The Right Thing



On Thursday, Champagne Prayer was donated to the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center. His story is one where everyone cared about the right thing: Him.
He is a beautiful black 3 year old gelding that simply didn’t run very fast. His trainer, Michelle Lovell, realized that racing was not his calling, and rather than keep him in training or drop him in class in claiming races, she shared her thoughts with the owner Jeanne Bruce. The owner, who had never raced one of the horses she had raised before, was saddened, but wanted the best for her horse and asked Lovell to find the him a wonderful new home. So Lovell contacted Larmon Cowles, farm manager of Gunston Hall Farm, and Cowles, an advisory board member at the MMSC called our director, Susanna Thomas, to ask her if she would come look at Champage Prayer as a candidate for the Horse Centered ReSchooling Program®.
Keen to have the MMSC interns learn all about how the Center works, Susanna asked me to come along. I was excited: Like the Keeneland sal
es, Gunston Hall was a glimpse into the racing industry which I had never had before. What I encountered was truly inspiring: a farm manager looking to do the best thing for a horse representing an owner and trainer who shared that goal.
Walking into the barn, we were greeted by several beautiful Thoroughbreds (one of whom may join us at the center too!). When we met Champagne Prayer, we were immediately struck by his stunning black coat and beautiful conformation. Larmon and Susanna quizzed assistant trainer Shalise and I on his conformation. Any flaws were beyond either of our detection. Larmon talked us through the details of his conformation, with all signs indicating that he is a great candidate for our program.
Then Larmon led the gelding out of the barn and stood him up so we could take conformation shots. Like every young horse (or young child for that matter!) Champagne Prayer, wiggled in place keen to be on the move, his black coat gleaming in the morning sun, his perfectly even mane flicking back and forth as he tossed his head, calling to potential friends in a nearby field.
And then, the best part: Larmon turned him out in a
large field with two yearlings and a draft cross Overo paint, named Curious George. Champagne Prayer arched his lovely neck and greeted each animal with a deep sniff nostril to nostril. His front legs slashed out now and again in mock defiance at each whiff. He squealed a time or two, then twirled and ran, bucking playfully, goading his new buddies into a game of tag.
What a lovely thing to see him enjoying being a horse again, even when he gleefully found a patch of slick mud, and sullied his beautiful coat with a delighted roll from side to side on his back! There's a unique bliss to getting dirty for children of all species!
Susanna said that we would take him into our program at the MMSC after a short spell of R and R at Gunstun Hall. I can’t wait to see what he’s capable of, what career he ends up in, and who his forever person is.
On the drive back to the MMSC, we brained stormed at possible names for a horse named Champagne Prayer: Pinot, Bubbles, Korbel, Tipsy Talk, and the like. But in the end, all any of us could think of was his striking black coat. So we settled for Zorro, the noble and dashing "black fox" of lore. Do you like it?