In early August of 2011, my parents and I, not unusually, spent a lovely afternoon at Saratoga Race Course. With other family in town, they had to leave before the last race, but not before placing their wagers, and later that evening, my mother, from whom I inherited the hunch-betting gene, called to inquire about the performance of a horse whose name, she said, made her thinko fme.
He won, I told her, and he paid $14.40, and thus began our love affair with Sportswriter.
He was two then, a Flying Zee Stables homebred gray by Maybry’s Boy out of Point Spread (Point Given). Four months later, he was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic sale, and he was purchased for $60,000 by Michael Dubb, for whom he’d get his first stakes win, in August 2012 back at Saratoga, in a New York Stallion Series race, finishing a neck in front of King Kreesa, who would go on to win the Grade III Poker Stakes the following year.
Sportswriter was a popular guy on the New York circuit: David Jacobson and Drawing Away Stable claimed him in September 2013, and Dubb claimed him back four months later. After just one race, Jacobson took him back, and in April 2014, Gary Contessa claimed him for $20,000, sending him to Finger Lakes.
He made his last start in New York State last July, then headed south, with yet another trainer, to race at Delaware Park.
It was around that time that I got an e-mail from a friend of a friend, someone who, like me, was a Sportswriter fan and who had been keeping an eye on him as he’d dropped down. After a second-place finish in a nickel claimer, she wanted to know what we might do to help him find a retirement home.
The answer was, as it often is, not much, except make an occasional phone call, offer a home, and hope for the best.
And earlier this week, “the best” happened, though we had nothing to do with it.
“Tonight we brought home Sportswriter,” wrote Keri Brion on Facebook on Thursday night, “a 6 year old stake winner who won close to $400,000. Thanks to Winter Paxson he will get the opportunity at an awesome life after racing which he deserves. Big thanks to Kimberly Graci!”
Graci was Sportswriter’s last trainer; he made two starts for her, finishing fifth on January 15 and winning on January 31, both at Penn National. He was ridden in both starts by jockey Andrew Wolfsont, who grew up not far from where Sportswriter made his debut and who happens to be Brion’s fiancé.
“When he rode [Sportswriter] the first time, I looked [the horse] up and told [Andrew], ‘We are giving this guy a home when he’s done,’” wrote Brion in a message on Friday. “He doesn’t owe anyone anything at this point in his career!”
Sportswriter came out of his last race with a little filling in his leg, and the decision was made that his racing career was over.
“I had no idea Sportswriter had such a big fan base,” Brion wrote, noting the multiple messages she’s received since her Facebook post. “I just wanted to do what was right by the horse. They all deserve this life after racing, but a horse who has done as much as he has truly does deserve it. I will keep everyone up to date on what he is up to, but he’s going to enjoy a few months off learning to be a horse again in a big field with a lot of friends first.”
Down the road, we may see Sportswriter chasing hounds, or maybe in a show ring; Brion said that he looks great and praised Graci’s “excellent care” of him.
The six-year-old retires with 7 wins in 43 starts, nine seconds and three thirds. He earned $377,000, winning both his first race and his last. On Friday morning, he arrived at his forever home at River Hill Foxhounds.
“I’m so glad,” said Brion, “that a horse who has so many fans is retired and has such a happy ending.”
And in that, she’s not alone. Happy retirement, Sportswriter!
Featured image photo credit Keri Brion