Friday, October 23, 2009

Seven reasons to celebrate

Tomorrow's eighth race at Woodbine marks the career debut of All Sevens, a three-year-old filly owned and bred by Gus Schickedanz and trained by Mike Keogh (and raised at Schonberg Farm!) At first glance, "Sevens" is as ordinary as they come: a plain bay with a hint of a white star, she isn't the first to catch your eye. Her features seem exaggerated: her head is a little too large for her body, her eyes a little too big and wide set for her head. Her jaw appears to be stolen from a larger creature, her bottom lip flapping lazily as she beckons you her way. Her legs are not those of a runway model; her walk is more reminiscent of a thug than the lady athlete that she is. Despite these imperfections, however, Sevens is the most impeccably bred horse in the barn. By leading sire A.P. Indy, Sevens is the first foal out of the stakes winning mare Six Sexy Sisters. Sevens' second dam is Kathie's Colleen, 2008 Canadian Broodmare of the Year. In addition to Six Sexy Sisters, Kathie has produced Wando, 2003 Canadian Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner, and stakes placed multiple winner Half Sister.

It is not Sevens' attractive pedigree, however, that melts my heart. Here are the reasons I will be celebrating tomorrow when Sevens enters the paddock for her first race:

1. I recall December 2005, roughly a month before Sevens was born. I spoke with Lauri on the phone about 7 p.m. one evening. He was in the barn keeping an eye on Six Sexy Sisters, and said he hadn't been this nervous for a foaling in a long time. An A.P. Indy was a big deal for us, and the first foal out a young, beautifully-bred mare was sure to be special.

2. Despite my efforts to attend the foaling, the first time I saw Sevens she was already a week old. While most foals typically scatter and hide behind their dams at the sight of a stranger, Sevens was at the stall door before I could open it, ready to inspect me. I could tell right away our friendship would be a happy one.

3. As I mentioned previously, Sevens was born with a contracted hind tendon. Most of my night watch shift that first night was spent sitting in the stall with Sevens, flexing her ankle as she snored in the straw. By morning, the end result of the farm staff's efforts the entire week, Sevens was standing with her hoof placed solidly on the ground. Some white-haired scarring is the only evidence that remains.

4. The spring that Sevens became a yearling, I visited Gus's farm in South Carolina. The filly had a rather clumsy walk as a foal, and Lauri wanted to know how she was doing. I wanted to take a video to bring back for him, and headed out to the field to find Sevens sprawled in the grass, the rest of the fillies grazing around her. In all my efforts to make her stand, none prevailed. I poked, pulled, proded, sat on her. My mom worried there was something wrong with her. I said nope, that's Sevens.

5. Sevens' magnetic personally stuck with her throughout her first year of life, and working with her as a yearling was a treat. I clearly remember the day, however, that she turned on me. Thinking this sweet little darling would surely let me pull her mane, I armed myself with the pulling comb and gave a good hard yank on her hair. Sevens was quick to let me know she liked her hair the way it was with flying feet and snapping teeth. I decided to leave her mane just like Sevens herself: tame enough, but a little frizzy and rough around the edges.

6. Tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of the death of my dear friend Ruth Young. I started working with Thoroughbreds for Ruth when I was 15, and she believed in me so much. Even after she closed her farm, she came to the races whenever she could to watch our horses and to say hi to me. She pushed my journalistic aspirations, and would be thrilled to know that I will be completing my dream internship at The Blood-Horse. For Ruth, I hope that Sevens can make us all proud, because still to this day I know she doesn't miss one of our races.

7. My final reason is another wish from above. Last week, Sevens' two-year-old half sister, Dixie Gal, was euthanized after fracturing her pelvis during training, merely two days prior to her first scheduled start. Dixie Gal was so different from her sister in every possible way, but equally as loved, and for her, I hope Sevens can do this wonderful family's name proud.

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