I can only write what I know. And what I know is that there are good people in this world. I know that decent human beings exist in the horse business. I have heard that there are bad guys out there, but none of them have directly interacted with me. Instead, I have been blessed to surround myself with the good guys.
Quiet, unassuming, not obsessed with the headlines or the fame, these people lie under the thousands of headlines that explode over social media about the break downs, the auctions, and the abuse. The few bad who overtake the good.
But they keep going. Put their head down and plug along, acknowledging that the change that they want the world to see in this industry must first start within their own land. In their own paddocks. In their own foaling stalls.
These small family farms, and the staff that occupy them, are the War Horses of our industry.
Like a true War Horse, these farms like Hinkle strive for the simplest of life’s goals: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They don’t complain. They don’t exert excess energy on anything but a smile. They put their head down, and go to work. Day in and day out.
Just like a horse that I know – Hazards of Love.
Years ago, I heard of this horse. This strapping four year old that was out there in the Universe running. We were selling his younger brother in the September sales, and a striking Malibu Moon colt himself, we were hoping that Hazards of Love would add a bump to his mom Spring Rush’s page. I added him to my Virtual Stable, praying to finally see him win a few, or enter a stakes, but he never really took off.
Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in this business of breeding, racing, and owning thoroughbreds – its that if wishes and prayers were nickles and dimes, we’d all be rich.
We sold the yearling, I left my position at Hinkle Farms to return to graduate school, and yet I could never forget about Hazards of Love. Because, although he wasn’t running in G1’s, he was running — and often. My phone would ping often with his name attached. And with each update, I would chuckle – acknowledging that he might not be running with the elite, he was certainly running fast. He almost never finished out of the top three, and just seemed to love his job. He eventually climbed up to the stakes level, and continued on his streak.
Years went by, and my interactions with the family and staff at Hinkle Farms were limited. That is, until I met Tom’s daughter, Anne Archer. We had met occasionally during my tenure on the farm, but had never become close. But one day at the sales, her father reintroduced us, and we began to talk. About life, about school, but mostly about horses. And she brought up this horse, Hazards of Love. This creature who had now run almost 50 times, and just never seemed to want to quit. She asked about the retraining that I had been doing with these ex-racehorses, and showed interest in getting her own. And I nodded my head and encouraged her, letting her know that if she ever got him, I would help. And with that, we became friends.
But we knew he was with the best. His owner, Maggi Moss had become an advocate for the sport, but more importantly an outspoken voice for the horse. And still, Anne Archer reached out to Maggi and let her know that if and when Hazards of Love decided that he was done running, he had a home at his birthplace. One where he could be ridden, used to pony yearlings, babysit weanlings, but most importantly, be treated as the royalty that we had all come to respect him as.
Race after race, year after year, it seemed like this horse would never walk off of the battlefield. A true War Horse to the bone, he continued to win, continued to run, and continued to come out of the races with a sparkle in his eye. And with each update, Anne Archer and I would share a text – acknowledging that this horse was a freak. The exact type of horse that as a breeder, you can only hope to produce.
And then Anne Archer got the call. Maggi thought that Hazards of Love was ready to retire. Within 24 hours, he was sent to Barn 4 of Hinkle Farms. Set on a hill overlooking the foaling barn where he entered this world, he was turned out where he could appraise his kingdom as was only appropriate. Sound. Happy. Still holding that sparkle in his eye.
Hazards of Love retired after 75 starts. Of those 75 starts, he won 26, and hit the board in another 30. He won over a half a million dollars, and was ranked 10th in the country by number of wins in 2013.
He did all of those things because he was surrounded by good people. A sane owner, a great trainer, good hands being ran down his legs, and soft hands on the reins. He did all of those things because of the time, effort, dedication, and knowledge that were put into his mating, his raising, his development.
But most importantly, he did all of those things because of heart. And now, that heart is returned to his kingdom.
Because his home of Hinkle Farm’s might now have G1 winning homebreds, and G1 winning mares. They might have sold million dollar yearlings, and produced runner that command the headlines. But now, now they have their own mascot. A being that symbolizes everything the farm stands for. Just like themselves, who are in it for the love of the sport, who puts their head down and goes to work — the War Horse. No champagne, no pewter, no chandeliers or fancy signs, just sheer heart.
The heart is here.
Welcome home, Hazards of Love.
ABSOLUTELY THE BEST READ TODAY WITH ALL THE NEGATIVES IN HORSE RACING, ETC. I wish him a long and happy retirement. He is just gorgeous!!!! Thank you for this post.
I have to comment. I discovered your blog by accident & immediately became addicted. I am just a trail rider, but I own an off the track thoroughbred. My first and so far my only horse. He’s the only reason I have an interest in thoroughbreds. Watching a race years ago I saw a horse break his leg & cried the rest of the day. I couldn’t watch horse racing anymore. I know there are up’s and down’s to every sport – I try to make it to the Rolex every year. Well, I was heart broken again when I heard 2 horses died at the Preakness. But since I’ve been reading your blog I couldn’t post anything more on Facebook than a tear drop. I know they didn’t die because of “the horrors” of horse racing or “mean & nasty” trainers. I didn’t chime in on some of the mean remarks. Thank you for educating me a bit on the horse racing world and also helping me discover some groups that rehome thoroughbreds. My guy turned 32 this year, looks great and is happily a retired barn bum. But you can believe that when it’s time, I will be looking for another thoroughbred to love & cherish!
Thank you Nancy! You can only imagine that the rest of us industry insiders also shed a tear on Preakness day-but we were educated enough to acknowledge that sometimes, these things happen. And we (equine scientists) are studying day in and day out to make bones stronger, footing safer, and tendons last longer. I’m glad my blog could bring some of this education into your life, and am so happy to hear about your boy! They impact our lives so strongly!
What an awesome story and one I hope many many people read. Thank you.
I read recently the advice to “learn from someone whose horses get old.” It seemed poignant, and in a way, similar to what you’re saying here. Welcome home Ody!
I am confused where you stated “Anne got the call…Maggi thought that HOL was ready to retire” – according to Equibase, HOL was claimed from Moss for 32K at Churchill Downs on April 30 of this year. In fact, he “lacked response”, “tired” and came in 18 lengths back. How could Moss offer him to Anne for retirement when she put him up for a claim, and he WAS claimed?
I am not sure if the specifics, but I do know that Maggi offered him a retirement after that race. Feel free to ask her for any other information, as, like stated, I am only indirectly involved in this entire story.
In addition to that-without knowing the entire story–what would you have rather her done? Run him again after tiring and finishing 18 lengths off? He said he didn’t want to run, which he had never done before. Therefore, he was retired. How that can be misconstrued negatively is just head scratching.
…and for those Racing Warriors (as we like to call them) that do not have a place to land at the end of it all, there is The Exceller Fund. https://youtu.be/mdUyuPvRo10
Thank you for the great article!
Awesome read!!! I got to meet this guy at Churchill Downs when he received therapy at the Equine Spa, we loved having him come down there he’s such a doll to be around! Glad to know he landed in a safe and loving forever home where his talent is appreciated.
Any plans for him to compete at the Retired Racehorse Project?
Not at the moment. He last raced just a month ago; so just letting him be a horse for a bit! Adventuring around the farm!
What a magical horse. And magical writing.
It’s just that I’ve seen you question the other “side”, stating they don’t have their facts right and don’t know what they’re talking about. And your story started out with “I can only write what I know”. But it appears you DON’T know. You ask what would I rather be done for HOL? That would be to not put a price tag on his head in that last race then claim she retired the horse. Because she didn’t – she sold him. Facts shouldn’t have to be misconstrued, either, to make a “good” story.
And after she sold HAD HIM CLAIMED, not sold him, she secured him back and then found him a loving home without requiring funds be given to her. That is what I know. Oh, and that there are only so many races that these horses are eligible for, and therefore horses who we do not want to be claimed are still claimed from us. Should she have entered him in a claiming race? That is between her, the trainer, and the track. But afterwards, she did everything she could to guarantee a soft landing. If you would like to further rant about your issues with this situation, please write your own blog and share it with the world. Put yourself and your thoughts out there. Please. I dare you.
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