The 2-year-old Thoroughbred had been bred to race, but Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables in Camden, South Carolina, believed a sport horse career was ..

Danta And Robertshaw Still Believe In The Thoroughbred Hunter

Jan 23, 2020 – 2:58 PM

It didn’t take Ron Danta more than a few minutes to decide he wanted Lucca in his barn. The 2-year-old Thoroughbred had been bred to race, but Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables in Camden, South Carolina, believed a sport horse career was more his speed.

Danta and his partner Danny Robertshaw also base out of Camden at their Beaver River Farm, so Danta went to Kirkwood to take a look. Danta watched Lucca (Fit To Fight—Fraulino, Alwasmi) pop over his first couple of logs and liked what he saw.

“It’s kind of sad nowadays—you look back, and so many of the great, great hunters we had over the years were Thoroughbreds,” said Danta. “Danny had Protocol, who was undefeated in the 4’ regular working hunter and champion at [the Pennsylvania National], Washington, Madison Square Garden [New York] and the Royal Winter Fair [Toronto] in the same year. So many of those horses were such great show horses, and now the trend is people won’t even look at a Thoroughbred. They all want to go to Europe to look at warmbloods.”

13/03/2019 ; Wellington FL ; Winter Equestrian Festival - Week 10

Lucca showing with Hunter Kay at the Winter Equestrian Festival. Sportfot Photo

Natural jumping form is important to Danta when looking at an off-track Thoroughbred, as are the usual conformation basics—a nicely-angled shoulder, a hindquarter that isn’t too upright.

Danta and Robertshaw don’t get too hung up on a Thoroughbred’s pedigree. There are some families that carry the same genetic stamp, but Danta has seen people become crazed over a racing pedigree, only to realize that sire’s success rate is as variable in the show ring as it was on the racetrack.

These days, Danta leans toward a horse with a natural lead change. Lucca checked all the boxes, and longtime client Pauline Lampshire agreed to purchase him.

“As we’re getting older, we’re finding with the young horses we buy, if they don’t have a natural lead change in them we don’t really want to look at them because, unfortunately, lead changes affect the jump,” Danta explained. “They land, and then they want to get nervous about the lead change at the end.”

From the beginning, it seemed Lucca had found his calling. He had the “fun,” laidback attitude that made the horse show environment a breeze.

Now 16, the chestnut has shown in the open divisions as well as the Take2 Thoroughbred hunter classes with Hunter Kay, bringing home championships from venues like the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) and the Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina). Last September Lucca won the hunter final at the inaugural $20,000 Take2 Hunter and Jumper Finals held during the Kentucky National.

Danta said he wishes there were even more opportunities for horses to compete in Take2. He also expects he’ll make the Take2 Finals in Kentucky a part of the stable’s schedule again in 2020. While in Florida for the winter season, Danta expects he and Robertshaw will make the rounds to local training centers to look at Thoroughbreds that may be ready for a career change.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to go home with a few more than we came with,” he said.


Kirkwood signed for 2 yearlings at the Fasig Tipton October Sale.


Hip 662 is a son of Tapit out of a multiple stakes producing Giant’s Causeway mare. He is a full brother to a graded stakes placed earner of over $223,000. Family of SUMMERLY.

Also purchased was hip 69 a Street Sense filly out of a young Smart Strike mare and from a family packed with black-type.



Michael Lund Petersen’s Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man) may have passed on the Triple Crown races, but he proved this summer he can hang with the top 3-year-olds. Sunday night, he’ll be the class of the field and a substantial favorite in the GIII Oklahoma Derby at Remington.

Capturing the GIII Bob Hope S. and GIII Robert B. Lewis S. sandwiched around a runner-up try in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity, the chestnut was navigated off the Triple Crown trail after running a well-beaten third in the GIII Sunland Derby Mar. 24.  Two convincing scores in the May 18 GIII Laz Barrera S. and GIII Affirmed S. June 16 later, the ‘TDN Rising Star’ was back in with the big boys, and ran a brave second to Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) in the GI Haskell Invitational while finishing eight lengths clear of third. He was similarly game when holding on for third after dueling on a fast pace in the GI Runhappy Travers S. last out Aug. 24 at Saratoga.

Mucho Gusto’s two principal challengers come out of the Travers in fifth-running Owendale (Into Mischief) and seventh finisher Tax (Arch). The former, who annexed the Apr. 13 GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. and was third in the GI Preakness S., took the June 22 GIII Ohio Derby over last week’s GI Pennsylvania Derby hero Math Wizard (Algorithms) before his even Travers effort. Tax, who sports trophies for the GIII Withers S. and GII Jim Dandy S., was also fourth in the GI Belmont S.

Mucho Gusto Favored in Competitive Oklahoma Derby

Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park
Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Benoit Photo

Eight stakes will highlight Remington Park‘s Sunday card, including the $200,000 Remington Park Oaks (G3) for 3-year-old fillies three races before the featured Oklahoma Derby.

Trainer Bob Baffert brings in West Coast invader Mucho Gusto, the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile Derby.

Third last time out in the Aug. 24 Travers, the Mucho Macho Man  colt has not finished off the board in nine starts. After a win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park in his season debut, he returned March 24 to finish third in the Sunland Park Derby (G3).

Not having enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), Mucho Gusto stayed in California and scored back-to-back wins in the May 18 Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3) and June 16 Affirmed Stakes (G3).

Traveling east for the first time, he then finished second to the disqualified Kentucky Derby winner, Maximum Security, in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) one start before the Travers.

The Michael Lund Peterson-owned colt will be ridden by Joe Talamo from post 10 in the 11-horse field.

Tax, who competed in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), enters the Oklahoma Derby off a seventh-place finish in the Travers. One start prior, the son of Arch won the July 27 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) over TacitusGlobal Campaign, and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner War of Will.

Trained by Danny Gargan, the gelding has a string of quick breezes, with his latest Sept. 21 when he completed four furlongs in :47 3/5 on Belmont Park‘s dirt training track to be the fourth-fastest of 64 that day.

Tax, who arrived in Oklahoma City Wednesday, will be ridden by Kendrick Carmouche from post 5.

Owendale, a closing third in the Preakness, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by War of Will, is the 3-1 morning-line second choice. The Into Mischief  colt went on to win the June 22 Ohio Derby (G3) over recent Pennsylvania Derby (G1) winner Math Wizard and fellow Oklahoma Derby entrant Long Range Toddy.

Fifth in the Travers, Owendale also worked Sept. 21, posting a bullet five furlongs for trainer Brad Cox in :58 4/5 to be the fastest of 42 at Churchill Downs that day. Florent Geroux will be aboard from the outside post.

Trainer Steve Asmussen enters Long Range Toddy, who was last seen finishing fifth in the July 13 Indiana Derby (G3). The Take Charge Indy colt finished third in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and won a division of the Rebel Stakes (G2) to earn a start in the Kentucky Derby.


Mucho Gusto 8-5 Favorite In 11-Horse Oklahoma Derby Field

Courtesy of the Paulick Report

Michael L. Petersen’s Mucho Gusto and jockey Joseph Talamo, right, pull away from the field and go on to win the Grade III, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes, Sunday, June 16, 2019 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.© BENOIT PHOTO



A stakes-laden 13-race program has been put together for Sunday, Sept. 29 at Remington Park, led by the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby. The derby will be the 12th race on the card that starts at 3pm-Central.

Mucho Gusto, expected to arrive via Tex Sutton Equine Charter on Thursday morning at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, has been made the 8-5 morning-line favorite by odds-maker Rick Lee. Mucho Gusto comes into the Oklahoma Derby off a third-place finish, 3-1/2 lengths behind victorious Code Of Honor, in the Grade 1, $1,250,000 Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 24. 

Trained by National Racing Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Mucho Gusto won both the Grade 3, $100,000 Laz Barrera Stakes and the Grade 3, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita in California this spring. He then ran second to Maximum Security in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park in New Jersey prior to his Travers effort. Owned by Michael Petersen, Mucho Gusto will be ridden by Joe Talamo.

Owendale, a closing third in the Grade 1, $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes in May at Pimlico, beaten only 1-1/4 lengths by War Of Will, is at 3-1 odds and is the second-choice in the morning line. Tax arrived in Oklahoma City earlier today via a Sutton charter. Owendale drew the outside post in the field of 11 and will be ridden by Florent Geroux for the fifth consecutive race. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale won the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby in June at Thistledown outside of Cleveland.
Tax, a multiple stakes winner this year after taking the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct in February and then visiting the winner’s circle in the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 27, is the third-choice in the morning line at 4-1 odds. Trained by Danny Gargan, Tax arrived in Oklahoma City earlier today via a Sutton charter. Tax has won $786,300 with three wins from nine attempts. Kendrick Carmouche will have the mount.

Remington Park’s current leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, will have a pair of horses entered as he attempts to win his second Oklahoma Derby. Long Range Toddy, winner of the 2018 Springboard Mile at Remington Park and the runner-up in that race, Bankit, will represent the barn of the National Hall of Fame conditioner. Asmussen saddled the 2017 Oklahoma Derby winner, Untrapped.

Owned and bred by Willis Horton Racing of Marshall, Ark., Long Range Toddy is at 15-1 odds in the morning-line. He won Remington Park’s top 2-year-old races last year in the Springboard Mile and also the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes. This spring at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., Long Range Toddy was second in the $150,000 Smarty Jones; third in the Grade 3, $500,000 Southwest Stakes; and won a division of the Grade 2, $750,000 Rebel Stakes before finishing sixth in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby.

Long Range Toddy was awarded a 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He was then third in the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown followed by a fifth-place run in the Indiana Derby. 

Jockey Jon Court, who has ridden Long Range Toddy in his last five attempts, keeps the mount. Long Range Toddy is just the second horse to have started his career at Remington Park, to compete in the Kentucky Derby, joining Suddenbreakingnews in that small club.

Bankit, at 8-1 odds in the morning line, closed from the back of the pack in the 11-horse Springboard Mile here in December. The New York-bred colt by Central Banker launched a furious rally coming off the final turn under Ricardo Santana, Jr. Bankit nearly caught Long Range Toddy in the Springboard, finishing second beaten only a head. Santana has the call on Bankit, owned in partnership by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton. 

The complete field for the Oklahoma Derby, by post position and program order, with trainer, jockey and morning-line odds:

1.    Drifting West: Joe Offolter, Luis Quinonez, 50-1

2.    View Magic: Bret Calhoun, Iram Diego, 30-1

3.    Bankit: Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana, 8-1

4.    Sleepy Eyes Todd: Miguel Silva, David Cabrera, 20-1

5.    Tax: Danny Gargan, Kendrick Carmouche, 4-1

6.    Funny Guy: John Terranova, Rajiv Maragh, 10-1

7.    Chess Chief: Dallas Stewart, Miguel Mena, 15-1

8.    Cairo Cat: Kenneth McPeek, Richard Eramia, 20-1

9.    Long Range Toddy: Steve Asmussen, Jon Court, 15-1

10. Mucho Gusto: Bob Baffert, Joe Talamo, 8-5 (morning-line favorite)

11. Owendale: Brad Cox, Florent Geroux, 3-1 

There are seven other stakes races on Sunday at Remington Park, including:
Race 3 – $75,000 Kip Deville Stakes, 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs

Race 6 – $150,000 David Vance Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs

Race 7 – $75,000 Ran Ricks Memorial, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 1-1/16 miles (Turf)

Race 9 – Grade 3, $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, 3-year-old fillies, 1-1/16 miles

Race 10 – $50,000 Flashy Lady Stakes, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs

Race 11 – $100,000 Remington Green Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, 1-1/8 miles (Turf)

Race 13 – $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial, fillies, 2-year-olds, 6-1/2 furlongs 

The Remington Park Thoroughbred Season continues Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 25-29. The first race nightly is at 7 pm. The Oklahoma Derby program on Sunday begins at 3pm. All times are Central.

Coal Front Back In Winning Groove in Parx Dirt Mile

Courtesy of the BloodHorse

Coal Front wins the Parx Dirt Mile at Parx Racing
Coal Front wins the Parx Dirt Mile at Parx RacingBill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Coal Front Back In Winning Groove in Parx Dirt Mile

Rebounding from a third-place finish in the Monmouth Cup Stakes (G3), Coal Front turned back a second-turn bid from Diamond King and inched clear from that rival for a three-quarter-length victory in the $153,500 Parx Dirt Mile Stakes Sept. 21 on the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) undercard.

Under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Coal Front sped to the early lead, setting relatively easy opening splits of :23.90 and :47.34. Then as the six-horse field advanced down the backstretch, Diamond King, who was perched on the outside, dialed up the pressure. He cut into Coal Front’s lead before poking a neck in front with a six-furlong split in 1:11.63.

Smith had something saved aboard his mount, and under urging down the lane, Coal Front asserted his superiority over the final furlong. He hit the wire with his ears pricked, finishing in 1:37.53 for a mile on a fast track at Parx Racing.

Diamond King, winner of last year’s Federico Tesio Stakes and the 2017 Heft Stakes at Laurel Park, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Forewarned, who rallied belatedly to grab the show.

The Parx Dirt Mile was the third stakes victory of Coal Front’s 5-year-old campaign. He won the Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City-District One (G2) at Meydan in Dubai Mar. 30 and the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park Feb. 18. A year before, he won the Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park, and in 2017 he won both the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx and the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course.

Owned by Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, Coal Front raced in the Parx Dirt Mile in part as a test of his aptitude for a race such the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 2, trainer Todd Pletcher said before the race.

Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly, Coal Front, by Stay Thirsty , is the first graded stakes winner out of the Mineshaft  dam Miner’s Secret. A half brother to stakes winner Conquest Titan, he was a $575,000 purchase by LaPenta from the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training.

The heavy favorite, Coal Front paid $3.40 to win and elevated his bankroll to over $1.81 million. He has an 8-0-1 record from 12 starts

Mucho Gusto Another Sale Find for Owner Petersen

Courtesy of the BloodHorse

Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park
Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Benoit Photo

Owner bought Mucho Gusto out of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale.

Michael Lund Petersen is game when it comes to buying horses at

Mucho Gusto Another Sale Find for Owner Petersen
Owner bought Mucho Gusto out of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale.
By Ron Mitchell Yesterday, 2:44 PM
Sponsored By
Michael Lund Petersen is game when it comes to buying horses at public auction, as evidenced by the record $1.8 million he paid for an Into Mischief filly at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

At that same sale a year ago, Petersen stepped up to acquire a colt from the first crop of Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Mucho Macho Man for $625,000, a move that looks most fortuitous now that the colt, named Mucho Gusto, is the 2-1 morning-line second choice for the July 20 Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1).

Kentucky Downs
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Mucho Gusto has won or placed in all seven starts for earnings of $430,800. The colt’s five wins include four grade 3 stakes, and he comes into Monmouth Park’s premier race off back-to-back victories in the Lazaro Barrera Stakes (G3) and Affirmed Stakes (G3), both at Santa Anita Park.

“Michael Lund is a player,” said Kentucky-based agent Donato Lanni, who selects sale horses, including Mucho Gusto, on behalf of Baffert and his owners, as well as other clients. “He loves the game, he loves horses, and he is an old-school player. He takes his lumps and moves on.”

Among the additional graded winners raced by Petersen was Baffert-trained Mor Spirit , a multiple grade 1 winner earner of nearly $1.7 million selected by Lanni and purchased by Petersen and Bernard Schiappa for $650,000 as a 2-year-old.

Mucho Gusto was consigned to the Midlantic sale by Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables, which also offered the colt at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, where he was bought back on a final bid of $55,000.

At Midlantic, the colt worked the fastest quarter-mile time in :21 1/5 over the dirt track at the Maryland State Fairgrounds near Timonium, where the sale is conducted. Prior to the OBS sale, the colt’s eighth-mile breeze in :10 on the Safetrack artificial surface was co-second-fastest during the under tack show.

Elser said the colt matured between the sales but was surprised he did not attract more buyer attention at OBS.

Safe Bet
“They didn’t even look at him at the first sale,” Elser said. “I was mystified when they didn’t buy him the first time. I can’t tell you he would have brought all that money the first time, but I certainly thought he would bring more than we bought him back for. I was a little puzzled the first time (RNA) and pleasantly surprised the second ($625,000).”

Lanni said there were considerable differences in Mucho Gusto’s two sale workouts.

“I went back and looked at his OBS workout video, and he moved so differently on dirt than he did on synthetic,” Lanni said, adding it is not a negative reflection on synthetic surfaces but merely his observation of how Mucho Gusto handled the two surfaces. “I think it probably had a lot to do with the way he looked.”

Lanni said he observed Mucho Gusto some 10 times—a typical number of looks for prospective athletes he is interested in at 2-year-old sales—and was impressed with the colt’s demeanor.

“He was a horse that was obvious, which is why he brought what he did,” Lanni said. “He worked well, came back well, cooled out well, and vetted well. He kept his weight and kept his mind. He just did everything right. He got better and better. I knew he was going to be that kind of horse if he just stayed healthy.”

The fact the colt was from the first crop of Mucho Macho Man did not play into the decision on whether to buy Mucho Gusto because the focus was on the colt’s mental and physical attributes, the agent said.

Haskell Invitational
“Mucho Macho Man was the unknown factor,” Lanni said. “We try to focus on the individual and his performance. We base it more on performance than anything else because you get to see them move on the track, and that is more of a key indicator than other factors. He was just a horse that did everything right. He jumped through every hoop.”

Lanni said Mucho Gusto has lived up to expectations so far, and he believes he has the talent to be competitive in the Haskell.

“You hope when you buy one that they are the real deal and they perform well and stay sound,” Lanni said. “He’s a very quiet and unassuming horse. He just tries. I think Bob has managed him so well. He’s learned to put it all together and figure out what he’s doing. He has a lot of speed and is very tactical.”

Produced from the winning Giant’s Causeway mare Itsagiantcauseway, the colt is from the extended female family of Canadian Horse of the Year and sire Peaks and Valleys and multiple grade 2 winner Alternation . He was bred in Kentucky by Teneri Farm and Bernardo Alvarez Calderon.

The Midlantic sale marked the fourth time Mucho Gusto has gone through a sale ring.

As a “short yearling” consigned by Shawhan Place to the 2017 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, the colt was purchased by Kelly Lively for $14,000. Sent to the Keeneland September Yearling Sale as part of the Select Sales consignment, he was sold to S.R. Schwartz for $95,000.

In Quest For Ninth Haskell, Baffert Swinging At Fences With Mucho Gusto

Courtesy of the Paulick Report
by e | 07.11.2019 |

Trainer Bob Baffert celebrates his eighth Haskell Invitational win in 2015 with American Pharoah



When Bob Baffert looks to extend his record for victories in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational to nine on July 20, the Hall of Fame trainer will likely do so in an unfamiliar position.

Six of his previous eight Haskell winners have gone off as the favorite in Monmouth Park’s signature race (Bayern in 2014 and Coil in 2011 won for Baffert as the second choice).

That probably won’t be the case when Mucho Gusto goes postward in the $1 million race despite the colt’s nearly-flawless record of five wins, a second and a third in seven career starts.

But would it be a surprise if the son of Mucho Macho Man out of Itsagiantscauseway, by Giant’s Causeway, pulled off a minor upset?

Yes and no, said Baffert.



“It would probably be a lot of fun to win it with this one. When you don’t expect to win those are the ones that are a lot of fun,” he said. “But honestly, we’re surprised when we lose. We’re not surprised when we win.

“If I didn’t think we had a chance to win I wouldn’t send him. I think he’s got a chance. If everybody shows up and runs the way they’re capable of it should be a heck of a race.”

For now, Maximum Security and the Todd Pletcher-trained King for a Day are the headliners in the 52nd running of the Haskell Invitational. Joevia and Mucho Gusto, despite back-to-back G3 wins at Santa Anita, would be nipping at the heels of the top two. Chilly in Charge, Everfast and Spun to Run are the other probable starters at this point.

“If Maximum Security runs his race I think he will be tough,” Baffert said. “I thought he just got tired last time (a one-length loss to King for a Day in the Pegasus Stakes on June 16).”

Starting with his first Haskell victory with Point Given in 2001, Baffert has won the race eight times and has been second on two other occasions. Point Given’s victory was followed by wins by War Emblem (2002), Roman Ruler (2005), Lookin at Lucky (2010), Coil (2011), Paynter (2012), Bayern (2014) and American Pharoah (2015).

He was second with American Freedom in 2016 and in 2013 with Power Broker.

“Mucho Gusto is a little like Power Broker. He’s that kind of horse,” Baffert said.

A $625,000 yearling purchase, Mucho Gusto has competed in six straight graded stakes races since breaking his maiden at 2 on Sept. 18 and has yet to miss the board. This will be his second try in G1 company.

“He’s a horse who I think is getting better. He’s very consistent,” Baffert said. “But he’s going to have to step up in order to compete with these horses.

“I like to take a swing at the fences. Sometimes you have to do that. If he wins it’s great. Even second would be fine. I’m not going in with the favorite like I usually do but I think he deserves a chance so we’ll take a shot at it.”

Baffert said Mucho Gusto, owned by Michael Lund Petersen, will breeze Friday at Santa Anita and ship to New Jersey on Wednesday, July 17. Joe Talamo, the colt’s regular rider, will make the trip East to ride in the Haskell.

“This is a horse that is slowly getting there,” Baffert said. “He’s been pretty solid to this point but I think he is still getting better. This would be a big accomplishment for him if he were to win.”

Among other Haskell Invitational contenders, Maximum Security galloped on Thursday and will have his final work before the race either Monday or Tuesday, trainer Jason Servis said. Joevia, third in the Belmont Stakes, will work five-eighths on Sunday in his final prep, according to trainer Gregg Sacco.

Trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero said he has enlisted Paco Lopez to ride Spun to Run in the Haskell.



Gus Schickedanz with his longtime trainer Mike Keogh | Dave Landry

By Kelsey Riley

Gustav Schickedanz, a leading owner/breeder in Canada, foxhunting enthusiast and construction magnate, died peacefully on June 17 aged 90 at his home in Schomberg, Ontario, with his family by his side.

What Gus achieved in the Thoroughbred business, with a broodmare band rarely totaling more than 20, was truly remarkable. His pride and joy was his homebred sire Langfuhr (Danzig), who in 1996 won the GI Vosburgh S. and GII Forego H., and in 1997 the GI Carter H. and the GI Met Mile. Langfuhr, standing first at Vinery and later at Lane’s End where he is today pensioned at age 26, would carve out a reputation as a reliable sire of runners over all surfaces and across all distances, his Grade I winners including Whitney H. and Woodward S. winner Lawyer Ron, Arlington Million and Gulfstream Park Turf S. winner Jambalaya and Beldame S. and Gazelle H. winner Imperial Gesture.

Gus’s entire program was built on cultivating his own families and using predominantly his homebred stallions, and thus it is no surprise Langfuhr would go on to be the linchpin of his breeding program in the 21st century. Such a strategy gave Gus Wando, the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year; 11-time stakes winner Mobil, GII Nijinsky S. winner Last Answer and dual Grade III and Canadian Classic winner Marlang. Gus bred Langfuhr from his own homebred mare Sweet Briar Too (Briartic), and he bred the dams of both Wando and Marlang as well. Last Answer, who won his stakes race at age seven, was the 14th and last foal out of Gus’s foundation broodmare Victorious Answer (Northern Answer), who he purchased in 1976 from Windfields Farm. Victorious Answer was Gus’s first stakes winner and produced two black-type winners, and her daughters and granddaughters produced a further 14 stakes winners. Last Answer, who won his stakes race at age seven and ran 44 times, perhaps embodies everything that Gus’s breeding program stands for: the belief in his own carefully nurtured families to produce tough, sound, classy athletes.

Other standouts bred and raced by Gus include the GII Monmouth Oaks winner (and Wando’s dam) Kathie’s Colleen (Woodman), 1999 Queen’s Plate winner Woodcarver (Woodman) and Canadian champion sprinter Glanmire (Briartic). He bred the only Canadian-bred winners of the Kentucky Oaks (Gal in a Ruckus, 1995) and Arlington Million (Jambalaya, 2007). Gus’s horses have earned 10 Sovereign Award trophies, and another testament to his homebred program is the fact that three of those were for Broodmare of the Year. Gus is a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and in April he received one of Canadian racing’s highest honors, the Sovereign Award of Merit. In presenting Gus with his award, Glenn Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm said, “Gus is a true horseman. This is a man that wakes up early to look at his horses. He lives on the farm with his family. He’s a master horseman and rider. He knows a horse from every stage. There is nothing this man can’t do that’s related to a horse.

“If you want the definition of a true homebred program you need look no further than at what Gus has done. The stallion he breeds to is his own stallion, and he breeds it to his mare that is out of another mare he bred and he races the offspring. Gus has been an absolute beacon for all of us.”

Gustav Schickedanz was beating the odds long before he entered the racing game. He was 15 when the Russians attacked his town in Germany in the midst of World War II in 1944 and, with his elders brothers in the army and his father ill, it was up to Gus to lead his family to safety. They all survived.

Six years later, with opportunities limited in war-torn Germany, Gus seized the opportunity to emigrate to Canada, the first country accepting German immigrants after the war. He arrived in July 12, 1950, with the clothes on his back, a toothbrush and $3 in his pocket. He found a job the following day laying bricks for a German contractor for $1.10 an hour and as he later recalled, “I was never unemployed.”

Gus’s elder brothers Gerhard and Kurt, as well as their cousin Dani, arrived in Toronto the following year and the quartet shared an apartment and worked as stonemasons and carpenters. In 1953 they incorporated their construction company Schickedanz Brothers.

Anyone who has ever spent time around Gus could attest to his devotion to family and his loyalty, and the fact that the Schickedanz’s were able to build an extremely successful business as a team and run it harmoniously for more than 60 years is a testament to those qualities. In a biography commissioned by the Schickedanzes in 2011 for family and friends, Gus explained that it was set out in the beginning that the running of Schickedanz Brothers would not be majority rule; all four had to agree on a decision to move it forward. With four stubborn German men at the helm this admittedly led to many a late-night deliberation, but in the end they all emerged on the same page. Today, Schickedanz Brothers owns land in the Greater Toronto Area and as far afield as British Columbia, Alberta, Florida and South Carolina. Shortly after the company was founded Gus married his wife, Ann, and they had four daughters: Lisa, Tina, Susi and Heidi.

Later, when Gus began to grow his breeding and racing operations, those same family values shone through not only in his dedication to his equine families but in his loyalty to his long-serving-and equally as loyal and hard-working-farm manager Lauri Kenny and trainer Mike Keogh. Kenny and Keogh are often described in racing circles as Gus’s “adoptive sons” and have been paramount in his racing success.

Gus, in Germany, had been on the backs of horses nearly from the time he could walk–“I believe I rode at age two and a half, bareback and barefoot,” he recalled-but his passion was set aside for his first decade in Canada to focus on building his business and his family. In 1960, he at last got back in the saddle with the purchase of a handful of Trakehner horses-this breed, originating from his homeland, would be Gus’s mount of choice for Foxhunting and carriage driving. Gus later kept a small string of Trakehners that shuttled between his farms in Ontario and South Carolina, and he rode every morning until well into his 80s. His faithful servants included the geldings Ethos and Kronprinz, and in 2006 he traveled to Germany and paid a record price at auction for Songline, a young Trakehner stallion in training who went on to be a very successful eventer.

In the early 1970s, Gus began buying well-bred fillies-the likes of Victorious Answer-to lay the foundation for his Thoroughbred empire. As Gus well knew himself he also needed the right land on which to nurture his athletes. In 1976 he purchased Longleaf Plantation near Aiken, South Carolina. A few years later followed the property he would dub Schonberg Farm in Schomberg, Ontario–Schonberg meaning ‘beautiful hill’ in German.

When it came to a Thoroughbred, Gus knew what he liked: the compact, strong type as opposed to the longer and leaner, with a short back with “just enough room for a saddle,” he’d often say. He had shares in Woodman and Clever Trick that served him extremely well. His most inspired splurge, however, would prove to be on a nomination to the booked-out Danzig at a Matchmaker auction at Fasig-Tipton in 1990. Gus selected his homebred stakes-winning filly Sweet Briar Too to use the nomination for her first mating, and the result was Langfuhr.

A foal of 1992, Langfuhr was the crown jewel of Gus’s best-ever crop of foals that also included Kathie’s Colleen and My Intended, who later foaled the Canadian champion 2-year-old filly My Vintage Port. Of 20 foals born at Schonberg Farm that year, 17 started, all were winners and seven were stakes winners. The next best individual crop was perhaps the 2000 group that yielded Langfuhr’s sons Wando and Mobil, between them the winners of 18 stakes races and almost $4.4-million. It was those two sons of his prized Langfuhr that pulled Gus back from the brink after a major health scare in 2001, when he suffered a series of strokes. Gus had a Richard Stone Reeves painting of Langfuhr that hung above the fireplace in his sitting room, and he once told me that he sometimes sat for hours and just studied it. When he passed through Lexington en route to South Carolina each winter, Gus would stop and spoil Langfuhr with a giant bag of carrots-the stallion grooms at Lane’s End will tell you the horse knew the sound of Gus’s voice.

Langfuhr, the tenacious, come-from-behind sprinter who went on to beat the odds year-after-year as a sire, perhaps embodied everything Gus had endured and accomplished in his own extraordinary life, and it was plainly obvious that the consummate horseman never once took that for granted.

I met Gus in the summer of 2004 when I was 15 years old on the Woodbine backside after stopping by to see my favorite horse, Wando, on the morning of a race day. I probably bombarded him with stats about his horse, and Gus told me to come back to the barn after the race and meet his wife Ann and farm manager Lauri Kenny. Wando didn’t win that day, but when my parents brought me back to the barn we found them in great spirits. Lauri invited me to visit Schonberg Farm, and I showed up about two weeks later. Lauri told me to give him a call if I was looking for a summer job the following year. I showed up for my first day of work the following fourth of July and, for the next four years, was at the farm just about every moment I wasn’t in class.

There are a few things I’ll never forget about Gus. Every morning, seven days a week, he walked down to the barn in a checkered shirt, blue jeans, black boots and a riding helmet, his dog Moby at his heels. He stopped en route to his morning ride to look at each mare and foal as they were turned out. He would then head on about a mile walk down to his barn of riding horses. As Gus aged and slowed down a little, he only started his walk earlier; he never drove to his morning ride.

Gus lived on the farm from the time he purchased it and he truly knew every building, every fence line and every tree. He often got down and dirty during big projects and he’d frequently drive the tractors and pull the wagons during haying season.

I remember Lauri telling me before I started that as a boss Gus was “tough, but fair,” and that couldn’t have been more true. He expected hard work, but if you delivered, he and Ann truly did treat you like family. When Ann took off for a drive around the farm she’d come armed with food for whoever she saw along the way. If she forgot, she’d turn around and return with something.

Gus’s positive attitude was infectious. When asked how he was, his response was almost always, “if I was any better, I wouldn’t know what to do.” He would grab your arm and squeeze it during conversation when he was excited, and sometimes slap you on the back so hard you’d lose your breath. Many a jockey surely suffered a bruised thigh when returning aboard a winner thanks to his exuberant slaps. On the contrary, if he lost, Gus was the ultimate sportsman. “That’s horse racing,” he would say, followed by his trademark, “amen.”

What Gus gave me is completely immeasurable. A massive leg up and education in the racing business, yes, but more importantly, memories that will last a lifetime and a second family that I remain very close with. Gus, you were the most incredible, inspiring, irreplaceable man. Today, I’ll raise a glass of Oban (and the other half) to you and say thank you. Amen.