Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Devoted To The 'Max' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Devoted To The ‘Max’

Jill’s persistence led her to a reunion with Max

This week's story is a bit of a departure from the typical “OTTB Showcase” stories. It's less about a horse and more about spotlighting an example of the type of person the industry could use more of and should strive to attract and/or cultivate from within.

That person is Jill Pritchard and to me, she is part superhero, part angel.

I met Jill when I worked at Three Chimneys Farm as the marketing director. She was new to the industry and was boarding her one and (then) only mare at Three Chimneys. She was looking at a stallion (Sky Mesa, if I remember correctly), and we started chatting when she asked where racehorses go when they retire from the track.

My favorite topic! We became fast friends.

Jill is business-savvy and also an animal-lover. From day one, she was interested in learning all she could about the industry – both breeding and racing – so she could make decisions that were both practical and in the best interest of her mare and that mare's offspring.

Jill had tremendous luck with Driving Rain, a daughter of Storm Cat whom she bought out of the Overbrook dispersal with the help of bloodstock agent Bob Feld.

She sold her second foal for a cool $100,000, and he went on to be aptly named The Absolute One. He won easily in his career debut and followed up that performance with a stakes win in his second start and an allowance win two starts later. Jill dubbed him Max as a foal, and she followed his career with interest like a proud mom.

After his form started to wane at the allowance level, he was entered for a $40,000 claiming tag and was claimed by trainer Tom Amoss for a new owner. At a step below the his previous racing level, he was still winning and caught the eye of another trainer. Bam. Claimed again for $25,000. About three months later – bam – he showed up under a different trainer's name half way across the country at Remington Park. He raced a few time there and at Delta Downs, and Jill would watch for his entries or published workouts and would tune in to watch his races on TV or online.

“When he raced at Delta Downs last fall, I thought like it was an indication that his connections weren't exactly excited about him anymore,” said Jill. “I wasn't really fearful until about February of this year when there were no longer any published workouts. He had bounced around from Fairgrounds, Keeneland, Del Mar, Oaklawn, and Lonestar…I wasn't sure where he would end up next.”

Then, he dropped off the grid. No races, no workouts – nothing.

I got a call from Jill last December asking if there was anything I could do to help her find Max. The worry over not knowing what had become of him was consuming her. I suggested she call the racing office at Delta Downs, explain that she's the breeder of a horse who raced at their track, and ask about how to get in touch with the last trainer of record to inquire about getting him back when he is finished racing.

“When I called Delta Downs, they weren't overly helpful,” said Jill. “I wasn't frantic, but I was really sad. I felt like I had let Max down.”

Max as a foal at Three Chimneys Farm
Max as a foal at Three Chimneys Farm

Since that advice didn't pan out as we'd hoped, I connected Jill with Maggie Moss, who helped her find out that Max was at a training center out West, rehabilitating from some ankle issues. Through Maggie, Jill let it be known that she was interested in making sure the horse retired safely and would be interested in buying him whenever the current connections were ready to retire him. They wanted to rehab him and try racing him again, so all Jill could do was check in on him through Maggie periodically.

“When he popped back up on Equibase with a published workout I was relieved that he was still running,” said Jill. “But when his next workout indicated he had been gelded, I was a little confused. Then, he had an early entry notification and a final entry notification within two hours of each other in a $4,000 claimer. That's when I panicked and called you.”

Dropping from the $30,000 to $40,000 claiming level to $4,000, especially after a long layoff, is a red flag if there ever was one.

There's a lyric from rap song with a catchy beat titled “Gone for the Winter” that goes “Gotta make it happen, no time for what may work; My plan B's just another way to make my Plan A work.” (we all have our flaws – mine seems to be listening to raunchy, foul-mouthed rap music with a good beat. I guess it could be worse). I was listening to that song in my car when Jill called me.

Jill, Maggie and I emailed back and forth, and Jill gave Maggie the go-ahead to put in a claim on Max for $4,000.

The Absolute One/Max ran at Prairie Meadows on Memorial Day going 4 ½ furlongs and finished second by a length and a half. Maggie/Jill's claim was one of three registered for him, and if Maggie hadn't won the three-way shake, I have a feeling Jill would have offered more than the claiming price to whoever did.

“I couldn't sleep the night before the race. When Maggie sent the email about getting the claim, I was overwhelmed with emotion and literally sat down and cried,” said Jill.

As is a common theme with so many of these OTTB stories, it truly takes a village. Maggie found a trainer who would stable the horse at the track until he could ship to wherever he was going, and I talked with Jill about the many options for Max, including adoption facilities, getting someone to retrain and sell him for her as a riding horse, etc. Maggie and I both recommended our mutual friend, Ann Banks and her Wild Aire Farm, as a good place to send Max to be let down, evaluated and rehabilitated.

“I have a strong belief that he was my responsibility,” explained Jill. “I appreciate that this might seem a bit crazy, but because of me, Max was out there. I could not face myself if I knew he was in harm's way and I did nothing about it, and thankfully [my boyfriend] Shane was completely supportive and encouraging.”

Today, June 17, marks the third anniversary of The Absolute One/Max breaking his maiden impressively and embarking on a career that would see him visit the winner's circle five times for his various connections.

Max has new found new friends at
Max has new found a few new friends

As of 2:30 this afternoon, he has come in from his morning turnout and is relaxing in a stall with a Dutch door looking out to his paddock and bedded with straw up to his knees. He's had his daily bath and will have one of the many laser treatments that will be needed over the coming weeks for his ankles from Ann later this afternoon. He came to Ann's farm with the same chill attitude that he had when Jill would visit him as a foal and with dapples that have only multiplied since the day he arrived.

Once he is done at Ann's, he will move to Richie Donworth's Scarteen Stud where Driving Rain, still owned by Jill, now resides. Richie cared for Max and his siblings at Three Chimneys as the farm's broodmare manager, and when he heard what Jill was doing for the gelding, he quickly offered his services for whatever was needed. What's needed is time, and Max will spend it in a lush pasture at Scarteen for the summer until he is ready to embark on his off-track career.

Jill has since decided that Max will be staying with her. She rode as a child – mostly Western – and together with Max she plans to get back in the saddle, though this time it will be English, with maybe a bit of Western riding thrown in for good measure.

“Getting back into riding was always something I wanted to do again someday,” said Jill. “Now I have a bad a– horse that is all mine! He is handsome, sweet, athletic, and I belong to him. And, from what Ann tells me, he is looking for something to do, which makes me smile.”

Jill has no idea what Max – or she – will enjoy doing. Maybe it will be jumping, maybe dressage or eventing. It may end up that all they like or all his legs, which are not without their jewelry (i.e. bone chips) can take are long, lazy trail rides a few times a week. Regardless, Jill is excited to have him back and determined to see that Max goes out of this world the same way he came into it: well cared for, cherished and loved.

You can read a post Jill wrote about her experience the day Max was claimed and retired on her racing stable Facebook page here:

To be continued…

Name: The Absolute One (a.k.a. “Max”)
Born: March 5, 2010
Color: Dark Bay
Sire: Songandaprayer
Dam: Driving Rain
Sale History: Sold in 2011 at KEESEP for $100,000
Race Record: 15-5-3-3
Race Earnings: $154,998

If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz ([email protected]) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.

Jen Roytz is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days.

Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.


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