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.”
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