Cosequin presents OTTB Showcase: Becrux Stays Young in Second Career

by | 12.10.2014 | 12:35pm
Becrux earned over $1.1 million in a 44-start career
Becrux earned over $1.1 million in a 44-start career

Becrux is nothing if not a world traveler. Born and raised in Italy, he literally and figuratively hit the ground running, winning his first four outings in his homeland to earn top honors as Italy's Champion Two-Year-Old of 2004. He then went to Dubai and won, then to America and won, onto Canada – and won, and then for good measure, he came back to America and won some more.

But Becrux is so much more than just a worldly racehorse. He was a stocky, gritty runner who gave Team Valor investors thrills again and again. That's why when the horse's form began to wane, managing partner Barry Irwin dug into his own pockets to purchase the horse outright and retire him to a slower pace of life.

“Becrux was originally brought to my attention by a friend who is an English bloodstock agent,” said Irwin. “He was in Italy running on grass. I watched his replays and loved how he moved and thought ‘This horse looks like he has a shot to run on the dirt.'”


The plan was to purchase Becrux and send him to South African trainer Mike de Kock. De Kock ran the horse that year in Dubai, where he ran poorly in a pair of group stakes but won a conditions race by daylight and then some.

“Those races at Nad Al Sheba were on the dirt, and I remember Mike telling me, ‘This horse isn't all you think he is,'” said Irwin. “Mike just wasn't overly impressed with him.”

So, with that, Becrux was imported to the United States at the conclusion of the Nad Al Sheba meet and placed with trainer Neil Drysdale. The colt was muscular and Irwin noted that he was getting quite thick in the neck, much like a stallion.

“Even though he was a champion and a stakes winner overseas, he didn't have the bloodlines to be of great value as a stallion in a major breeding market. I made the decision to geld him to help keep him from getting too heavy and hard on himself. It was a good decision. He went on to be a Grade 1 winner and millionaire.”

Becrux seen here winning the 2006 Woodbine Mile under Patrick Valenzuela

Becrux seen here winning the 2006 G1 Woodbine Mile under Patrick Valenzuela

Becrux ran for Team Valor and partner Gary Barber year after year, racking up wins and placings all over the country. Toward the end of his seven-year-old year, the gelding started showing signs of his age and was struggling to remain competitive with his peers.

“Becrux had done so much for us, and even as he got older, he was still consistently running speed figures in the 90s, which is very impressive,” said Irwin. “He had been in our stable for years. Rather than dropping him down for claiming tags, we wanted to do right by him and give him a dignified retirement and a chance at success after the racetrack.”

So, at age eight, Becrux retired from the racetrack and was given some down time at Margaux Farm.  After a few months of enjoying the retired life, Becrux began subtly, and then less subtly, letting everyone around him know he was growing bored with paddock life, so Irwin suggested looking into making him a stable pony.

“He was always a strong, steady horse on the track. He was always competitive and enjoyed being involved in the action, whether on the track or in the barn,” Irwin said. “He was nine or ten-years-old but looked like a four or five-year-old.”

Irwin asked around about making him into a stable pony and eventually found a gentleman who repurposed retired racehorses into track ponies.

“I asked [former Margaux Farm owner] Steve Johnson to help me find someone who could retrain horses, and he suggested Bill Streaker,” said Irwin. “Bill came out to take a look at Becrux and went into the stall with him. After two hours, he came out and said, ‘Yes, I can work with this horse.'”

Becrux ponies for a horse wearing blinkers for the first time

Becrux ponies for a horse wearing blinkers for the first time

Streaker said he needed about four months to retrain Becrux. At the conclusion of four months, he told Irwin the horse needed more time.

Once Becrux was ready, though, was he ever! He was sent to Fair Hill, the home base for many of Team Valor's horses and learned the ways of the racetrack in the picturesque Maryland setting.

Becrux remained at Fair Hill for several years, enjoying his job and doing it well. This year, at now nearly 13 years old, Becrux has been transferred to Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky., where the work would be a step less demanding.

“Becrux is great. I'm looking right at him bringing back the last set,” said Margaux trainer Kevin Notlemeyer when I called to inquire about Becrux. “When we start the babies under saddle, we like a seasoned pro like Becrux to go out and jog in front of them so he can lead and they can follow.”

At Margaux, Becrux shares a paddock with four other geldings and stays out about 15 hours a day. He comes in each morning to eat, get fed, and get to work, going out with three or four sets of horses each day.

Becrux gets plenty of outside time these days

Becrux gets plenty of outside time these days

“He loves his outside time, so we try to keep him turned out as much as possible,” said Notlemeyer. “He's a huge help with the younger ones, though. This year he helped with re-breaking a two-year-old that, due to a setback, wasn't on the same training timeline as the rest of the horses his age. In his last set today, he went out and jogged with a horse we tried blinkers on for the first time.”

Still owned by Team Valor, the plan for Becrux is to remain at Margaux and work as a track pony for as long as he seems to enjoy the job. When the time comes to retire him, Irwin says he'll remain at the farm and hopefully enjoy a long, happy retirement.

“Way back when, I dated a girl who had a track pony that was 25-years-old. He loved his job and in a way it seemed to keep him young. As long as Becrux can do something worthwhile, he'll get to. Once he's all done with it, we'll make sure he never wants for anything.”

THE DEETS:
Name: Becrux
Born: January 28, 2002
Color: Bay
Sire: Glen Jordan
Dam: Rebecca Parisi
Sale History:  none
Race Record: 44-10-4-9
Race Earnings: $1,170,121 (Won – Woodbine Mile (G1), Wickerr H. (twice), Oceanside S. Premio del Dado (in Milan); 2nd – Play the King S. (G2), Del Mar Mile H. (G2), Wickerr S.; 3rd – Citation H. (G1), Morvich H. (G3), Sir Beaufort S., Bien Bien S.

If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.

Jen Roytz was the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days.

Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Geri10718

    Thank you for taking care of him, Barry. I love that horse.

  • Boknows

    Such a Great ending for a horse that did so much for his connection! Great Story as well. God Bless Barry Irwin for doing right by his horse!! God will Truly Bless him..

  • Betsy Bxter

    Jen, thanks so much for this great story. I followed Becrux through his entire U.S. career; loved him because he was always such a tryer. I’m happy to know he’s back home in the Bluegrass and maybe I’ll even get to meet him one day.

  • betterthannothing

    Fantastic story! Thank you Team Valor, Jen and all.

  • Marlaine Meeker

    Thank you Mr. Irwin for this and the many other things you are trying to get done.

  • Gaye Goodwin

    Hey, Repole, maybe you need to read what the class of the industry does…

  • 4Bellwether666

    It’s called doing it the right way for a ‘Old Warrior’ and a true ‘Breadwinner’!!!…Barry Irwin has some serious class folks…Period…Gotta love this Horse and the story that comes with him…ty…

  • SusanKayne

    What a refreshing story <3. Thanks Barry!!!!!

  • Rachel

    No horse deserves to be “dropped” into the claiming ranks after earning all they can at the higher level and then get passed around just so they can earn a few more dollars until they can’t run anymore.
    All race horses at all levels deserve to have an ethical retirement from racing.

  • Mimi H

    Thank you, Jen. That’s a beautiful story. And THANKS to all the connections who made it happen and continue to happen.

  • paintaloosa

    When he was at Fair Hill, his barn name somehow became ‘Bryan!’ He was a cool pony, though once in a while he was sure to remind his riders he was still all racehorse at heart! It’s great to see an update on him.

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