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 Pensioners on Parade

Stories about your favorite retired racehorses. For archived stories, click here.

Banjo Picker

Barbara Luna has always considered herself “a reincarnated Southern belle.” So magnetic was the pull to head below the Mason-Dixon Line that Luna put down roots literally a few miles from where Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met and signed the documents which ended the Civil War in April 1865.

Luna’s career in Thoroughbred racing covered a lot of bases: hotwalker, exercise rider, owner, trainer. She hosted Monmouth Park’s on-track handicapping show, served as editor of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association News and administered Turning for Home Inc., the aftercare program based at Parx Racing – then Philadelphia Park – in Bensalem, Pa.

But in 2012, Luna decided it was time to give back to the horses who had enriched her life for so many years. She bought a historic property in Appomattox, Va., and hung out her shingle as War Horses at Rose Bower, a retirement program for Thoroughbreds (primarily geldings) no younger than 7 years old who made at least 50 starts. While the ultimate goal, in most cases, is rehoming, Luna has ended up with some permanent residents with recognizable names.

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Hola C Bright

In the summer of 2009, Wendy Uzelac didn’t want to look at, think or hear about another horse. Still grieving the sudden loss of her off-the-track Thoroughbred in a paddock accident that March, she was nowhere near ready to even contemplate his successor.

Jaguar Hope stole the photographer’s heart when she first saw him running for a $4,000 claiming tag at Great Lakes Downs near Fruitport, Mich., in 2007. Then 9, the son of Turkoman was big, elegant, nearly black and, to Wendy, the very embodiment of the ideal Thoroughbred. Within a year, he was hers – but her happiness was all too brief.

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Bubble Economy

"Literally, he just walked out and I was like ‘DONE! I am in love with him!’ ”

You might automatically believe that the very newly married Mary McGlothlin was telling the tale of the first time she saw her husband, former professional polo player Darin Martin. You would be wrong. Rather, the object of her total devotion for the past 15 years has been the quirky bay gelding who became one of the most recognizable names in American steeplechasing – Bubble Economy.

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Chanceland Trio

These three are the retired herd. They spend their days grazing and chilling and just generally owning the place, as far as they’re concerned.”

The “place” is Bob Manfuso and Katy Voss’ Chanceland Farm, and “these three” are pensioners Grand Slalom, 28, Baste, 23, and Artist’s Way, 22. As Chanceland’s above-quoted broodmare manager, A.J. Hesketh-Tutton has looked after the trio she calls “a happy crew” for several years.

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Royal Champagne

The tale of Royal Champagne and Mary Dubbink begins on a very familiar note. Young, horse-crazy girl is taken to the track by her doting granddad, igniting a love of Thoroughbred racing that deepens and endures with each passing year. 

“But I never rode,” Mary explained. “I remember thinking when I was very young, one day I’d love to own a Thoroughbred. I didn’t know what that meant or where I was going with that, but I just fell in love with the breed.”

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Hirapour

Doug Fout was playing beat the clock. The Middleburg, Va.-based trainer was in England on a shopping trip for an owner – nothing unusual for Fout, who has ventured to Europe, South America and New Zealand to procure steeplechase horses. But in this case, the deadline allowed him just 24 hours to jump on a plane and decide on a horse he couldn’t see or sit on ahead of time. That, for Fout, was beyond his normal method of operation.  

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Azulyekit

The barter system. Most horsemen, at some point, have put it to use. And it came into play 15 years ago when transplanted Irishmen Robbie and Joe Walsh – no relation – shook hands over a foal who ran until age 11 and earned nearly a quarter-million dollars.

Jump jockeys by profession, Robbie was riding out and helping Joe, who was by then working for Annie Jones in Unionville, Pa. Joe had some stalls and paddocks at Jones’ farm and owned a few mares. In 2002, Joe sent Alejandra’s Love (by Lord Carlos) to the Foligno stallion Fleg, standing nearby at his friend Charlie Lyman Jr.’s Maui Meadow Farm in West Chester, Pa. 

An earner of $156,892, Fleg’s lone stakes win came in the race named for Lyman’s father, the General Charles B. Lyman Handicap at Philadelphia Park in 1995. Alejandra’s Love ran just twice, breaking her maiden in her first start and banking $6,780. On May 24, 2003, she foaled a gray colt Joe Walsh christened Azulyekit (As-you-like-it).

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Fencible

The year was 1972. Decades before the advent of the internet, 13-year old Stephanie Sires diligently scoured every available publication covering Thoroughbred racing for information about her favorite racehorse. Given that she grew up riding Quarter Horses on a farm just south of Akron, Ohio, all knowledge obtained came through a great deal of effort. But such was her devotion to a leggy bay colt named Riva Ridge.

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