Yeah, that worked out real well.
A few hours later, the very loud phone in their South Carolina home wouldn’t stop ringing, causing Tom to stumble from the bedroom in a sleepy haze, worried sick about what was going on.
“He thought something horrible had happened,” Barbara said with a laugh. “He thought something had happened to our daughter, or something bad like that.”
Actually, it was quite the opposite, as Barbara’s “son,” of sorts, had just accomplished a historic feat.
|USTA/Mark Hall photo|
|Foiled Again raised his career earnings to $5.65 million with a Breeders Crown triumph on Oct. 19.|
Foiled Again, the iconic 9-year-old gelding pacer, had just become the oldest horse to ever win a Breeders Crown when he held off Pet Rock by a nose to claim the $500,000 Open Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. In the process, he also became the richest North American harness horse in history, with earnings of $5.65 million.
Barbara had stayed home to watch the race, as the time change left her a little too weary to make the six-hour drive to Pennsylvania.
“Plus I get a little superstitious,” she said. “I think maybe he’s done so well, maybe I should just stay home and watch these races. I was a nervous wreck. I was pacing back and forth in the living room.”
Her stay-at-home strategy worked.
It was the first Breeders Crown victory for Foiled Again, who is trained by Ron Burke and driven by Yannick Gingras. And no one could have been happier than the woman who bred him and remembers when he was born at her training center and breeding farm in central New Jersey.
“I saw the interview with Ron after the race when he teared up,” Matthews said. “I called him yesterday (Wednesday) and he was practically crying. He’s happy, I guess we all are. It’s so, so unbelievable, the whole thing.”
Foiled Again was the 4-5 favorite in the Open Pace, but history was against him as 8-year-old Fool’s Goal was the only horse older than age 7 to ever win a Breeders Crown when he took the Open Trot 10 years ago.
But Foiled Again never stops surprising people.
“No, never,” Barbara said. “Although every time I get to see it on TVG or every once in a while when I do come up, it’s almost like I think ‘Well, you know he deserves this and deserves that for everything he’s done. Maybe he’s put in enough time and he’ll get it.’ He’s earned it.”
|USTA/Ken Weingartner photo|
|Caretaker Alex Peralta and Foiled Again, who has now banked more than $1 million in three straight campaigns.|
It’s a tremendous success story considering where Foiled Again came from. A son of Dragon Again, he was the second foal out of the mare In A Safe Place, and came out as one ornery cuss.
His first trainer before Burke came on the scene was Hermann Heitmann, who quickly realized the horse would need to be gelded if he was going to succeed.
“I knew it was only a matter of time before he either developed a really horrible attitude or just wasn’t going to go,” Matthews said. “That’s what happened with Hermann. He trained down to a certain point. There was no attention span there, so something had to go.
“Usually they find it in showhorses too. They have either a rotten attitude or no attention span. Gelding helps most of them unless they’re just not a good athlete or not a good thinking horse. Then nothing’s going to fix it.”
But Foiled Again is evidently a great athlete and a great thinker.
“He certainly is the poster child for being a gelding,” Matthews said. “I don’t think he ever would have made it. I actually talked to Hermann yesterday and Hermann agrees.”
Foiled Again is almost like the horse version of Babe Ruth, who ran amok in the streets of Baltimore, got put into a reform school and eventually became baseball’s beloved home run champion.
“He just wouldn’t go, or he would want to turn around,” Matthews said of his youth. “As a yearling before he went to sale, it’s a miracle he didn’t kill himself. He’d be jumping the fence every few days, running out the driveway on the pavement. There were other colts there too. It wasn’t like he was all alone. He just had a mind of his own and places he wanted to go.”
And oh, look at him now.
Foiled Again is the richest pacer in harness racing history in the world and the richest pacer or trotter in North American history. He has won more than $1 million for the third straight year and is the oldest horse to win $1 million in a season, breaking his own record, of course. He has won 74 of 194 races and finished in the top three a total of 148 times.
He is not only rich in earnings, but rich in admirers as well.
“He’s got a fan club; he should have his face on his own Facebook page,” Barbara said. “Maybe we can get (KISS band member) Gene Simmons to be a promoter since he promotes himself so well. We have to get him an agent.”
Matthews feels the reason for Foiled Again’s popularity is that he represents the traditional American values of hard work and persistence.
“Especially now with the status of the way everything is, it’s tough to be optimistic about a lot of things,” she said. “But he’s a genuine hero. He’s somebody who just keeps fighting.
“He’s such a trooper. He’s had a tough, tough trip. After a while, it seems like most horses that I knew of would eventually get a little sour and just pack it in and not always try as hard. It seems like he always tries no matter what. I don’t think he realizes nine years have gone by.”
And he isn’t done yet. Burke said that Foiled Again’s next start is expected to be Nov. 9 in the American-National at Balmoral Park in Illinois.
Barbara Matthews can’t wait.
“I just thoroughly enjoy it, I live for it,” she said. “I just like to see where it will play out. Will it keep going?
“If it ended tomorrow I think everyone would be fine. But now everyone wants to know where he’s going next. Where’s he going to show up? He has an entourage.”
An entourage that he rarely lets down no matter how old he gets.