on Momentum. By 2009, we would know if Dorothy's two foals could run and how Momentum's first crops performed so there was little to lose.
 
To cut to the chase, even though it's way too late, Dee Dee's Legacy has been training under the tutelage of trainer Mike Puype the last few months, and Bruce's Dream is being broken as a yearling at Magali so Dorothy may surprise us and produce a runner or two.  While maintaining expectations, Mike has been extremely pleased with Dee Dee's Legacy's work in the morning, and the two year-old colt is entered in a Cal-bred straight maiden race at Hollywood Park this Sunday with the nation's leading rider (Garrett Gomez) aboard. Garrett will be unaware of the significance of the silks he will be wearing which are light blue (to match Dee Dee's eye color) and white with interlocking Ds on the back.
 
It's hard to believe this journey that began more than seven years ago has reached this point.  Whether the colt ever wins, Remember Dorothy, Bruce and he have already outrun the odds. When the gate opens on Sunday, Dorothy will be the only horse that day wearing saddle cloth #11 on 11/11/07.  It will be just another horse race for most, but the beginning of a new chapter in Dee Dee's legacy.
 
We've had little impact on getting this far so special thanks to everyone at Magali Farms (Tom and Katie especially) for taking such good care of the horses and to Mike for guiding the colt to the starting gate, and to Billy, Jack, and Don for playing important roles along the way, and to Don and Singletary for reminding us anything is possible.


UPDATE!!!!
November 12, 2007___

Race day was upon us and anticipation was high with mixed expectations.
Dee Dee’s Legacy was 5-1 in the official race program, but not picked in
the top three by any of the Daily Racing Forms handicappers, but today
was not about odds or results as much as the accomplishment of getting
Remember Dorothy’s first foal to the starting gate. And no one could
have predicted the sequence of events to this point so prognostications
were of little relevance.

Dee Dee’s Legacy walked into the paddock before the sixth race and
looked nothing like the gawky weanling who wobbled around Magali Farms
or the yearling with an uneven coat. He had matured into a beautiful
race horse and looked like he belonged. Word of our fateful tale had
reached TVG so my dad was interviewed before the race. Garrett Gomez
emerged with the blue and white silks signifying the journey. He
indulged the family with a few pictures before getting instructions from
Mike Puype. What can you tell the jockey who was one hour away from
breaking Jerry Bailey’s one-year stakes record as he’s about to hop
aboard a green two year-old?

The wait grew as a few of the young horses hesitated to enter the gate.
Dee Dee’s Legacy’s first race visit to the gate was a long one. With
everyone ready, the bell sounded and the gate opened. Before Dee Dee’s
Legacy knew he was racing along side 12 other horses with shreds of
cushion track being kicked in his face, he was cut off and had to take
back which placed him last where he remained on the backstretch. Gomez
got him to relax and stayed at the rear, but there were signs of life as
they approached the turn. GoGo gently guided Dee Dee’s Legacy past three
horses into 10^th at the half-mile pole and prepared to make his move as
they turned for home, however, navigating through a wall of tired horses
would be no easy task even if the colt had a full head of steam. As
Gomez moved into fifth and found a hole at the top of the stretch, Dee
Dee’s Legacy’s quick move through an opening forced another horse to
veer left and then clip heels with another with one going down and both
unseating their riders -- the worst possible sight at the races which
drew a gasp from the crowd. Fortunately, both horses and jockeys would
be okay. All the while, Dee Dee’s Legacy seemed unphased as he cruised
by the rest of the field to finish in front by two and one-half lengths
under an effortless hand ride. Cheers were subdued considering he
crossed the wire in front as everyone’s primary concern was the well
being of the fallen horse and jockeys.

Notwithstanding the accident, it seemed way too easy as Dee Dee’s Legacy
never broke a sweat…but as with much of this saga, there was a twist. A
steward’s inquiry had been posted as the race was reviewed to see if Dee
Dee’s Legacy had caused the spill. The numbers of the top four finishers
flashed on the tote board for EIGHT minutes, an eternity of silence at
the track with Bruce pacing every second. Various angles of the replay
were shown on the big screen. GoGo did not think he did anything wrong
and was confident there would be no change. Puype wasn’t as sure as Dee
Dee’s Legacy did change course a bit. Ultimately, it was determined that
the horse that fell had contributed to his own trouble and that there
would be no change to the order of finish. Dee Dee’s Legacy had done it
-- a win in his first start!

Words could not explain the jubilation and shock. There was no logic to
explain it. Sure, it was only a Cal-bred maiden race, but the odds of
everything happening as they had over the past seven years were
astronomical.

The victory will be enjoyed by all for weeks, and with a two year-old
colt hope springs eternal. There would be such a feeling of satisfaction
regardless of what happened next. Yet, there was little time to digest
the win as the phone started ringing Monday morning. Tom from Magali
Farms called to congratulate us and wanted to know if the horse was for
sale. A trainer had called him with a client willing to pay six figures
for the colt. I reminded Tom of our story and said we weren’t in it for
the money, but “that’s a lot for a Bartok colt” he said. “I know, Tom,
but we’re having too much fun.” A bloodstock agent also called to
inquire about the availability of the horse. I told him, “We were going
to enjoy the ride unless we were blown out of the water with an offer.”
And the next day another six-figure offer was received. Bruce’s
response, “We were always in this for the fun of it and the emotional
attachment...At this point I say, let it ride”

So let it ride we will. Stay tuned…