Scrolling through my timeline last month, I came across this tweet. Fleet Valid? Hm. Sounded familiar. And yes, a look at his past performances revealed that from November of 2007 to April of 2009, Fleet Valid made 12 appearances on the New York circuit.
He last raced in October of 2009 at Laurel in the Grade 1 DeFrancis Dash. He finished third, beaten only a length by Vineyard Haven and Ravalo. He’d led the whole way; the running line says that he “gave way grudgingly.” He was six years old.
Now eight, Fleet Valid lives in New Jersey, the state in which he won his only stakes races, the Teddy Drone and the Icecapade in the summer of 2009.
“He’s living the good life,” said Eliza Scheurman.
A volunteer and board member of ReRun, a non-profit Thoroughbred adoption program with locations in New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, and North Carolina, Scheurman writes the ReRun blog and manages the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
And it was she who posted the news about Fleet Valid’s first foray into jumping.
Fleet Valid (Montbrook – Di’s Song) has been a part of ReRun for a little over year. According to Scheurman, he had developed a chip in his ankle that his owners (Shillelagh Racing Stable) tried to repair with surgery. After attempting to bring him back, his owners decided to retire him and contacted ReRun.
Before becoming a stakes winner late in his career, Fleet, as he’s now called, knocked around the claiming ranks, and in December of 2007, Blue Devil Racing Stable and Dale Romans claimed him at Aqueduct.
“We’d come to Aqueduct to claim another horse in the race,” remembered Blue Devil’s James O’Reilly. “But we decided that that horse had probably already run his best race, and we looked at Fleet Valid. We knew he had some good class lines and it was just a question of how he looked.
“We saw him, we put the claim in, and when we got him back to the barn, we thought he was the right kind of horse.”
Fleet shipped south with the rest of Romans’s horses, and while in Florida, he developed a foot fungus that kept him off the track until September of 2008. Blue Devil owned him for nine months before he raced for them.
“He was in Florida for three months sunning himself,” said O’Reilly.
“When we finally got him back to the races, we weren’t sure what the right level was, and we spent the fall trying to figure it out. He wound up winning his only race for us on opening day at Aqueduct. It was the first race, it was a wet track, and he looked perfect. He was great.”
Early in his life in the Romans barn, Fleet had apparently figured out where the mints were kept.
“He figured out from the crinkling of the wrappers that they were in the office, so every time he was walked around the shedrow, every time, he’d try to stop in front of the office. He was a mint whore,” said O’Reilly.
“So on the day he won, he got his bath, and he was walking around the shedrow, and he stopped at the office. Dale’s assistant, Tom Morgan, said, ‘You know what? He deserves a mint today.’ So they let him stop, and he turned and walked right into the office, with his back end sticking out the door. And the grooms and Tom fed him mints.”
Apparently, not much has changed. Before I could relate that story to Scheurman, she told me that after he’s ridden, he waits by the tack room, where the treats are stored, and pulls his rider towards them.
These days, Fleet lives at Ricki Neuberg’s Nearaway Farm in Millstone, New Jersey, re-training for a life after racing. “We weren’t sure whether his ankle would hold up, so we’ve brought him along slowly.”
All the Rerun horses have their own riders so that the horse learns how to bond, as they will once they’re adopted. Beth has been with Fleet since April; he’s stayed sound and he’s doing full 40 minute walk/trot/canter lessons. His ankle, while healed, doesn’t permit him to jump, but he does go over little crossrails.
“He’s such a good guy,” said Scheurman. “He was a classy horse at the racetrack, and he’s classy horse now. He’s not heavy on the bit, he doesn’t buck or run off. I’ve never seen him spook. He’s like someone’s pet pony: he loves Beth and whinnies to her when she comes in.”
This weekend, Fleet will be among several ReRun horses competing in the all-Thoroughbred charity horse show and festival at the Horse Park of New Jersey. He’s expected to compete in the hunter & equitation divisions.
He’s also available for adoption. You can check out Scheurman’s recent post about him (which includes video of him walking, trotting, and cantering), and his adoption fee has been reduced to $1,000. Not bad for a horse that won over $380,000 in his lifetime, and who has apparently taken so beautifully to life off the track.
Thanks to ReRun and Jenelle Kappe for the photos.