Jul 27, 2009


Sometimes common sense plus a little deductive reasoning  can be enough in making a satisfactory horse deal.

An acquaintance of mine landed a stakes filly just that way some years ago.  Spectacular Bid was terrorizing Flying Paster and all comers at Santa Anita in the winter of Bid’s 4-year-old career.

Buddy Delp trained Bid along with the rest of a string sent West from his Maryland home.  Dr. Ken Walters was a Vancouver dentist who dabbled with a few runners at Exhibition Park.

He had a hunch that Delp might not be too fussy about his other horses while he tended to the media circus surrounding the “best horse ever to look through a bridle”.

So he was ready to pounce when he spotted a filly by Silent Screen in the entries for a paltry $20,000 maiden claimer at Santa Anita.  The filly’s name was Happy Feet, out of a Northern Dancer mare named Danceful.  Danceful was out of a half-sister to the dam 

five-time Horse of the Year Kelso.  That’s a lot of pedigree muscle for twenty grand!

Happy Feet won that afternoon and became a stakes-winner in Canada later on and became a distinguished producer with15 foals and 14 of them raced and won.

Some years later Dr. Walters ran afoul of Canada’s tax department and had to sell his horses pronto to satisfy the authorities.  A package deal of five horses was on offer and I jumped on the first plane to look them over.  The price was right and I took all five, hoping to resell four and keep Happy Feet out of admiration for her ability and soundness.

I sold three horses in short order and made a reasonable profit.  The one remaining was a smallish filly by an unheralded sire named Brunswick.  I knew this one might be a tough sale because she had one pretty crooked leg to go along with her petite body.

But I got behind this filly, having observed her combative nature-a trait she inherited from Happy Feet- and a way of outrunning a paddock full of yearlings.

My sales pitch failed and we were packing up to bring the Brunswick filly back home when John Franks rang and asked if we had any RNAs he should consider.

I mentioned the Happy Feet filly and said that I would take $5,000 for her. He readily agreed on the deal and he sent her off to Woodbine-based trainer David Bell.  David is a patient trainer of the old school and he was fired more than once by Franks for being too slow bringing them to the races.

Not this time.  The filly named Screen Happy won $337,805 from 2 to 5.  I got a pat on the back from the boss.

I got one foal for myself out of Happy Feet, a robust colt by Skip Away that I named Chipper Skipper (get it?).  Trainer Bobby Barnett called from Churchill Downs one stormy fall day and said that we had a real shot to win in a maiden route race under the Twin Spires.

The late Luke Kruytbosch and I were friends from having worked televised races together in Western Canada.  I mentioned he horse to him and we each cashed when Chipper Skipper closed about 20 lengths to get up in the last stride at 20-to-1.  Luke's call of the race rivalled the way he would announce the Kentucky Derby.


Wednesday at Belmont trainer Tom Bush unveiled a first time starter named Screen Saviour a daughter of Screen Happy who won impressively.  I sat in the Keeneland Equestrian Room and pondered whether to bet at nearly 9-to-1.  Instead I stood pat.

Reverie can be expensive sometimes.

Happy Feet, may your tribe continue to increase!