Carterista loved Florida and loved to be first, so it was fitting that he was the first horse to arrive at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances Farm at the Lowell Correctional Facility near Ocala, FL, when it opened nearly 20 years ago. It was an important role, as this was the first time that the pioneering TRF Second Chances program was offered exclusively to female inmates.
At Lowell, Carterista was beloved as playing an integral role in the success of the TRF Second Chances Program, where he taught the women inmates lessons in responsibility and trust, as well as vocational training in equine care.
Monday, September 16, Carterista died at the age of 30. In her online tribute to Carterista, Tammy Gantt of the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association wrote: “Carter had passed away peacefully in his sleep in his paddock. That's the place he would have preferred … he was pretty happy these past few months with other old timers in his pasture on the hill. His paddock buddy, Frosty Gin, is [also] 30.”
Carterista's 102-race career produced a record of 27-13-13 and earnings of $753,599. A son of Dr. Carter, he faced the likes of turf stalwarts like Awad, Mecke, Fraise, Paradise Creek, Spectacular Tide, Royal Mountain Inn and The Vid and always distinguished himself for his tenacity.
“He was a 3-year-old maiden, really headstrong when I first got him, and he did not want to stand in the starting gate,” said trainer Ron Spatz, who managed most of Carterista's racing career. “We worked with him, got him some sharp works and tried him on the main track. When his race came up, he got in the middle, put himself in a safe spot and stayed there for the whole race. The next start, we put blinkers on him and stretched him out on the grass. Everybody liked his own horse in that race, but I was licking my chops. He led all the way at something like 99–1–and won! We ran him back in a race that came off the turf and that didn't do well, so from then on, he was strictly turf. He won at just about every distance on turf except a mile and a half. He was tough and wanted to do things his way, but he got better as he got older.”
Caterista and Spatz enjoyed a distinguished, if unpredictable partnership. That was evident when, after Carterista won the Lago Mar Handicap at Calder in 1993, he was sent to trainer Dave Monaci's barn. Monaci brought Carterista to Belmont Park in New York, where he caught a soft course and finished ninth in the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He followed that with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap.
Carterista was then sent back to Spatz and won three in a row at Calder, including a pair of Grade 3 scores in the Miami Breeder' Cup and the Tropical Turf Handicaps.
In all, Spatz would be fired three times by Carterista's owner, S.A. of South Florida, Inc., and Carterista would save his best races for his return to Florida.
Carterista raced from Christmas Day, 1991 to July 31, 1999. He joined the TRF herd at Lowell on January 10, 2001. Two years later, at the Calder Race Course 2003 Festival of the Sun, Carterista received a standing ovation when he came back onto the track.
“They set him up in a portable stall and they had bags of carrots for him,” Spatz said. “He loved carrots, carrot juice–and he was also a fruit eater. I brought a bag of carrots for him myself and had them in my pocket. When they brought him out to the winner's circle, he saw me and almost ran through my chest trying to get them.”
“At first, I wasn't too sure about a horse who had won all these races going to prison. But when I went to visit him and saw the TRF Second Chances program, he looked terrific and I knew he was in a good spot. He lived a long life; he did good for a lot of people and I am glad that he wound up with people who loved him. They did a really nice job of taking care of him.”
“Carterista will be dearly missed by all of us at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,” said Jennifer Stevens, Director of Development. “We are so fortunate to have had the honor of working with him all these years, he knew he was a superstar and will always be in our hearts.”
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