Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: ‘A Guardian Angel’ - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Three Chimneys Presents Good News Friday: ‘A Guardian Angel’

Oh So Awesome observes the snow in his new home

To this day, Mike DeMent isn't sure what drove him to look over the entries at Beulah Park in early January. The Chicago-based art director was idly clicking through a claiming race when he spotted 11-year-old Oh So Awesome. Something about the name seemed familiar to DeMent, who manages his family's small racing operation Brigade Stables.

He had resolved that in 2014 he would help a horse in need. Just a few days into the year, it seemed his chance had come.

DeMent did some research and learned that the son of Awesome Again had, some 60 races ago, finished fifth in the 2006 Belmont Stakes under Mike Smith.

At Beulah, eight years later, the horse was running for a $3,500 tag.

“I said, 'This is the horse!' He just stuck out to me,” he said. “His story is unbelievable, because it's a riches-to-rags story, the way I see it.”

'Awesome' brought $115,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November and started his career in France before rapidly graduating to graded stakes company. After the Belmont, he went on to finish fifth in the Jim Dandy and the Ontario Derby. From there, his form began to fade—from allowance to optional claimers to claimers.

As the $3,500 claiming race approached, DeMent contacted Awesome's trainer via Facebook to see if the man would be receptive to selling the horse rather than running him one more time. As it turns out, the trainer had picked Oh So Awesome up, concerned by how far he had fallen, with the hopes of either turning his form around or finding him a retirement home.

DeMent next contacted Diana Baker, a central Kentucky horsewoman who helps network for rescue horses, and Erin Pfister, manager of Akindale Horse Rescue in New York. Within days, DeMent had bought himself a Belmont Stakes runner and the group had arranged a van for Oh So Awesome from Beulah Park to his new home at Akindale.

Pfister said the move was a bit of a shock for Awesome at first, but a few weeks later, he seemed happy in his new surroundings.

Awesome (left) enjoys a snack with the help of Greeley's Legacy, 2006 Preakness runner
Awesome (left) enjoys a snack with the help of Greeley's Legacy, 2006 Preakness runner

“When they first come they're very reserved and are like, 'What is my life now?' but now he is very talkative … he's very, very nosy. He doesn't miss anything,” said Pfister. “His personality has blossomed since he's been here.”

In an almost storybook twist, Awesome's new pasturemate (and apparently close friend) is Greeley's Legacy, who competed in the 2006 edition of the Preakness.

The pair join a prestigious honor roll of Akindale graduates, including Evening Attire and half-brother Tacticianor, fan favorite Stud Muffin, Xtra Heat son Hot West, and graded stakes runner Hotstufandthensome.

Pfister said that many of Akindale's horses come as auction rescues, or are turned in by owners, breeders, or trainers, but it's rare for someone to buy and place a horse they haven't even seen before. It's just as rare for a deal to buy and retire a horse to come together so quickly.

“He (DeMent) did a good job in picking this horse, because who would've known where he would have ended up. It's all in the timing,” she said. “Somebody was looking [from] above. It's just crazy how things come together, and this was really smooth.”

DeMent agrees that the horse had a little divine intervention to get to his new home.

“I was just glad that I was there and I saw the entry,” he said. “This sounds cheesy, but I swear I think there was a guardian angel. I was just the hands and the eyes.

“I have every belief that this guy will have a good home and will be loved. I'm just a very small part of what happened there.”

For his part, DeMent got hooked on the business during trips to the track with his uncle, and subsequently got his parents and brother into the game with Brigade Stables. Taking responsibility for their horses was always part of the equation.

Awesome's personality (and goofy expressions) are starting to come through as he settles in at Akindale
Awesome's personality (and goofy expressions) are starting to come through as he settles in at Akindale

“I love every horse that we have at Brigade,” he said. “We're a commercial breeder, but I always watch all of my horses. We put a card on every one of our Jockey Club papers with my email address and phone number … and it says, 'If this horse ever needs a home after its career is done, please don't hesitate to give us a call.'”

DeMent bought Awesome in memory of Whiskey Lit, a former stakes-running homebred who was claimed away from DeMent's uncle several years ago. Whiskey was the horse who inspired DeMent to jump into ownership. DeMent and his uncle tracked the gelding down after a long campaign and wanted to retire him. They had been trying unsuccessfully to convince the owner to sell the horse to them when Whiskey died from injuries sustained in a claiming race at Parx Racing in 2011. He was running for a $5,000 tag.

“This one's for Whiskey,” said DeMent.

Oh So Awesome
Oh So Awesome

Awesome is expected to begin training for his new career in the spring. Pfister said that so far, he appears sound for low-level jumping (he has one enlarged ankle, but it doesn't seem to bother him), if that's what he wants to do. The Akindale program, which tracks horses for life after adoption, stresses patience during retraining and gives horses the opportunity to learn the basics of several different disciplines. Pfister's philosophy is that the horses should choose what they'd most like to do in their new career.

Whatever Awesome chooses, he will go down in DeMent's book as a success story—and a meaningful one at that.

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