There are a lot of moving parts, and a lot of people involved, in this story. To protect the guilty, I’m going to either change their names or not mention any of them at all. But I will start from the beginning.
In May of 2015 a friend of a friend, who was an assistant trainer at the Finger Lakes in NY, called me and asked if I were interested in doing a “split” on a two year old chestnut ridgling named Justenuffprada.
For those of you who don’t know what a “split” means, basically I buy the horse and the other guy feeds him, trains him and we split whatever money the horse wins.
The assistant trainer sent me two videos of the little ridgling on a lunge line. I kind of like what I saw as he trotted in a circle (twice) for a few minutes each time. I also notice a 8” “indentation” on his left side….an injury he suffered as a baby when he was kicked by another horse.
Since the asking price was small and the owners paper would be sent directly to me….I did it. I wrote a check, the papers came and the horse was picked up from a small town in upstate NY and sent to a farm just outside the Finger Lakes.
The plan for me and this assistant trainer was for him to break the horse, train him and have him ready to run by the fall either at the Finger Lakes, or if he had more talent than I thought, possibly Aqueduct in Queens, NY….but we had time to figure that out.
As the summer months rolled by, I spoke to this assistant trainer religiously usually by phone call and some times by text message and he said the colt was “doing fine”.
There were little hiccups along the way, and I stressed to this assistant trainer to “take your time” with him. I knew he didn’t need for me to tell him that but I wanted to reinforce the fact that I had patience, something that if you don’t have, you should NOT be in this game…..he agreed and told me as opposed to running him in the fall, it might spill over to the winter before he was ready. “No problem” was my reply….I mean, honestly….it didn’t matter….I wasn’t paying anything since my initial investment and we were going on 4 or 5 months of ownership.
When November (of 2015) rolled around I noticed that the phone calls and texts I was receiving from this assistant trainer began to slow down. By mid-November they stopped completely. I called and left several messages and sent several texts with no response….
On November 20th, I received a phone call from an upstate NY area code and though “oh, maybe he changed his number.” When I answered the phone that wasn’t the case….not by a long-shot (no pun intended).
It was actually the man who owned the farm that Justenuffprada was on. He introduced himself in a friendly manner but I sensed concern in his voice.
After we exchanged pleasantries I said “how can I help you sir?…or is there something wrong?”
He said “Yes, Gerard….I thought you should know that I haven’t seen your partner here in a few days. Your horse has been in fields without any food for a few days now. Do you know where he is?”
I said “no, I haven’t heard from him myself in a few days and was getting a little concerned”
“Well you should be” the farm owner replied. “Your horse hasn’t eaten in at least 3 days”
Even though my fury was gathering momentum, I calmly asked the farm owner “if you noticed that, why didn’t you feed the horse?”
“Because your partner hasn’t paid me stall rent for two months and I didn’t want to make his debt even more.” He replied.
“I understand that sir….but from this moment forward, please feed and water my horse for a few days.” I said. “I will pay you for that until I can figure out what to do”
“Why should I trust you?” the farm owner said. “Your partner is going to screw (he actually dropped the F word) me, how do I know you won’t?”
“You don’t sir….you don’t know that. But I am asking you to trust me even though you shouldn’t….please…you have my word, I will have the horse off your property and a check in your hand by next week”
Having no other choice, he reluctantly agreed to tend to the horse while I made other arrangements. After I hung up I looked to the skies and realized someone was watching over me to have this man agree to take care of ‘Prada even though he shouldn’t have.
Frantically, I started surfing the web and calling friends for a little help.
Finally, a friend suggested another friend who had a farm not that far from where the horse was now. In fact, she herself had horses on this other farm and was “very happy.”
So, on Thanksgiving night 2015, Justenuffprada boarded a van to another farm about 4 hours away. He arrived safely. I was on the Chesapeake Bay with my siblings for Thanksgiving but brought my checkbook with me. The minute I got the call that the horse was ok, I wrote a check for the full amount and sent it to the farm owner with a note that said “thank you sir…I appreciate you taking a chance on me”
He called me several days later to ask if the horse was ok and we still talk now and again to this day.
On my drive home from Maryland, I received another call.
This one was from a woman who said if you are looking for your assistant trainer friend, he went on a 7 day drug binge, wound up in the local hospital and when he got out he decided he need a “change” and took off to Florida to start a new life.
I thanked her for the call and continued driving home, shaking my head the whole ride.
Now a 100% owner of the horse, the folks at the new farm said they would have him ready for the track “in a few months, maybe by the spring.”
December (2015), January (2016), February, March, April and May all went by and all I heard was “nope, he’s not ready yet” and one excuse after another.
By July, I had enough….wanting him closer to where I live so I could keep my eye on him and although completely gun-shy of people, on the recommendation of the man who shipped my horse from upstate NY to the other farm, I decided to send him to Randy Rentz’s Farm in South Carolina.
About 3 weeks after I took him from the second NY farm, I received a Facebook message from an employee at the second farm stating “I know you don’t know me all that well but you made the right decision in taking your horse form this farm. He was standing in the fields doing nothing most days and he feeding regiment was “inconsistent at best”…I took it as he was being starved…again and I was right!
From day one, Randy Jr. was nothing short of amazing and I quickly picked up on and liked his take no prisoner’s attitude.
The horse arrived at Randy’s place, some 75-100 lbs under-weight, on July 29 with a promise from Randy of “I need 90 days Mr. Gerard”…
Randy’s dad (Randy Sr.) was top quarter horse jockey back in the 80’s so I could tell he was a horseman through and through and Randy Jr’s work ethic was amazing. The guy simply doesn’t run out of energy while Randy’s brother could (saddle) break any horse you put in front of him.
All three combined make one hell of a team and are clearly the sport of Horse Racing’s best kept secret.
I took the three hour drive and went to go see the horse several times and was pleased with his progress and pleased with the fact I could see him on a fairly regular basis.
On November 2nd, exactly 93 days from when I sent my horse to The Rentz Farm, Randy Jr. called me (as he did so often) and told me “Your horse is ready for the racetrack Mr. Gerard”.
He went on to tell me I should start at Penn National and suggested I used Bruce Kravetz as my trainer as the Rentz family had used him for 30 plus years.
I said one word to Randy Jr.…..I simply said “done.”
Randy Jr. arranged a van and off to Penn National he went.
Mr. Kravetz said he needed 90-120 days to have him “race ready” and after no less than eight published workouts, and logging lots of “miles” galloping, my horse is ready to run.
Only two problems remained…..one, I need silks and two, I HATED the name Justenuffprada.
After several drawing and sketches, I decided on all royal blue with just two white letters “GA” on the front and back.
It took me a while, and a lot of sleepless nights, to think of a new name.
I thought how do I describe this horse and all he’s been through? I kept thinking how tough he was and how he continued to be a nice horse through all that I put him through. (Yes, I take full responsibility for all his “issues”).
Then it hit me, although not popular with my friends and family, “Gerard’s Warrior”
I looked it up on the Jockey Club website and lo and behold the name was available. I paid the $125.00 to have his name officially changed.
So, on Friday, February 24, 2017 in the 7th race at Penn National, and some 21 months later, Gerard’s Warrior’s will finally load into the starting gate.
Now just one and a half days away from his first start, only two things remain…
One, I need to re-think who my friends are….you know? And two, is this the end of his journey? The beginning? Or a continuation?
Whether he wins or gets beat 100 lengths, at this point, has very little bearing. I’m proud of “G-Dub” (I nicknamed him GW….then changed that to a shorter “G-Dub”).
I mean after all, despite his owner and, at times, being left for dead by others, he’s made it into the starting gate which is something, for a while there, I never thought he would see.
Thanks for Reading….