Two Notch Road had won three of 11 races and close to a quarter of a million dollars in purse earnings through his 3-year-old campaign when trainer Glenn Thompson was offered nearly twice his bankroll for a horse he had purchased as a yearling for a mere $2,500.
He said no.
A bowed tendon later that season put Two Notch Road on the bench for nearly 2 ½ years, returning in the spring of 2013. During that absence, Thompson endured his share of criticism for bypassing the kind of financial windfall that smaller stables rarely enjoy.
But Two Notch Road has rewarded his trainer's faith and patience. Still going strong at the age of 11, the Partner's Hero gelding has won five stakes, placed in three graded-stakes and earned $522,163 in purses heading into his latest assignment, the $75,000 White Oak Farm Stakes Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 5 ½-furlong White Oak Farm, restricted to Virginia-bred/sired horses 3 and up, will be the 41st career start and 25th in a stakes for Two Notch Road, who Thompson also co-owns with breeder James Hackman. Two Notch Road drew Post 6 of nine and will be ridden by Alex Cintron.
“When he was 3, I was offered $400,000 for him and I turned it down. A lot of my friends and surrounding people were calling me an idiot for turning down that money. Then right after I turned it down, he bowed his tendon, so they got some confirmation for a little while that I was an idiot,” Thompson said. “But, he's earned over a half-million dollars the hard way and it's been more fun for me than you can imagine. I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had with him for just about anything. I've had a great time with him.
“I'm not big on money. As long as I can feed my horses and I can eat, I'm ok,” he added. “I'm glad I turned down the money and I'm glad I got to experience life with Two Notch Road. He's something special.”
Thompson has trained Two Notch Road for his entire career, going back to his May 22, 2009. He continues to marvel at the energy and enthusiasm his stable star displays on a daily basis.
“He is probably the most animated horse I have in the barn, said Thompson of Two Notch Road, who broke his maiden in the Continental Stakes at Monmouth in August of 2009. “When we take him up to the track and train, he walks up there as quiet and as calm as can be and he'll stand there for five minutes or however long you want him to. But after he trains, I hold my breath to get him back to the barn. I really do. He's 11 but honestly he acts like a 2- or 3-year-old sometimes.
“He's just kind of amazing. I wish I had his blood, I'll tell you what,” he added. “I have nine horses in the barn and he's the strongest-looking horse in the barn. He doesn't look like he's aged at all. He's just a really fine specimen of a horse.”
Thompson purchased Two Notch Road during the second session of Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale in 2008 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. Despite his bargain price, there were 99 other horses during the three-day auction that sold for less.
Two Notch Road has run for a tag 10 times in his career, at prices ranging from $62,500 to $20,000, the latter coming in his most recent start. In that race, an off-the-turf optional claiming allowance going five furlongs May 28 at Monmouth Park, he finished a non-threatening fourth.
“The last race was a dirt race and he hadn't run on the dirt since he was 2 years old. Every year just about, his third race back is his best race,” Thompson said. “It's kind of unique having a horse this long. Normally they'll go down the claiming ranks or something like that and you end up losing them at some point, but he's held his form and his class. I've run him in a couple of optional claimers the last couple years but always felt because of his age I was safe, and so far, so good.
“It's unusual. I've had a couple that ran until they were 10 or 11 before, and the key is I go down to Aiken [S.C.] and I give him a couple of months every year,” he added. “That's how they used to do it in the old days. They'd take horses to Aiken or Florida and give them a couple of months, and I think it makes a huge difference. It helps horses, helps their bones reset and helps them perform much better.”
Two Notch Road owns seven wins, including the 2014 and 2015 Punch Line Stakes and 2017 Meadow Stable Stakes, all at Laurel, and the 2016 White Oak Farm, then run at legendary Pimlico Race Course. He has also tried graded company 12 times, finishing second in the 2016 Turf Monster (G3) and third in the 2010 Colonial Turf Cup (G2) and 2013 Monmouth Stakes (G2).
“We ran him in the Shadwell Mile [G1] the first year they had it at a million dollars . We've made some special road trips and had fun,” Thompson said. “It is cool having him run this long.”
Thompson, based in the summer at Monmouth Park, considered calling it a career for Two Notch Road following his 2017 campaign. Ultimately, he plans to leave the decision up to the horse.
“I was thinking about retiring him last year and I ended up staying up here a little bit longer when he was in South Carolina. I was going to have some show horse people try him out,” Thompson said. “But staying up here I didn't want to get it going when I wasn't there, so when I finally got down there we decided to go ahead and put him back in training because he looked great and was doing great.
“It's up to him. He'd let me know if he didn't want to do it,” he added. “He loves doing what he does. He loves training in the morning and he gets this look in his eye. He knows a few days before he races. I don't know who tells him, but he knows. It's really cool. It's special having a horse like him.”
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