Weekend Warrior

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Phil Serpe won’t shed a tear when he leads Weekend Hideaway out of his stall at Belmont Park and onto a van bound for the horse’s next home sometime this fall. He’ll miss the popular New York-bred that racked up more than $1 million in earnings and stakes victories over seven straight seasons, just don’t expect any sadness.

“It’s funny how things happen,” the trainer said Friday. “I kind of felt like his time was coming along. I really didn’t have any plans on going into next year with him. I wasn’t stopping on him but I felt like this was coming.”

Weekend Hideaway, campaigned throughout his career by Serpe and Mike Hoffman’s Red and Black Stable, officially retired this week after coming out of a workout last Saturday with a fracture to the inside sesamoid in one of his front legs. The 8-year-old son of Speightstown won 13 of 49 starts, including a second John Morrissey Stakes this past summer at Saratoga Race Course.

“It’s like a storybook ending, winning that stake at Saratoga was his last hurrah,” Serpe said. “I’m really, really happy that when he leaves the barn I’ll be able to walk him onto the van. He’s not going to have some kind of other issue that could have been worse. I am happy about that. His career has been very successful.

“I’ll tell you the truth I’m not real sad about this because I didn’t want him to start running in races and go in the other direction. So it’s mission accomplished at this part of his life and we’ll see what happens further down the road.”

No plans are in place yet for Weekend Hideaway’s second career as a stallion, although Serpe and Hoffman are in the midst of trying to find that next home for the horse.

Weekend Hideaway never won a graded stakes during his career – he finished third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in 2016 and third in the Grade 2 Futurity as a 2-year-old in 2012 – and Serpe said that fact has made the search “not an easy process.”

Weekend Hideaway did win nine stakes for Serpe and his longtime partner Lisa Bartkowski, starting with the David for New York-breds in 2012 at Saratoga and ultimately the Morrissey July 26. In between he won the Morrissey in 2014, Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream and two editions of the Commentator at Belmont.

The second Commentator in May 2017 came by a nose over eventual multiple Grade 1 winner Diversify, a race Serpe said defined Weekend Hideaway.

“Winning the Commentator and beating Rick Violette’s horse was one of the greatest moments,” he said. “At times he dug in extra, extra deep and found what it took to get it done.

“We race, yes, but we’re horse people. We’re not in it for the trophies and we’re not in it necessarily for the money. Of course we like trophies and we need to make money, but we’re horse people and we get a lot out of doing this. Once in a while you get a horse like this that comes along and he doesn’t have to be a Grade 1 winner, but they’re just extra special and he is one of those horses.”

Weekend Hideaway landed in Serpe’s barn after he helped Hoffman purchase the then yearling for $40,000 out of the Flying Zee Stable Dispersal at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale.

Serpe’s history with the horse goes back much further. He arranged the mating that produced Weekend Hideaway, pairing the Wiseman’s Ferry mare Apocalyptical with Speightstown for Carl Lizza in 2009. The chestnut colt was the mare’s first foal and he sold a few months after Lizza’s death in July 2011.

Weekend Hideaway didn’t impress Serpe and Bartkowski at first – read more in the story “4 More Years” that appeared in the July 27, 2018 edition of The Saratoga Special – but eventually came around. He won three of five starts as a 2-year-old, including the David and Bertram F. Bongard at Belmont, and earned champion 2-year-old male honors from the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. 

He won only one of next nine starts after his juvenile season – the Gone Fishin Stakes going 6 furlongs on the grass at Belmont – before taking it to a higher level and one he’d maintain throughout his career in the summer of 2014.

Always in the first set and frequently one of the first horses from any barn to train, Weekend Hideaway also enjoyed significant grazing and walking time in the afternoons, most of the time with Serpe on the shank. The horse won nine of 35 starts from the second half of 2014 until his final run, a third in a tough state-bred allowance Aug. 27 at Saratoga.

“I spent a lot of time with Weekend Hideaway,” Serpe said. “A couple years back he was doing OK and I just felt like I wanted to give him a little more personal attention than he was getting. Other than days when he breezed or when he ran, I went back to the barn and took him out and graze him every day. If it was raining I’d walk him every day. I spent a lot of time with him.

“Horses, good horses, I think they value the relationship with certain people. I had this happen before, when I trained Cosmonaut for a short period of time, a horse Birdonthewire I had a long time ago, they were horses that got more done because of that attention. It may sound a little like a Hallmark card but it’s the truth. Some horses respond to human relationships, they really do.”


Read more about Weekend Hideaway:

“Back For More” (Page 16)

“Hide & Seek” (Page 26)

“All Smiles” (Page 14)