You Heard It

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Loring Heard didn’t want to take a hiatus. The veteran horseman owned horses he liked, just didn’t have the time. He and his wife Melanie needed to make some changes after his mother died and they sold their Virginia farm.

The Heards looked for land in the Carolinas but settled for the sweet grass of Georgia, settling a couple hours from Camden, S.C., on an old cotton plantation in Georgia.  Overgrown and run-down, the farm needed money, love and muscle. They provided all three.

Eastern Starlett, Troubled Angel and Giant Sleep came along for the ride, got lost in the shuffle and bobbed back to the surface this year as the Heards had finally gotten a grip on the farm and could wade back into the racing business.

Heard sent the three mares to Camden-based trainer Arch Kingsley.

Troubled Angel made two starts in 2008, took four years off and resurfaced over hurdles, winning her debut (but being disqualified) and finishing fifth in a Pennsylvania-bred maiden hurdle at Parx.

After making three starts on the flat in 2008, Eastern Starlett returned to win once and finish second twice over hurdles this year. She’s due to run in the hurdle stakes next week.

Giant Sleep, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Giant’s Causeway (yes, that Giant’s Causeway) made her career debut, at 6, at Colonial Downs this summer. Yes, at 6. She won for a $25,000 tag. She made her second start yesterday, upsetting a turf sprint at Saratoga.

Over the last 149 years, there have been some unorthodox wins at Saratoga. Giant Sleep, a 6-year-old daughter of the great Giant’s Causeway, winning a turf sprint for a Georgia-based jump owner and South Carolina-based jump trainer, now that’s right up there.

To top it off, she was claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. A numbers owner claiming from a non-numbers owner. Funny game.

In two starts, Giant Sleep grossed $50,126 for Heard.

On the way to the track a few days ago, Kingsley smiled at the sight of the dark bay mare, jigging to the track.

“She came in rodeo’n, like a mad bull, I wasn’t sure who was sorting who out on a couple of occasions. Breaking a 6-year-old mare who had never been touched, she tested everything I’ve got,” Kingsley’s voice faded away at the sheer lunacy of the endeavor. “

It was anything like lunacy as she ran off the screen Wednesday.

As for Heard, he’s not against doing things differently.

“We took a couple of years away from racing to do the move and take care of some other problems in my life,” Heard said. “Once that was done, I started up the racing thing again, the horses got a couple of years off, but they’re probably none the worse for it. They’re out there doing it again. We’re hopeful they’ll continue to improve.”

He said that before Ramsey claimed Giant Sleep.

It takes all kinds in racing, there are New Yorkers reading the sheets, Kentuckians reading pedigrees and there are displaced Virginians living in Georgia hoping for the best.

“We wanted good grass and you can’t find that in Camden, there isn’t enough substance to have good grass, so we had to cross the river to find it. It has a nice mixture of sand and clay, it’s worked out pretty well,” Heard said. “I’ve got a couple of mares in Pennsylvania who are pregnant, we are now continuing. We took a break from racing and breeding because we had our hands full, the farm needed a lot of work because it was going in the wrong direction. We didn’t feel like we had enough time to do everything and you have to make choices in life as I’m sure you know.”

Three hours from Camden, an hour northwest of Augusta, the Heards’ farm is a long way from the usual Saratoga training camps, but successful all the same.

“In the middle of nowhere, actually, but it’s pretty land and we are gradually shoving it in the right direction, hopefully in another year or two we’ll be where we want to be,” Heard said. “We’re confident enough that we are well situated that we sent out a couple of mares to be bred, we’ll foal them out, but obviously not in Georgia, that doesn’t make much sense.”

Giant Sleep’s contribution won’t hurt.

A standard at the point-to-points, Heard has played the game for many years, riding as an amateur and readying his 2012 crop to the point where they were ready to do something. Unorthodox, for sure. An owner, all the same.

“So far, we’ve been gratified,” Heard said. “You don’t always win, as you well know, you just want to be in with a chance, as they say. Thus far this year, we’ve been able to do that most of the time, that’s made it a lot of fun.”