We've all heard the sayings, “She's a horse person,” or “he's a dog person.” We align and label ourselves with our likes, interests and passions. This week's horse has done the same thing in his life, and if you ask anyone who knows him, they would tell you that Mr. Meso is definitely a “people horse.”
“First and foremost, this horse absolutely loves people,” said Mr. Meso's owner and trainer, Matthew Clarke. “He doesn't have a mean bone in his body.”
From all accounts, Mr. Meso has been like this his whole life, and just like a child who is the result of good parenting, credit has to be given to those who raised Meso.
Mr. Meso was bred by and for a number of years raced for Lloyd Lockhart's Cedar Lock Farm, winning a maiden special in his second start before going on to be a multiple stakes winner at two, and going on to win stakes the following year and several years after.
He was given time off when he needed it, but raced consistently, winning a mind-boggling 24 races in 68 starts. It was toward the end of his career that he left the Cedar Lock stable and was claimed by trainer and current owner, Matthew Clarke.
“I had an owner who was looking to claim a Mass-bred in the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010,” Clarke said. “I researched every Mass-bred that had been born in the last 10 years, and tried to find out where they were, if any of them were still running, and if they were going to be any good, and I came up with Mr. Meso.”
Meso had been away from the track for a six month layoff and had just popped back up on the worktab at Delaware Park. Shortly after, Clarke claimed him for $5,000, and promptly gave him several more months off due to the claiming rules at Delaware.
“On the sixty-first day after he was claimed, I ran him in the Rise Jim (Stakes) and he won,” said Clarke, “and then three weeks later he ran in the Last Dance, and he won that stake too. He was 10 then.”
Clarke gave Meso a well-deserved winter break after his dual stakes wins, but when he came back in the spring, his performances in his races were lackluster. At age 11, it was time for Meso to hang up his racing plates, while he could still do it on his terms.
Having retired sound and still eager to work and please anyone who showed him attention, his transition from one career to the next occurred in the span of one day.
“He went out and galloped as a racehorse on one day, and then the next day we put pony tack on him and Dylan (Clarke's son) just rode him around the backside,” explained Clarke. “They went out to the track, stood with the outrider, and just watched while the horses ran, and then they came back to the barn. Then Dylan took the horse out straightaway.”
Meso transitioned into his new role as track pony without skipping a beat, and is a favorite of everyone from fans and kids to track employees and riders.
“He has the unique ability to determine the ability of the rider on his back,” explained Clarke. “If you put Dylan on his back, he's quite spirited and a bit spunky. On the other hand, I can put my six-year-old on him and he walks around like an old pony and takes little baby steps. It's quite incredible.”
Clarke says without hesitation that Meso's ownership will not change hands from now on.
“He's a remarkable, wonderful horse, yes he is. He'll have a home with me for the rest of his life,” said Clarke.
Meso is just one of the many successful off-track Thoroughbred stories being promoted recently by Suffolk Downs. Lynn Snierson, who originally contacted the Paulick Report to suggest the story of Mr. Meso for the “OTTB Showcase,” recently wrote an article for the Daily Racing Form about the track's initiatives involving the post-racing lives of horses whose careers come to a close at Suffolk, which you can read here.
Sam Elliott, Suffolk Downs' Vice President of Racing, spoke to this fact and explained where the motivation to take an active role in the facilitation and promotion of racehorse repurposing comes from.
“A lot of horses end their careers here at Suffolk, more so than at bigger racetracks,” explained Elliott. “We have a racetrack owner who gets that, and who not only allows, but encourages us to be involved. Many of our employees are horse people not only professionally, but also personally. Everyone wants these horses to have a nice retirement, but you have to have financial backing. There's been financial backing here, we have someone on staff who handles safety compliance and assists with Thoroughbred retirement and re-homing, and that's an asset to trainers.”
Sam says that these efforts have resulted in horses often being retired from racing at Suffolk Downs one or two races earlier than they might have been otherwise, which protects their viability and productivity in their careers after racing.
“We as an industry are going to be judged on how we treat our horses,” said Elliott. “Their careers after racing is an important part of that equation.”
Name: Mr. Meso (a.k.a.”Meso”)
Born: April 29, 2000
Dam: Miss Lavish
Race Record: 68-24-8-5
Race Earnings: $467,510; 1st in the Last Dance S., Rise Jim S., Northamption S., Massachusetts Derby, Norman Hall S., Anthony Despirito S.; 2nd in the Littlebitlively S., John Kirby S.; 3rd in the John R. Macomber 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 is the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She also handles the farm's Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns two retired Thoroughbreds: Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011 and is just starting back under saddle to find his forte as a riding horse, and Shotgun Shine (by Tale of the Cat, a.k.a. Gage), who is in training as a hunter/jumper. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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