Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wake at Noon deserved better

I recently complimented Bruno Schickedanz's storied success with racehorses and said I was glad that a cheap filly from the Ocala April sale had fallen into his hands rather than someone else's.

Today, I'm forced to reconsider.

Thoroughbred Times reports that Schickedanz's 2002 Canadian Horse of the Year, Wake at Noon, was euthanized on the track at Woodbine while attempting a comeback at age 13. Apparently the horse who had earned $1,681,386 by winning 21 of 67 lifetime starts was suffering fertility problems at stud, so Schickedanz decided to get him fit and send him back to the races at second-tier Mountaineer Park in West Virginia.

"He was not getting many mares in foal," Schickedanz told The Toronto Star. "This spring he was shooting blanks, so he has been training at my farm for a few months. I wanted to send him to Woodbine and see what he would do in a workout. ... It was a freak thing, I am told. He spooked from another horse and took a bad step."

More than a decade ago, another aged Woodbine fan-favorite -- former stakes winner Victoriously Bold -- died at age 12 in the hands of different connections after Schickedanz (who owned the gelding six different times) sent him back to the track a year removed from claiming him for $3,200 at Fort Erie with a pledge to retire him. Victoriously Bold, commonly known as "Vito," ultimately ran down on his right front in winning for the 29th time in his 105th career start, a wound that would take his life a month later when his recovery failed.

Schickedanz said he changed his mind about retiring Victoriously Bold when the old warrior kept looking at him as though he were asking, "When are you going to let me out of here and run some races?" So Schickedanz complied, and Vito did his best to justify the decision, winning 11 of 36 for various connections at the lower claiming levels after returning to the races; even the race that killed him.

Indeed, among racehorses, the true professionals have no quit in them.

That's why you have to eventually quit for them.

Flash forward to 2010. Schickedanz said Wake at Noon was "acting like a 3-year-old at the farm." Fair enough. But that only suggests the long-removed champion was ready to lead a fairly active, but retired, life at the farm. Not go back to the races at the geriatric (for competition) age of 13.

In fact, an investigation is under way at Woodbine to determine how Wake at Noon was allowed on the track. Woodbine rules bar horses above the age of 10 from racing or even being stabled on the grounds unless they've won a race within the last year.

I'm slow to criticize connections for racing horses at advanced ages, or even for sending them back to the track after retirement. Witness my defense of Lava Man's connections for trying a comeback, and my criticism of them for cutting that endeavor short after only one (not all that bad) start. One of my favorite old warriors was a gelding named Proven Cure (like Wake at Noon, also by Cure the Blues) who in 2006 won a stakes race at age 12 -- though, unlike Wake at Noon, he'd generally stayed in training throughout.

The age of 13 is simply too old for a comeback by a horse off the track since 2007. And 21-for-67, earning nearly $1.7 million, is a horse who has done more than enough.

"I feel terrible about it," Schickedanz said. "This horse was my friend."

Sorry, Bruno, but Wake at Noon deserved better from his friend, and a more fitting end.


  1. With friends like Bruno, who needs enemies?

  2. "He was not getting many mares in foal," Schickedanz told The Toronto Sun."
    it was the TORONTO STAR actually!
    thanks for covering this also

  3. Thanks, Jen. TB Times has mixed "Sun" and "Star" in their story, and I went with their first reference, errantly.

  4. Lava Man down behind in his comeback attempt and was lame in the test barn. I think it was time to pull the plug on the comeback.

  5. You write:"Not go back to the races at the geriatric (for competition) age of 13."
    Be careful not to generalize. In Britain National Hunt horses win regularly at that age, whilst I have personally witnessed a 17-Y-O trotter win several times. But agreed: for a flat racing thoroughbred 13 is old for a comeback.


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