“Cowboys like us sure do have fun,
“Racin' the wind, chasin' the sun,
“Take the long way around back to square one.”
The juvenile filly Cowgirls Like Us demonstrated her continuing dominance with a 3 ¼-length win in Sunday's $100,000 Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park, marking her third stakes victory in a row. For general manager Ken Carson, the win was, in a way, reminiscent of Texas-based Valor Farm's earliest days in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
“I was just tickled to death,” Carson said. “It's extra special that this filly is winning for Douglas (the son of the late Scharbauer couple).”
Dorothy Scharbauer was the first to pass, followed by her husband Clarence in 2014. Originally the youngest son, Clarence III, had intended to take over the family farm, but it was the middle son Douglas whose passion won out over his other three siblings. He bought them out and in the past four years has followed in the footsteps of his parents with G3 winner He's Comin In Hot and five-time stakes winner More Than Most, along with Cowgirls Like Us.
“We were like family; the boys were all young when we met. (Douglas) loves the business,” said Carson when the younger Scharbauer took over. “He loves the farm, and so it's just going to roll right on.”
Back at the beginning of Valor Farm, Dorothy Scharbauer watched her father, Fred Turner Jr., win the 1959 Kentucky Derby with a colt named Tomy Lee. By 1984, Scharbauer and her husband Clarence began making the transition from Quarter Horses to purchasing Thoroughbreds, seeking their own set of roses.
The very next year, with Carson's help, the Scharbauers purchased a bay son of Alydar from breeder and friend Preston Madden for $500,000 at the Keeneland July sale. Alysheba later rewarded his connections with wins in the 1987 Derby and Preakness and in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic; in 1993, Alysheba was voted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
Alysheba's full sister commanded $950,000 from the Scharbauers at the 1990 July sale. Named Alysbelle, she ran out over $350,000 in earnings on the track, but her value increased exponentially in the breeding shed. In fact, Alysbelle is the great-granddam of Cowgirls Like Us.
“As soon as the book came out for that sale, there was no doubt in my mind that we would own that filly,” Carson said. “We'd seen her at Hamburg Place… She was a good racehorse, but she's been an absolute blue hen for us; she set us up for years.”
The first generation of offspring from Alysbelle was highlighted by Matikane Kinnohosi, a dual Group 2 winner in Japan, and six-figure earner Golden Spur. One of the blue hen's unraced daughters, a 2004 daughter of Elusive Quality, Carson named Better Than Most as both a play on the name of her sire and in homage to the Hank Locklin country song. The mare had a big OCD in her stifle which precluded a racing career, but her daughters have shown her own talent in the breeding shed.
Four of the offspring of Better Than Most exceeded six figures in earnings, including daughter Nothinbettertodo (Gold Legend), named by a family friend for a song by LeAnn Rimes.
Her best daughter yet is Cowgirls Like Us (George Strait, “Cowboys Like Us”), but the 2015 filly Howboutthiscowgirl (George Strait, “How 'Bout Them Cowgirls”) has a pair of stakes wins as a juvenile lighting up her resume. Both fillies are by the Valor stallion My Golden Song, though Cowgirls Like Us was foaled in Kentucky as part of Valor Farm's new extension of broodmares to Hidden Brook Farm.
“It helps with the naming to stay in a vein, to keep track of which line the foals are stemming from,” said Carson, explaining the George Strait song theme. “It's always better if a good horse has a good name, but then again, a bad name doesn't matter once the horse is a runner.”
For Carson, the bloodline's success has been a continuation of the work he began with his mentor, Dr. Nat Kieffer, with whom Carson earned his master's degree at Texas A&M. The Texas native grew up attending the brush tracks in and around San Antonio and has been hooked on racing of all kinds since at least the sixth grade.
After his education, Carson's knowledge of pedigrees landed him at the Thoroughbred Record for five years, and he later helped start the Texas-based Thoroughbred edition of Track Magazine when returning home to Fort Worth. He also spent five years at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.
These days Carson and Scharbauer are focusing on both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, the latter foaled out of Thoroughbred mares. This year, Valor Farm sent out a trio of juvenile Quarter Horses in the trials for the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. Two of those won their trials, but after facing fluctuating weather conditions their completion times were not fast enough to make the Futurity's final round.
As for Cowgirls Like Us, she'll be aimed at the Silverbulletday Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Jan. 19, a race which offers 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
“I live on a hill, and I'm lucky to watch the sun rise and set over the farm every day,” Carson surmised. “I love it here, just like I have for the past 20-something years.”
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