Jan 27, 2009


Vestrey Lady topped the Tuesday session at Keeneland's January Sale with a $300,000 price tag in foal to Broken Vow. She rose from humble beginnings to win some $490,000.

Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye bought her as a yearling for a mere $6,000 on behalf of voluble Canadian horseman Dick Bonnycastle. Dick made his fortune publishing romance novels. Vestrey Lady starred in a real-life tale that only seemed like fiction.

You see, Dick decided to listen to his Alberta ranch manager who advised him to break and train a dozen yearlings tethered to the back of a pick-up truck. His English-bred advisor Tony Goswell went into conniptions when he saw the goings on. Anyhow, Dick planned to sell this crop as two-year-olds at an inpromptu auction and barbecue at his ranch near Calgary. I was conscripted to serve as auctioneer after the youngsters had breezed a furlong or so for the crowd.

Vestrey Lady was the only one with a reserve price. It would take $25,000 to buy the daughter of Vicar from the immediate family of Street Sense, Mr. Greeley and others. There were no takers among the mainly moochers and sightseers that made up the audience Dick took the filly to join his Toronto string of runners and the rest is history.

Nobody would part with 25 grand when E. P. Taylor was trying to sell Northern Dancer four decades ago. Canadians have a reputation for thrift. A British Columbia horseman once overheard someone say at Keeneland that Canucks were a little tight with a buck and took great umbrage
at the thought. Later that day he sprung for lunch, perhaps to demonstrate his lack of frugality.
Our waiter returned with change from a $20 bill, some 18 cents as I recall, and told the waiter he could keep the change.

"All of it, sir?," deadpanned the waiter while the rest of us howled with laughter.

Retired jockey Chris Loseth need not worry about how much to tip these days. The Canada Hall of Fame rider bought a winning lottery ticket last November that paid a seven figure sum.
Chris and I were talking last summer about his thirty plus years in the saddle and I was sure surprised when he told me that he had never broken a bone while riding at the races or in morning work. He won 19 stakes with a mare named Delta Colleen that I bought at a dispersal in Vancouver for $6,000. She was the filly version of Silky Sullivan, routinely circling the field from last at Hastings Park's bullring. and getting up in time whether the distance was six furlongs or a mile and an eighth

While fortune smiled on Loseth it was unkind to another former riding star up north. Herbie Ollive died of a sudden heart attack in December. He came out of Alberta, in the mould of John Longden, Don McBeth, Don Seymour, Jim McAleney and the ill-fated Ron Hansen. Herbie won lots of races and he broke lots of bones. Injury and weight forced him out of the saddle and he worked as Loseth's agent with much success.

Herbie was a modest and gentlemanly who once rode a horse who broke his maiden three times.
His name was Pole Position and he was disqualfied twice before behaving well enough to please the stewards. Another rider rode him the first time but begged off a return bout with the high-strung California-bred. Herbie signed on and he and Pole Position roamed far and wide, winning numerous US stakes for trainer Goody Goodwin. Herbie always sent a Christmas card to the rider who rejected the mount on Pole Position.