Nolan’s Horse

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When a Dogwood Stable horse named None Like Nolan won Thursday’s second race, I just wanted to say congratulations and find out who Nolan was. 

You see, I have a Nolan. He’s 13, the youngest of three sons and he went home with his mother and my wife, Sam, Tuesday afternoon. He’ll be back in a week, but I missed him. He was going to help paint a mural on Wednesday and had a trip to Hershey Park planned for Thursday. He was going to walk Katie the dog, watch TV, read a book, go fishing. Saturday, he went to a baseball clinic.

The Nolan the horse was named for didn’t get a chance to do much of that. He died almost 20 years ago. His father, Brian Spearman, tried to put it into words after watching the race replay on a clubhouse television.

“My son was born in 1993 and he passed away in 1995 at 2 1/2 years old,” Spearman said. “The kids and I have thought for a number of years about what we could do to honor him.”

A Connecticut resident with roots in Saratoga Springs, Spearman has been a partner in several Dogwood horses but told stable founder Cot Campbell about wanting to own a horse outright and name it after Nolan. Dogwood could manage the horse and it would run in the green and yellow silks, but the horse would belong to the Spearmans.

Campbell was all for it, and showed Spearman a few horses during a trip to the farm in Aiken, S.C. The Spearmans picked a bay son of Malibu Moon that Dogwood purchased at Keeneland September for $135,000 in 2012. He became the Spearmans’ horse.

Back home, the family ran a contest of sorts to come up with a name. The list on the refrigerator grew, but Spearman’s daughter Laura won easily.

“Well Dad . . . there was none like Nolan.”

And a horse had a name. 

None Like Nolan made his debut for trainer Todd Pletcher last June at Belmont Park and finished second, then missed more than a year with “a little setback” before returning to the races in 2014. After stumbling at the start and getting bumped, he was third at Belmont going 6 furlongs May 11. Going long at Belmont 30 days later, None Like Nolan finished last of nine. Sent to Monmouth Park in July, he finished second. Then came Thursday, where he refused to be passed late and won by a nose going 1 1/8 miles on a track made sloppy by a pre-race deluge.

The horse was even money, but a big payoff for Spearman. He grew up in Saratoga, went to Central Catholic High and owns a house here. His mother still lives here. An executive with Pepsico, Spearman told Campbell not to force it, but that it would be nice if the horse could run at Saratoga. Thursday, he ran and won and made a man think about his son.

At one point during our conversation, Spearman took a long pause to compose himself. The silence lingered, he took a deep breath, apologized (needlessly) and talked some more. Laura Spearman, whose middle name is Noel, is 17 and a senior in high school. Her younger brother, Aidan Nolan Spearman, is 15. 

Their brother would have been 21 this year. 

“It’s been a while, but we think about him all the time,” Spearman said. “He passed away Christmas morning, which is the other sort of difficult part. All these years later, we wanted to do this as a family and here we are.”

 

 Thanks Nolan.