Dec 14, 2009

The Thoroughbred world lost a charming character with the passing in October of Pennsylvanian Bert Linder. He was 93.

We crossed paths first at Saratoga during the 1998 Fasig-Tipton sale. I had been contracted to buy some yearlings for a flashy new player from Canada. One of my tenets in helping a rookie get started safely was to buy well-made fillies from deep families. If the filly can’t run much you have a chance to get your money back if some kinfolk show up and flesh out a prominent family.

That’s why I was sitting ready when Bert’s Tabasco Cat filly entered the auction ring as Hip #1. She was a real beauty and I thought we had booted the opening kick-off in style, buying her for $330,000. Before I could sign the ticket Bert was right there thanking me for buying the chestnut filly. He had a one-horse consignment so the day’s work was successful and cause for celebration. He hied his way to the bar while I worked my way through the bidding list.

The Tabasco filly turned out to be not particularly athletic so trainer Todd Pletcher and I recommended that the filly (named Ellesmere) seek some black type at Fort Erie, across the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY. She placed in a stakes as expected and was soon after retired to be bred.

Linder had gained an international reputation for raising top horses at his farm near Scranton. That’s coal country-anthracite or “hard” coal as opposed to the bituminous “soft” variety found in western PA where I spent my formative years. If a Pennsylvania school boy can spell both kinds of coal it is said that he can get into Penn State. Others end up at Slippery Rock.

Ellesmere’s second foal turned out to be a multiple stakes-winner and Keeneland track record holder. This fall she had out the Breeders’ Cup juvenile turf second in Bridgetown, who captured the Summer Stakes at Woodbine

Tabasco Cat proved to be less than North American breeders expected and he was shipped to Japan in short order.

These days Scranton is noted mainly for spawning Vice-President Joe Biden which may or may not be a good thing to know, depending on political persuasion. Secretary of State Clinton also claims Scranton relatives.

Be that as it may, the Linder legacy bred true to the very end.