Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Securing A 'Forever Home' - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Cosequin Presents OTTB Showcase: Securing A ‘Forever Home’

Michelle Yu and Cajun Gent

Many in the racing industry got to know Michelle Yu on both HRTV and TVG. If not there, maybe you saw her covering football on Fox or hosting the Santa Anita simulcast. Or perhaps you bumped into her on the backside working for trainers Ron Moquett or Steve Asmussen.

Retired racehorse Cajun Gent got to know Michelle in the barn of Jim Hanson. A chance meeting turned into a fondness that endured the test of time, as well as several claims, and thanks to Michelle, landed Cajun Gent in a forever home on a 500-acre farm.

Cajun Gent began his career at Santa Anita, running second to eventual millionaire and sire Two Step Salsa in his first start. After breaking his maiden at age four, Cajun Gent was successful at the allowance level with a few stakes placings to boot.

As he got older, his form trailed off and he changed hands via claims several times, but he still kept racking up wins. One of those claims came from Jim Hanson.

“He had dropped down the claiming ranks to Los Alamitos. He had always been consistent, but he had issues,” said Michelle, whose boyfriend (now husband), Ryan, was Jim's son and assistant trainer. “Lots of time off helped him to be one of the toughest $5,000 claimers in Southern California.”

On the track he was all business, but off the track he quickly bonded with Michelle and more or less became her pet.

“He had a boss personality and would do anything for a carrot,” said Michelle, who grew up riding Arabians, hunters, and eventers, and later played polo for the University of Louisville while in college. “I had never been around claimers at this level before and I was told not to get attached. They are definitely hard to keep in a barn. We would lose him, his form would decline, and we were always able to claim him back.”

Between his stints in Jim's barn, Michelle would visit Cajun Gent in his other trainers' barns, bringing him carrots and keeping tabs on his whereabouts and well-being.

Cajun Gent on the racetrack
Cajun Gent on the racetrack

“At one point he wound up out of town and ran very poorly. He disappeared off the grid and when I questioned the trainer, I was told he was retired,” said Michelle. “Six months later, he showed back up at the bottom for $2,000. Once again we claimed him back, and he went onto win seven in a row for our barn.”

By then Cajun Gent was nine and his ankles were starting to bother him. He was getting toward the end of his career and Michelle wanted desperately to retire him on his terms, not somebody else's.

“I constantly nagged my boyfriend about talking to Cajun's owners about retiring him, and he finally gave in, but of course that night he was claimed,” said Michelle.

Bound and determined to ensure her equine friend a better life, Michelle turned to Facebook leading up to his next start and reached out to her friends and followers to help her raise the money to claim him back.

“Ryan said if I could raise at least half of the claim price, he would chip in and put up the rest. Several friends chipped in and we claimed Cajun that night, but the claim was voided due to lameness,” said Michelle.

She wouldn't give up. To her, Cajun's life depended on it. She found the trainer and implored him to sell the horse to her privately, regardless of his condition. He agreed.

Cajun under saddle in his new home
Cajun under saddle in his new home

Michelle couldn't keep the horse herself, but secured a home for him in Kansas with a friend, as well as the transportation to get him there from Los Alamitos.

“He now has 500 acres and tons of friends, and gets hacked around, and is in love with a little girl. It makes my heart melt every time I hear how happy he is,” said Michelle.

Michelle has taken up the responsibility of finding homes for Jim and Ryan's retiring horses – both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses – and loves finding the perfect homes for them.

“I am proud to say that my husband has really embraced my passion for finding homes for these ex-racers, and once in a while, that home is with us! My husband's brother took out his trainer's license and owned and trained a horse that won quite a lot for him. He is now his pony. My sister-in-law and I are also proud owners of Quarter Horses who once raced carrying our silks.

“As for Cajun, I am beyond happy that he, a nine-year-old with a Grade 1 heart, is now retired and has a forever home.”

Name: Cajun Gent (a.k.a. “Cajun”)
Born: April 22, 2005
Color: Dark Bay/Brown
Sire: Yankee Gentleman
Dam: Cajun Flash
Sale History: none
Race Record: 48-18-11-6
Race Earnings: $231,620

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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