When Southern California trainer Dan Blacker shipped his stable back from Del Mar to Santa Anita Park earlier this week, horses weren't the only four-legged animals in the van.
There was also a hand-me-down pygmy goat named for a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer and formerly owned by a Hall of Fame jockey turned trainer.
The goat's name is Chip, named for Bennie L. “Chip” Woolley Jr., who saddled Mine That Bird to a 50-1 shocker in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
Gary Stevens, the Hall of Fame jockey who trained Thoroughbreds in 2009-'10 during a five-year hiatus from riding, gave the tan-and-white critter a name that's stuck nearly 10 years through three different owners.
“My wife said, ‘You need a goat,'” Stevens recalled. “She found a long-haired pygmy and brought him to the track. Out jumps this little guy and he's all wooly. I looked at him and said, ‘That's Chip!'”
Chip was a calming influence around the horses in the Stevens barn.
“Goats are great with nervous horses,” Stevens said, “and Chip's got a great personality. He loves horses and loves people.”
Chip stayed with Stevens until he gave up his stable in early January 2010. Jamie Lloyd, a native of England, was in the same barn as Stevens at Santa Anita, and Stevens recommended to his owners that the horses be transferred to Lloyd.
Lloyd inherited Chip as well.
When Lloyd opted to return to England late in 2011 and focus on bloodstock work and pre-training at Far Westfield Farm in Warwickshire, he decided to pay it forward, recommending that several of his horses be transferred to fellow Englishman Blacker, who was just starting a public stable.
Blacker, who had worked as assistant to Tom Albertrani and Richard Mandella, didn't just get a few horses from Lloyd. He also got Chip.
Blacker had 17 Thoroughbreds at Del Mar this summer, along with 20 at Santa Anita and eight at San Luis Rey Downs. Visitors to his shedrow are greeted by Chip, who can often be seen resting on a bale of straw outside of the stall of an Irish-bred filly named Tonahutu.
The wooly goat brought some luck to Tonahutu, a runner-up early in the meet and an impressive allowance race winner on Del Mar's closing weekend.
Chip wasn't quite as much of a lucky charm for his previous pal, a recently retired mare appropriately enough named You're A Goat. She went winless with Chip outside of her stall.
Stevens, incidentally, did more for the young trainer than pass along a goat that would become a mainstay in the Blacker barn. Earlier this summer, the Hall of Fame jockey helped Blacker record his first stakes victory, guiding Double Touch to a narrow win at odds of 29-1 in the Wickerr Stakes on the turf July 22.
“Everybody knows Chip,” said Blacker, who admitted that he isn't all that fond of goats because they can get too attached to certain horses. When the horses leave, he said, the goats can get upset.
“If we moved Chip in front of another horse, he might freak,” said Alex Bisono, an assistant to Blacker who introduced us to Chip recently.
Bisono said groom Solomon Hernandez is particularly attached to Chip. “He gives him a bath and is around him all the time,” Bisono said.
“Everyone likes him and everyone feeds him,” Bisono added. Chip's pot belly attests to the fact that he does like to eat, whether he's sneaking hay from Tonahutu or getting his own meal.
“He especially likes salty snacks,” Bisono said.
Bisono introduced me to Chip at Del Mar, but the goat seemed to shy from the press, as the Tweet below shows.
— Ray Paulick (@raypaulick) September 1, 2018
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