Last week we brought you the story of Good Credentials, the horse who after nearly a five-year layoff was put back into training and raced twice at Hazel Park in Michigan before being claimed by 12-year-old Fredrick Spanabel to be retired.
The story garnered much attention, with people commenting on social media, via email and on the Paulick Report. Many of the questions people had involved the horse's previous owners and how this could have happened.
In researching last week's story, I had attempted to connect with Good Credential's previous owner, even speaking with several racing offices and a former trainer but was unsuccessful in finding contact information for her.
Then, in the evening on July 15, I received an email from a name that I immediately recognized – Dawn Scott, who owned Good Credentials in 2010 and 2011 before his nearly-five year hiatus from racing. The email was simple:
Hello, my name is Dawn Scott, previous owner of Goody. I would love to see him if I'm allowed. We did retire him in 2011 and my niece sold him with papers. I was very upset to hear he was racing again.
The closing included Dawn's phone number.
“I cried when I heard he was coming back,” Dawn said, her voice shaking with emotion almost immediately after I introduced myself to her. “We did not want this horse to be back at the track. We retired him not because he was hurt but because we felt he had done enough and deserved a great life as a show horse or riding horse. I thought that was what we had given him.”
Dawn and her longtime partner, Al Talley, are career racetrackers. Dawn and Al had worked for the stable that owned Good Credentials, Dawn as a hot walker and Al as an exercise rider.
“The trainer was looking to get rid of a few horses and asked if we wanted him,” said Al. “We had been around racehorses our whole lives but had never owned one, and Good Credentials was such a barn favorite – just great to be around – so we talked about it and decided to take him on, along with one other horse.”
Dawn and Al told story after story about “Goody,” as he was known around the barn. Dawn explained that his favorite treats were pears and that when you gave him a peppermint he would suck on it rather than crunching it up like most horses – something his new connections told me they had noticed the evening they claimed him.
“He was like a cow pony most days, except for on race day. That day he'd be all business,” said Al. “I rode him every day and he was such a card. I don't push horses – I just let them do their thing. He loved to just stand and watch horses train, and when he was ready we'd go for a gallop. He was strong, but not overly so. He just liked to be out there and train.”
Al recounted one day he even pulled up a loose horse on Goody, which he said didn't rattle him in the least.
“We were galloping along and I don't know if the horse spooked or a piece of tack broke, but the rider came off of a horse up ahead of us,” recalled Al. “That can be pretty dangerous for all of the horses and riders out there when a loose horse is running around on the track, so I brought Goody up alongside of the horse, grabbed his rein, and together Goody and I pulled him up with us nice and slowly.”
Dawn and Al raced Goody through 2010 and 2011. They got their first win as racehorse owners with him, adding another special dimension to the relationship they had with Goody. As they spoke of their fondness of the horse, it was reminiscent of someone talking about a beloved pet, and friend.
“We were fortunate. Having the two horses wasn't about making money or making a name for ourselves. We'd always been in racing and always loved it and loved the horses, and we wanted to experience being on the other side of it as owners,” said Al. “Even though they were running on the bottom, they paid their way and gave us a lot of fun times, and we spared no expense on them. Goody was checked over by our vet after every race from his ears to his toes. He always came back clean and sound with cold legs and a good attitude – didn't have any injuries.”
As the end of the 2011 Thistledown meet drew near, the couple had several discussions about retiring their charge. While he seemed to still love training and was the same old character he'd always been around the barn, he just didn't seem to have any interest in competing during races anymore.
They contemplated their options as to what would be best for their prized horse and had the representative from the Ohio chapter of CANTER come to look at him.
“I just felt in my heart he didn't want to race anymore, and Dawn did too,” said Al. “The girl from CANTER loved him. I showed her you could do anything with him – go under his belly and between his legs, rub all over him, walk him with the lead just thrown over your shoulder. He just loves people.”
The couple eventually decided to give Goody to Dawn's niece, a hunter/jumper rider who trains out of her family's riding and show stable in Michigan.
“We thought being a riding horse and going to shows would be a great life for him,” said Dawn. “The first year he was off of the track a girl who had been riding him at my niece's stable competed with him at shows. They won a load of ribbons together in jumping classes and whatnot. I was so happy to see him loving his life after racing.”
That girl fell in love with Goody and eventually worked out an agreement with Dawn's niece to purchase him.
“I'd given my niece the papers, and when she told me she was going to sell him, I mentioned to her to write “Not For Racing” on the back of the papers,” said Dawn. “She must have forgotten. I'm not blaming her at all. I should have written it on there myself. She's not a Thoroughbred or racing person and was selling him to someone who wanted him as a show horse. I imagine the chance of what happened happening wouldn't even have occurred to her.”
Dawn and Al are not sure how many more times Goody changed hands over the next few years. All they knew was that nearly five years after they had retired him from racing, his name showed up on the Hazel Park work tab, and soon after on the entries for a $4,000 claiming race.
“I asked a friend about his new connections when I found out he was back in training. She said they seemed very nice who cared about their horses a lot,” said Dawn. “I just don't understand why you would take a horse who'd been off the track for five years and try racing him again. I think it's wrong, but he wasn't my horse anymore, so there was nothing I could do.”
Al agreed and chimed in, “It's not the age of Goody that bothered me. Horses his age and older race – and win – all the time, especially at the smaller tracks. It was that he had been out of training for so long and then brought back. I have been in this game my whole life and all over the country, and I've never heard of a horse being brought back after five years.”
Asked if they would have done anything differently, Dawn and Al had the same reaction. They would have written Not For Racing on the back of Goody's papers before allowing him to leave their care.
“Horses move from meet to meet, track to track and the papers go from one racing office to the next. It's so easy to lose track of them or forget to sign them when a horse gets retired,” said Al. “I wish there was a more mandatory formal protocol for retiring a horse on paper.”
Today, The Jockey Club also has its “Sold as Retired from Racing” form (read more about it here), which formally registers a horse as “retired” in The Jockey Club database, preventing the animal from ever being entered in a race again. The form and protocol were not in existence when Good Credentials was retired.
Dawn and Al said they are immensely thankful to 12-year-old Frederick Spanabel for claiming their former racehorse and equine friend, and are looking forward to paying his family and Goody a visit in the near future.
“I just want Goody to have a great life. We're so thankful to everyone involved in getting back to retirement.,” said Dawn. “I want to get a copy of Goody's last win photo and give it to Fredrick when we meet him, and I can't wait to see Goody again.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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