The smallish April 2007 foal with scrapes on his back legs and splints on his front legs was purchased for only $800 at the annual Manitoba yearling sale last year. He has now been magically transformed into a Black Beauty of sorts. From only three starts as a two-year-old, he has a win in the $40,000 CTHS Sales Stakes to go with a second and a fourth, for earnings of $26,410.
Sleek, black and bubbly would probably best describe Applicant now. Trained by veteran horsewoman Lorna Gray, he appears to be thoroughly enjoying his new career as a racehorse for owners Right Attitude and partners. And that's the way it should be. Racehorses should love what they do. This one does. The light has gone on. He gets it.
Applicant's owners include some of the pillars of the horse-racing industry in Manitoba, with names such as Harvey Warner, Barry Anderson, Wayne Anderson, Don Bell, Bob Crockett and Scott Anderson backing him. According to Barry Anderson, Scott Anderson was the member of the partnership who found that piece of paper at Del Mar that mentioned a hot sire named Where's The Ring -- and remembered it at the 2008 Manitoba Yearling Sale.
Applicant was listed in the sales catalogue as Hip No. 21, a dark bay or brown gelding by Where's The Ring-Rondinella by War Deputy. The sire was hot and the dam hailed from one of Manitoba's top-producing female families with nine stakes horses. Consigned by Lorna Short, Applicant should have brought more than $800, especially with a pedigree that included not only a hot sire but also a cross that featured some of the classiest and gamest thoroughbreds in history, Seeking the Gold and Deputy Minister.
Amazingly, these kinds of bargains walk around in front of viewers every year at the sale. But even if someone does spot them, they still need intelligent handling to bring out the best in them. Beautifully groomed by 25-year veteran Wes Jaman and exercised by Larry Hulobow, Applicant was taken through his early paces as a youngster by Curtis Maxwell and Russ Combs under Lorna Gray's supervision.
Gray certainly has the experience to bring out the best in her horses. She started out walking horses at Polo Park in the 1950s, was among nine finalists for the Canadian Olympic Equestrian Team before getting injured as a teenager, and worked side by side with one of the most respected trainers in Assiniboia Downs history, the late Don Gray, for more than 20 years as his wife and assistant before venturing out on her own to train winners and stakes winners.
"Lorna is never hard on her horses," said Applicant partner and Manitoba Jockey Club president Harvey Warner, who is always active along with his group in purchasing numerous yearlings at the sale.
Forty-five mostly rambunctious yearlings have been entered in this year's sale, which takes place on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Assiniboia Downs grandstand, and according CTHS vice -president Sandy Lepard, the quality of the yearlings is much higher than usual.
"This is the best group of yearlings we've had in a long time," Lepard said. "The breeders have really stepped it up this year. They've travelled to Ontario, Kentucky and other major sales and upgraded the quality of their mares. We've got some leading sires such as Where's the Ring and Candy Ride, along with some excellent Manitoba sires whose yearlings are eligible for the lucrative Manitoba Sires Stakes programs."
If you're attending the sale, look for good confirmation and a decent pedigree, a shiny coat and a smooth stride, some spark in the walk and a twinkle in the eye. Of course, more than one yearling has been bought simply because it tugged at the heartstrings.
Or fell out of a program at Del Mar.