Barn Buddies: Moquett’s Mousers

by | 10.28.2016 | 6:02pm
Lucky outside the Moquett barn (Courtesy Ron Moquett)
Lucky outside the Moquett barn (Courtesy Ron Moquett)

Ron Moquett is one of many trainers who employs a ‘natural approach' to pest control in his barns at Churchill Downs. As demonstrated by Moquett Racing's presence on Facebook and Twitter, barn cats are important employees in the shed row. Moquett posted a video earlier this year showing one barn cat keeping graded stakes winner Far Right's bedding warm while the ridgling was out of the stall training.

It's possible Moquett's cats are a bit more spoiled than most, however: he says his Churchill barn includes a tiny cat ladder to allow the cats safe access in and out of the hayloft, where they like to hang out.

Although their presence at the barn is based on practicality, the multiple graded stakes-winning trainer admits he's not above getting attached to them.

Back in his early training days at Oaklawn Park, Moquett happened across a stable worker trying to throw something fluffy and white onto the roof of one of the barns. Moquett realized the small object was a kitten.

“I said, ‘Dude, don't throw that cat,' and he said, ‘Oh, what're you going to do? It ain't your cat, mind your own business,'” Moquett remembered. “I said, ‘I'll buy the cat off you. I'm not even a cat guy, but I don't want to watch you throw a cat on the roof.' I gave the guy $30 and I took the cat and she came back with me.”

The cat, appropriately named Lucky, lived with Moquett, traveling from barn to barn for a remarkable 19 years, an impressive record for an outdoor cat facing challenges from all manner of other animals, people, and machinery. Lucky particularly enjoyed perching in the boughs of a tree near Moquett's barn at Keeneland, watching horses and people go by. In her lifetime, Lucky tallied more miles than most peoples' vehicles.

“She moved with us everywhere we moved. Iowa, Texas, Keeneland, Churchill, Ellis, Oaklawn, Delaware,” said Moquett.

Lucky died two years ago, but Moquett now has a team of three barn cats monitoring horse and rodent activity: Likey (who doesn't like to be touched outside of the occasional belly rub), Chilly (Likey's brother), and Redbox (who was discovered behind a Redbox video rental machine on Christmas morning, sporting a serious wound). Now healed and happy, Redbox considers himself a personal security detail to Far Right and several other horses in Moquett's string (see video below).

“[Far Right] leaves, and he'll go in there and check it out, and you've got to be careful, because he could get walked on,” said Moquett. “He thinks that he runs the show.”

So, given his long history with cats, does Moquett get jokes from others on the backside about being a “crazy cat guy”?

“No, not really,” he said. “Everybody back there has one or two of them.”

  • Kellye Pikul

    Great story about saving Lucky. It shows what a kind heart Mr. Moquett has and that makes me admire him even more.

  • Ida Lee

    What a wonderful story ….loved it. Of course, I would being 1 cat away from being the neighborhood “crazy cat Lady”, ‘P.S. My fuzzy babies are so spoiled they would faint if they saw a mouse.

    • Rideonruffian

      I’ve got three.

      • Ida Lee

        My Motto: You can never have enough shoes or cats …..

        • Rideonruffian

          Cats are like Lay’s chips; you can’t have just one.

    • DawnP

      Not spoiled-much loved.

  • Rideonruffian

    What a good man for rescuing Lucky. Love the picture of her. “Redbox” is definitely a unique name.

  • Marilyn Shively

    who throw’s a cat on a roof for God’s sake? how awful- an otherwise great story and the cat lived 19 years

    • DawnP

      Contrary to what the punk said, cruelty to humans and/or animals is everyone’s business.

  • Maribeth Kalinich

    What a lovely story. The barn cat is just as important to the backstretch as any worker. Native Dancer, not the most friendly with people, had his pet barn cats, Mom and Black Cat. I love that story. When I went to Sagamore as an 8YO to meet the Dancer I took him an apple but I realize I should have taken him a kitten.

  • OopsyDaisy3

    Great human Moquett is as most men are like the man who threw the kitten on the roof!
    Didn’t start out in life with cats, because my dad had dogs. Moral of this story, if something
    needs food they find me. And never leave. And they bring friends. And Ida, i knew we had
    a common thread with the things we appreciate. I am one of the cat ladies in my town, feed about
    60 a day, 20 are on my place. The others are in hiding places in plain sight! And the raccoons
    benefit also. Nice story about Moquett and his barn fur babies. I never met an animal i didn’t like, except snakes. And the cats take care of those.

  • nicehorsey

    Well fed and cared for cats are a necessity for our farm. Beautiful to see and a rodent free barn. All “fixed”. The drop offs and ferals that come here are trapped, neutered, vaccinated and released. Always have kitty kibble for them. We find them invaluable.

  • Audrey Gulla

    Another wonderful story. I too have loved & owned(HA!) cats for 50+ years. I live in a130 year old house whose construction lends itself to critter invasion. My cats ( sister & brother & 16 ) are excellent mousers. My only complaint is when they finish off & eat their kill while underneath my recliner while I’m ‘trying’ to watch tv!!

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