By Jim Freer
Three weeks ago, Rachel’s Girl was a thoroughbred whose racing career appeared over and was on the verge of becoming homeless.
Now, after being rescued by her new owner David Ludwig and trainer Doug Potter she will return to the Gulfstream Park track on Saturday for a landmark 100th career start. It will be in the ninth race, with scheduled post of 4:58 p.m.
And when racing days are over for the 8-year-old Rachel’s Girl, Ludwig and Potter plan to make sure she has a permanent home.
Immediate prospects were not bright for Rachel’s Girl in mid-June, when owner Spencer McDonald decided he could no longer afford to keep her.
Potter. the trainer of Rachel’s Girl in her last two races, kept the abandoned mare in his barn. But he realized that it would be difficult to find someone to buy her and keep paying bills to take care of her.
Consider that Rachel’s Girl had just two wins, six second place finishes and three third place finishes in 99 starts.
Ludwig, who has owned several horses trained by Potter, then stepped in to become at least temporarily the owner of Rachel’s Girl.
“Her fate was hanging by a thread,” Ludwig said. “Who knows what would have happened?”
Unfortunately, some thoroughbreds that can no longer race and do not have breeding value are given away or otherwise wind up with owners who mistreat them. Slaughter is sometimes the end result.
“As a horseman, I felt that I had to do something (for Rachel’s Girl),” Ludwig said. “It is important to step up to the plate for these horses.”
Ludwig is a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. He is among the numerous Florida professionals and business people for whom thoroughbred ownership is a side business or a hobby—and who are a lifeblood for the sport.
His list of horses includes Bob’s Jawbreaker, winner of the 2009 Runaway Marcie Stakes at Calder. He owned that horse in a partnership with Desirae Potter, whose father Doug Potter was the trainer.
Ludwig’s first step with Rachel’s Girl was a thorough physical review. She was wormed and re-shod, and received dental work—things the previous owner was unable to do in recent months.
A veterinarian examined her and determined that she is still fit for racing.
“What is amazing is that she is completely sound and has no leg problems what so ever,” Ludwig said.
So he and Potter decided to give the rejuvenated Rachel’s Girl at least one more race—making her a rare thoroughbred to reach 100 starts.
Statistics on the number of thoroughbreds with 100 or more starts is not readily available.
“It is very rare,” Ludwig said, and our research indicates the same finding.
For example, Saturday’s 12-race Gulfstream card has 107 entrants and Rachel’s Girl has by far the greatest number of starts.
Good Song, another 8-year-old mare, is entered in the 11th race and is second to Rachel’s Girl with 63 starts. They are among 14 Gulfstream entrants for Saturday that have 30 or more career starts.
Rachel’s Girl latest race was on June 12 at Gulfstream. She finished ninth and last at one mile on dirt in a $6,250 claimer.
Saturday’s ninth race is a $6,250 claimer at 5 ½ furlongs on dirt, with an eight-horse field. Rachel’s Girl is 30-1 in the morning line. She will be ridden by Orayne Sewell, who is in his first month at Gulfstream after riding in Jamaica.
The result probably will help determine how soon Ludwig and Potter retire Rachel’s Girl from racing.
“I have some friends who own farms in Davie and could take her,” Ludwig said.
Or, he added, he could place her with a horse rescue program. The Florida Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Horse Rescue of South Florida are among options.
All of the races for Rachel’s Girl have been at Gulfstream or at Calder.
She is an example of how numerous well-bred thoroughbreds wind up with careers on the bottom levels of claiming ranks.
Her sire is First Samurai, whose sire is Giant’s Causeway. Her maternal grandfather is City Zip. All three were graded stakes winners. She was bred in Kentucky by Lansdon Robbins and Kevin Callahan.
Despite her pedigree that is impressive, although several notches below regal, she was sold for just $1,700 at an Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. sale in April 2010.
The buyer Marcelo Cuito raced her for two years until 2012, when a series of claims began. She has not won a race since 2013.
In 2015, she raced 16 times with one second place and 15 off-the-board finishes. She raced for three owners, including McDonald, and three trainers, not including Potter, during the year.