Krantz Stable Updates
From There To Here
- Published: December 20, 2002
- Written by Bryan Krantz
In 1985 I had been out of school for about two years and marked the month of June by exchanging marriage vows and celebrating the success of my first two years as a full-time gainfully employed citizen by looking to invest some hard earned capital in a serious hobby -- something my new bride and I could enjoy together and a pastime to seek relief from the drudgery of work. Well, sailing seemed like a good way to get away from it all and I had enough experience on friend's boats to start a search for the right boat. The boat had to fit in a modest budget for a newlywed but could be more than a rowboat. After weeks of searching classified ads and looking at boats I found the right one and made my best offer. With great disappointment I received the word my proposal had been turned down.
The same evening at work during the race card at Jefferson Downs our good friend Jack Lohman paid a visit. We stuck up a conversation at dinner about the boat and my sad story. Jack listened intently but at some point in the evening he suggested I make a trip with him to Ocala to a horse sale the next week. I had never been to a sale away from Louisiana and thought this might be an "educational experience." Wow! Was I right.
Jack had been a business partner in a race meeting run at Jefferson Downs called Lakefront Turf Club – 30 days of racing run in the fall of the year after the Jefferson Downs race meet was over. He also ran Clear Creek Stud, the largest commercial Thoroughbred-breeding nursery in the state. He had put together some racing syndicates to purchase Keeneland sales yearlings as racing prospects with the hope of making stallion prospects. One syndicate share was bought by a family interest and had migrated to me. The horses name was Yesterday's Hero and when he retired to stud the two breeding rights weren't of interest to anyone else and they were offered to me. I had no intention of being in the breeding or racing business (yet).
Jack and I went to Ocala and worked hard to find a weanling for an airline pilot from Georgia. In fact we were pretty worn out but went out for dinner. The glare from the sunlight during the day's concentrated intense effort left me with a major migraine headache. On the way to the hotel Jack pulled into a convenience store and I bought some aspirin and a Coke to swallow them with. After we got going I downed the aspirins and put the bottom of the cold coke on my forehead. Jack was driving along monitoring his speed by the brightly lit dash of the rent car when a local policeman made a u-turn from the traffic lane in the other direction. In the blink of an eye he had us pulled over and was questioning Jack about his driving without headlights after dark and the suspicious character passed out in the seat with the Coke on his head. Jack convinced the officer the dash lights made it seem like the headlights were on but he would have to draw his on conclusions about me. Fortunately he let us go on our way.
The next day we purchased a Huguenot filly and we went home happy. Huguenot was a French champion whose first foals were being offered as weanlings in 1984. She was the first foal out of a mare with black type (stakes winners) in the previous generations of her family. After all that work my mind began to turn on the process of buying and racing racehorses. After all it was an "educational experience" for my line of work. We came home and Jack suggested I consider going to Keeneland with him in September to get a taste of the Kentucky experience. Sure, that would be educational too.
We spoke the week before the trip to Lexington and I asked what he was putting together. He explained he was expecting to buy two more horses and do a three-horse partnership with the pilot. The total budget for the three would be $50,000. I thought about my aspirations as a boat owner and the hobby I could share with my new bride and asked, "What about a three-way deal?" It was educational, right? We could do it together, right? Sure it was.
The partnership was not long lived. The two colts we bought were nothing to talk about but did break their maiden. The filly couldn't outrun a fat man and it was time to do something. An inspiration came to me. If I proposed to Jack and the pilot they keep the colts, I would take the filly off of their hands and we could part ways friends. I could breed her on my free season to Yesterday's Hero and being in the breeding business would be educational, right?
The other partners named the two colts from the partnership and I named the filly Victorian Myth. She was named Victoria, for my dear bride and Myth for the mythical quality of the religious Huguenots whom her sire was named for. Well, the first foal came and she was tabbed Blueyesnlonglegs. Since Vickie is about 5'10" and has deep blue eyes I thought the name was a winner. I was still convincing her we were doing this together so we listed Vickie as the owner on the registration papers.
By the time Blueyesnlonglegs was a 2-year-old we had been back to Keeneland and found another filly and had two 2-year-olds placed with our new trainer, Gary Palmisano. Every day I would admonish Gary, "Make a quick decision on the homebred filly." We had bills coming in and we couldn't afford to throw money away on another slow horse. Gary kept giving me assurances he would cut the cord at the first sign of wasting our time. As the two fillies got closer to racing it was time for serious works to begin and the "good filly" had shown real promise. Gary set them both down against each other giving Blueyesnlonglegs about a length advantage. The instructions were for the other filly to rate off of her and go by when they turned for home. Well ... sometimes the rabbit won't be caught. The good news was we had two nice fillies.
Blueyesnlonglegs won her maiden race in what might have been the slowest time on a fast track of any maiden race run at the Fair Grounds for that year. She continued to run on the main track, winning some conditioned "non-winners of" type claiming races and at the end of her 3-year-old season, as a last resort, we tried her on the turf. She loved the grass and became our first stakes winner later in the meeting in the Louisiana-bred Red Camelia Stakes. In the next year she became one of the top older state-bred mares in turf competition at Fair Grounds and Louisiana Downs in a very strong division. She retired at the end of the year with a suspensory injury in a front ankle. Her race record at the time she retired was: 37 starts, 11 wins, four second-place finishes and four third-place finishes, with earnings of $120,356. Boy, was she fun. Her mother produced two other foals before being struck by lightning while awaiting the breeding season in Lexington, Ky., the year Blueyes struck it big.
We had high hopes for our first stakes winning filly retiring as a broodmare. To give Blueyesnlonglegs the best chance at a top stallion we looked to Kentucky. Her first mating was arranged to Halo, a perennial sire of top quality offspring such as Kentucky Derby winner Sunny's Halo. The foal was born early and did not survive. Her next mating was to turf champion Sky Classic. The foal was born on schedule and big. Austen made the ride over to Folsom to see the newborn at Clear Creek Stud. He was five and the day was a day out for the guys. When we entered the paddock where the mare and week old foal were turned out both youngsters approached head on. Standing nose to nose both snorted each other's scent. When the four-legged version raised a hoof to shake hands the adults moved between them for safety's sake but a bond had been formed. Even today, if Austen walks up to Rags' webbing, the greeting reminds me of their first encounter.
Rags Scheuermann was a character of legend in the city of New Orleans for many years as an amateur baseball and college baseball coach. He was also a sometimes racing beat writer and selector for the Times-Picayune and States-Item newspapers. He penned a column of selections titled "Rags To Riches" but mainly he liked to sit in his grandstand box and have a bet. As athletic director for Delgado Community College, it was not unusual to see Rags making the walk down City Park Avenue and Esplanade to the Mystery Street entrance of Fair Grounds on winter days. He sat in a box next to ours and we talked about horses, jockeys, racing and things from the past. He had 100 miles of lines on his face and a shock of white hair a young man would be jealous of. But the most entertainment he could generate was a discussion of handicapping between he and his son Joe, the results of which stirred laughter from all of the surrounding boxes and always ended with Rags quip to Joe, "You're just a damn stupid boy!" Rags passed away the year the Sky Classic colt was born and in his memory the colt was named Coach Rags. As Gary and Joe have said, they are both winners with distinguished careers.
The second foal from Blueyesnlonglegs was a result of a nice bit of timing. The Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled was retired to Gainesway Farm in Kentucky at a $20,000 stud fee. He was a stallion who had all the markings of becoming a hot commodity and a major impact on the breed (and at a fee of much more than $20,000). While visiting with Allen Lavin of Longfield Farm (the folks we keep horses with in Kentucky) at a Keeneland November sale he introduced me to a friend who walked up. The fellow just happened to be the stallion manager at Gainesway but was leaving shortly. I mentioned our mare and he offered to give her a contract. Unbridled soared to the top of the stallion list in the next two years and was moved to Claiborne Farm, the home of past champions such as Secretariat, Princequillo, Bold Ruler and many others. Blueyesnlonglegs was pronounced in foal on Kentucky Derby morning of 1996. The Derby favorite was a son of Unbridled named Unbridled's Song, the 2-year-old champion of 1995, but the Derby winner for 1996 turned out to be another son of Unbridled, Grindstone. Our second foal was named Blueyed Gal. She didn't get to fulfill the potential we saw in her morning works before being retired but she showed us enough to believe she may have had more talent than any horse we had ever owned. She did win once and seemed destined for good things but she had a chronic bleeding problem (hemorrhaging from the lungs after exercise, a condition not unusual in race horses), which would not let her fulfill the potential talent we saw.
We lost Blueyesnlonglegs to a bought of colic (a serious affliction for horses since they can't burp and they don't process gas very well) in 1997. She was special in many ways. I guess the memories she was connected to were the things making her the most special. The family tree will be continued by Blueyed Gal (her first foal is a daughter of Sky Classic, making it a three-quarters sister to Coach Rags) and her daughters. I don't think I'll ever forget a scene at Louisiana Downs after Blueyesnlonglegs won an overnight handicap (a race offered without added money from entry or start fees and for which there is no black type for pedigree if you place). She beat the best older mares on the grounds and we had a group in the winner's circle celebrating the win. As we came through the gate going back into the building, Jack Lohman was rushing through from the other direction hoping to get into the picture with a grin from ear to ear. He was too late for the picture, but his impact on the scene was not lost on me. He was happy for us but proud of the accomplishment of his involvement in the mating of Blueyesnlonglegs and the hand he had in educating a young lad about racing.
This is an ever-changing business and sport. The people and memories are what set it apart from a real job. Coach Rags missed his prep schedule this fall and it finally caught up to him on Louisiana Champions Day. He was second beaten a short neck. He will be seven on January 1, 2003. I guess he will be around a while longer but when it's time he will have a paddock of green grass waiting for him. Claiming races aren't an option for a family member. Just ask Vickie.