Spooky Mulder: Life on the Farm

My father is the very antithesis of a hunch bettor: he has little use for the betting proclivities of his daughter (in fact, he frequently refers to me as “the worst bettor of all time”), and I can’t remember a single time when he bet a horse for any other reason than that he thought it was going to win.  But even the man without a sentimental racing bone in his body liked Spooky Mulder.

He liked the X-Files, too, and maybe that’s where it started, but even before I followed racing year-round, I’d get the occasion call from him. “Spooky Mulder’s in,” he say, or “Do you know how Spooky did?”  I don’t know whether he actually ever placed a wager on Spooky, but he certainly followed him.

So I did, too, and we weren’t alone.  Four years ago, Alan Mann at Left at the Gate (himself not terribly given to the sentimentalities of the game) wrote a blog post about Spooky; the same day, Jerry Bossert wrote in the Daily News,

Spooky Mulder will not be remembered as a Classic winner or a Breeders’ Cup winner but to the fans of New York, there is no one gamer…Winning trainer Pat Reynolds said, “If I was stuck out in the desert or riding a horse into battle I’d want Spooky Mulder snorting under me, that’s for sure.”

In July 2009, Spooky Mulder was retired by his trainer, Scott Lake, after a fourth place finish in a claiming race at Delaware. It was his 85th lifetime start, and he was 11 years old.

Spooky started his racing career at Turfway Park on September 15th, 2001. He won that first start, the first of 34 races he’d win in his lifetime. He finished second 17 times, and fourth four times.  That’s first or second in 60% of his races, and his paltry show record might indicate that if he didn’t think that he was going to get one of the top two spots, maybe he just didn’t try that hard.

Bred in Kentucky, the bay gelding was by Brunswick and out of Suana. He raced at 17 tracks and won at 11 of them.  By the time he was retired, he’d earned $950,548.

Spooky had been in Lake’s care at various points through his career; he’d raced in the name of nine trainers, with Lake taking at least three turns. And when it came time for Spooky to head off the track, he went home with Lake. Or at least, with Lake’s mother-in-law, Felicity Stisted.  He spent a few months on Stisted’s farm before moving to his permanent home with Sally Rohrbach, not far from Annapolis, Maryland.

Rohrbach has been friends with Stisted for years, and it was Rohrbach who got the call when Spooky retired. She lives on a farm with several equine retirees, two miniature horses, and a bunch of cats. She demurs when it’s suggested that she rescues horses. “I don’t rescue them,” she says. “I give them a home.”

And what a home it is. Across the road from the house, a retired Warmblood named Baise shares a paddock with Older But Smarter, who raced 42 times with nine wins and earnings of more than $300,000.  Out behind the house, Hunt The Fox, a veteran of 60 starts with just four wins, hangs out with Wilma June, who by her fourth start had made it clear that she didn’t really want to be a racehorse.  Her career earnings? $69.

And a couple of paddocks over lives the star of the show, the Big Horse who knows it, but whose best friend is a very little horse indeed, whose name is Hercules.  (As always, click on photos to enlarge.)

Spooky’s almost 13 years old, but he’s definitely trying to lie about his age: when visitors arrive, he comes right to the fence to say hello, and he welcomes us into his paddock. He knows that treats await, and after a few peppermints, he bounds across his paddock, chasing Hercules and showing off moves that belie more than a decade on the track.

He needs to be encouraged to slow down; on this day, he works himself literally into a lather, and those knees and ankles and tendons aren’t quite what they used to be. We lead Hercules away, and Spooky is persuaded to take it easy. Peppermints make an excellent bribe. He thinks that if he shows his tattoo, he’ll get a few more…and he’s right.

It’s hard to know who’s happier: Spooky to be there or Rohrbach to have him. A lifelong horsewoman, she is attentive to his needs and meticulous about his care, and wildly affectionate with him.

An Internet search about Spooky reveals multiple queries on message boards about where he is and how he’s doing; his following didn’t stop at his retirement, and the folks out there who have wondered can be assured that he’s about as lucky as a horse can get. After a long and productive life on the track, Scott Lake, his family, and Sally Rohrbach have made sure that Spooky Mulder is enjoying a well-earned, pampered retirement.

Past performance information courtesy of Daily Racing Form.

20 thoughts on “Spooky Mulder: Life on the Farm

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It is wonderful to see updates on our retirees, those terrific TBs who have given us so much. Can I say it one more time? Thank you!

  2. Excellent piece. He is easily one of my favorite horses of all time. I still remember the Big A tv I stood under for the above, come-again victory on the inner track. Great pictures, too.

  3. Thanks, everyone! Fran–someone suggested that I do this for Halloween, but there was too much Spooky info to do any spooky info!

    Celeste…you are SO welcome–believe me, the pleasure was all mine. =)

    Thanks, Jason. What a race, eh?

  4. Absolutely marvelous. Really appreciate and enjoy what you do here, Teresa. Makes me wonder what happens to those poor old hard workers like Whirling Blade, Will To Reign, etc. Way back when, Pancho had an entry of Black Match and Intensitivo that I would swear he entered at least 3 times a week.

  5. A wonderful story with great pictures! How it should be for all the brave horses! Thanks for such a nice article, Teresa.

  6. Thanks, Lynne and DJ. I really appreciate those kind words. As far as those other horses…I wish that it were easier to find out where they went when they were done racing.

  7. Spooky is an all time favorite of mine, as well as of so many racing fans. The words which come to me are gallant,brave,a tremendous heart, and a horse that showed up again and again and again.There are certain horses that steal your heart, thank you Spooky for all you did on the racetrack and happy retirement.

  8. Wonderful article and great photos, Teresa! Spooky had a great career, and he still does everything well, even in retirement.

  9. Spooky Mulder is, as a racing FAN and not just a bettor, exactly the horse that you develop a special affinity for. He always, ALWAYS showed up. And personally, these are the horses about whose post-racing future I think most about while they’re still running. I thought about this guy a lot, and I’m very thankful that he’s ended up where he has. Thanks so much to Scott Lake for giving this guy a soft landing spot…

  10. This has made my day!

    I am so thrilled that Spooky was done right by. He looks great as does his little buddy.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to follow up on him and post the information.

  11. Great to see Spooky found a home. He is “one of the ones”. His final race for me was an effort usually seen in graded stakes.

    • He really is something special, Pat–and he’s doing great. I’m planning a visit to see him again this summer. Thanks so much for reading this and taking the time to comment.

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