Barn Buddies Presented By Dapple Up: I Went To Saratoga And Met Johnny Depp - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Barn Buddies Presented By Dapple Up: I Went To Saratoga And Met Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp poses for a photo in the Gargan barn office. Photo courtesy Carol Fisher

Despite his obvious popularity, I almost failed to notice Johnny Depp both times I walked by the barn at Saratoga. Once he was sitting casually in a chair, ruminating over a cup of coffee with Conor Foley. The other time he was brooding under a tree in that way only the most handsome can brood, like they're ready for a camera, as he contemplated shimmying up the trunk.

Did I not mention that Johnny Depp is a cat? Probably should have.

Carol Fisher, assistant to Danny Gargan, said the striking black cat showed up earlier this summer, at which point her phone was filled with daily headlines from the movie star's very public civil lawsuit. Fisher had always been a Depp fan, and the new cat needed a name, which is now engraved on a tag on his collar.

Johnny first appeared near the Chad Brown barn, and Fisher helped to catch him. She'd expected it would be a longer-term project, since everyone assumed he was a feral kitten.

“He came right up to them and was so happy to have a friend,” Fisher said. “That day I made an appointment to take him to the vet. His coat was all matted. I said do whatever you need to do, worm him, shots, neuter him. They said he was already neutered.

“I asked how old they thought he was, and they said he was about 11 months. So I think he was just so malnourished and skinny and it probably stunted his growth a little bit.”

Johnny got his coat clipped to shed the matted hair, which has revealed lighter gray patches of fur brightening up his black coat. His tail, which was not clipped, stands out like a graceful plume behind him. Fisher says he looks “a little funny” with the haircut, which is starting to grow out, but Johnny doesn't seem to be self-conscious about it.

Johnny isn't necessarily a devoted hunter; barn staff reported this week he briefly grabbed a pigeon before it casually flapped away. Otherwise, he's more of a stalker than a carnivore. That isn't really the point of him, though. Instead, he's more of a morale booster inside and outside the barn.

“He'll come out here and kids will pick him up and he just loves it so much. He just loves people,” she said, gesturing toward the snack stand on the backstretch, which is often mobbed by tourists and owners grabbing a bite during morning training.

Johnny enjoys some snuggle time. Photo courtesy Carol Fisher

In recent days, Johnny has been learning to ride on the golf cart, whizzing around the barn area with Fisher and other Gargan staff. He seems more focused on the opportunity to enjoy lap time than anything else. In the way that only cats can, Johnny also seems talented at recognizing a dog person when he sees one. On a recent morning, he climbed into the lap of the one visitor to the barn who characterized himself as 'not really a cat person,' put his head down, and closed his eyes.

Even in his relatively brief interlude at the barn thus far, Johnny is already incredibly popular. Fisher said that the stable maintains a string at Saratoga through the fall and in the spring, but it's not yet clear where Johnny will spend his winter. Gargan is tempted to take him to Florida, but isn't sure he'd take to the condo life. Still, as he carts Johnny around in his arms like a baby, it's hard for Gargan to imagine not seeing him every day.

Gargan cradles Johnny on a recent morning at Saratoga

“He's the best thing I've ever rescued,” said a beaming Gargan.

Fisher has thought about bringing him in for the winter, but she already has two former barn cats living inside with her. One of the grooms is hopelessly devoted to Johnny. Fisher jokes “he has about 30 people fighting over him.

“He's famous now.”

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