Family Matters

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They say every horse has a story. And this is Lenski’s. Part of it anyway.

The 6-year-old runs in a maiden hurdle race at Colonial Downs Sunday. He’s winless in four career starts. He sold for $190,000 as a weanling, $600,000 as a yearling. He ran at Saratoga for Patrick Biancone. He went almost three years between starts. But the part I know doesn’t concern any of that. I know his family.

My father trained Lenski’s dam, granddam and great-granddam. They took the Clancys from the 1970s to the 1990s, elementary school to college, first kisses to marriage . . .

First came Restless Singleton, a Timonium sales purchase back in 1975. Dad spent $10,500 of Donny Ross’ money on the daughter of Restless Native, thanks to a nudge from Mom to go slightly over-budget. The yearling filly was black, big, long, bony, mean, nervous, but she could run. She won three times in one summer at Delaware Park (July 19, Aug. 4, Aug. 16, 1978). We were all there – Dad, Mom, Sheila, Sean, me, Mr. and Mrs. Ross, the Connors’ kids (Laurie is the director at Willowdale now), Michael Dickens, Linda Kegris, current NSA steward Taylor Jackson leaning on he rail, the usual gadflies at the back of the Delaware Park winner’s circle.

The groom, Sue Stude, sported a “Get Restless” T-shirt by the third victory. Should have trademarked it. Jimmy Baxis, who once needed to drive my father’s car to make a riding engagement at Timonium, was the jockey. What ever happened to Jimmy Baxis?

Restless liked the turf at Delaware. And why not? She lived there. We were based at the Ross family’s Brandywine Stable within the track’s grounds. The house dated to the 1700s. The barn and indoor track complex weren’t that old, but they still oozed history with names like Greek Money, Open Fire, Cochise and Masked General flying the blue and gold silks through the decades. Restless didn’t care much for history. She was more interested in living up to her name. She did everything restlessly – walked, trained, stood in the stall (or didn’t stand in the stall). A weaver, she wore out her front shoes with a near-constant side-to-side sway at the stall door. She adopted our goat, Billy, as a companion. He calmed her down, some, or at least gave her something else to fret about. She loved him, he tolerated her. Eventually, the roles reversed. Billy got upset when Restless left the barn and calmed down when he could stand next to her.

The big mare won five times and placed in a stakes during her career. She earned a whopping $41,000, but did give us quite a summer at Delaware Park. I superstitiously wore the same shirt for all three wins, which seemed like a good idea at the time but looks ridiculous in the photos 30 years later.

When her racing career ended, Restless became a broodmare and was bred to Cyane. Cyane and a Restless Native mare? Talk about old school.

The Rosses named the foal, a filly, Tattiebogle. It’s a scarecrow in Scotland. Almost as big, long and black as her mother, Tattiebogle cast a shadow around the barn. Someone once remarked that she had “an ass like the West Chester bus” while I walked her down the shedrow. I never saw the West Chester bus, but I’m assuming it was pretty broad. And so was she.

She followed her mother, who died before having another foal, to the winner’s circle. Carrying the Brandywine silks like Restless, Tattie won six times including two Pennsylvania-bred stakes for Dad. In my parents’ mud room, Tattie’s win photos hang under Restless’. No pack of kids, no repeating shirts, just smaller groups and the passage of time. Dad, me, Sean, the Rosses, van driver Jack McKee, superstar groom Lonnie and his Gilligan hat. Buck Thornburg rode her, so did Gregg McCarron.

She nearly won at Saratoga in 1986. McCarron (Matt’s dad) came back steaming mad at Angel Cordero, claimed foul, said we’d get the win in the stewards’ stand, then watched in dismay as Cordero’s number stayed up.

Tattie more than doubled her mother’s career earnings, amassing more than $89,000 with two victories in each of her three seasons (1985-87) and 16 top-three finishes in 25 starts.

She started her broodmare career by being bred to Dixieland Band, a Mid-Atlantic hero owned by Bayard Sharp and trained in Middletown, Del. The son of Northern Dancer won the Pennsylvania Derby, Massachusetts Handicap and more.

In 1989, Tattie produced a filly, naturally, named Twigazuri (no idea what that means) who wound up in Dad’s barn at Fair Hill Training Center in the early 1990s. Still owned by the Ross family, she was lighter in color and smaller than her ancestors but was never called petite. She couldn’t quite match her mother and grandmother on the racetrack but did manage a win and five seconds. The win came in 1992 and the photo hangs on the same wall with her mother and grandmother.

Tattiebogle produced nine winners from 10 foals to race. The Rosses kept her son M’Bogo, who grew into one of the largest 2-year-olds I’ve ever seen (in hindsight, Deputy Minister was not a wise choice for a mare once compared to a bus). I remember trying to stay on him while jogging inside the barn at Fair Hill one winter. He never started in a race, but became a world-class foxhunter in Pennsylvania.

The rest went to the sales ring. Son Nicou Nicou (by Private Terms) sold at Keeneland September and won three stakes in Canada. Another son Eratospook (by Opening Verse) finished second in the Grade III Cherry Hill Mile. Daughter First Wife produced six winners.

Eventually, Tattiebogle followed her foals to the sales ring as the Ross family dispersed its horses.  She and Twigazuri sold in 1993 (bringing $43,000 and $9,000, respectively). Despite the small sales tag, Twigazuri took the family to new heights as a broodmare. Her second foal, Futural, earned more than $800,000 on the racetrack. The son of Future Storm won the Grade II Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, the Grade II San Bernadino and finished third in the Grade I Hollywood Derby. Now retired at Old Friends in Kentucky, Futural won a dozen races.

His brother, Lenski, runs over hurdles at Colonial Downs Sunday for trainer Karen Gray.

And now you know part of his story.