On this past Wednesday at around 9 p.m., one glorious era ended while another local juggernaut put the Canadian horse racing brethren on notice that it has many years of success and commitment ahead.
Hip 236, just six yearlings from the end of the Canadian Premier Yearling Sales catalogue, marked the last yearling to be sold from the final crop of the late Hall of Fame horseman Gustav Schickedanz. A man with great presence, sort of a Bavarian John Wayne in my estimation, “Gus” was a true and devoted horseman who accomplished more than most of us could ever imagine.
A genuine horse farmer as well as a wildly successful businessman, Gus was hands-on and he knew his animals well. He was a regular at the track, both the front and back side, and lived on his beautiful family farm where he kept a close eye on his stock and spent countless hours in the barn and on horseback.
The beauty of watching a man of passion succeed at his craft was never lost on me. To see that Gus made it a family affair and that for decades he had his two steadfast comrades at his side – trainer Mike Keough and farm manager Lauri Kenny – surely must warm the iciest of hearts. Mike is now a Hall of Fame trainer, having been recently inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. As for Lauri, well, if there was a Hall of Fame for farm managers or perfect gentleman, he would be the first to be inducted into either.
So, when Hip 236, a bay filly by SEATTLE SERENADE out of Larkwood (a mare whose mother and grandmother were also Schickedanz-breds), went through the sale, she went through as a representative of Canadian horse racing and breeding royalty. She will have lofty horseshoes to fill, being from an organization that bred and raced the likes of LANGFUHR, WOODCARVER, MOBIL, WANDO and so many other greats. While her pedigree is more blue collar than some of her brilliant predecessors, the care and husbandry that was put into her was no different than any of the champions that graced the Schickedanz paddocks in years gone by. That’s how a class operation handles their business.
Hip 236 was, in fact, the least expensive of the four Schickedanz yearlings that we sold that evening. All were sold without reserve and with complete transparency because that, too, is how a class operation handles their business. Watching her barn mate, Hip 94, the SILENT NAME/Sweet Bama Breeze yearling, become the top-selling colt in the sale at $160,000 will hopefully be a source of pride and inspiration for her.
Doing the bidding and signing the ticket for this filly was Kevin Attard, whose family are surely the most prolific of any in Canadian racing history. As successful as so many of the Attards are, Kevin has made it clear by his recent and continued dominance as a trainer that it will only be a matter of time before he joins his Hall of Fame uncles Larry and Sid in Canada’s equine shrine.
If anybody was curious about the commitment that the Attard family has to the Canadian Racing industry, you need to look no further than the purchaser’s name on the sales slip: Joshua Attard. Josh is Kevin’s son and at 17 (he still hasn’t gone through his first full can of shaving cream) has already owned a legitimate Queen’s Plate contender who is trained by none other than his grandfather. Rarely a morning goes by that Josh isn’t at the track soaking up the knowledge that his family and others are imparting upon him. Josh will be a force when it becomes his turn.
Incidentally, for those who have not been involved in a family business, it is safe to say that the many perks and opportunities that come with working with family are matched by exceedingly high expectations and the associated pressures of maintaining or improving upon the same degree of excellence as the generation before.
Over the last several years I have had the privilege of selling some of the final horses owned and bred by numerous titans of the turf: Steve Stavro, Mel Lawson, Jurgen and Monique Schemmer, D.G. McClelland and others. It is an honour I take very seriously, but also one I look back on with a degree of sadness knowing that these outfits will no longer exist, or if so, in a much-modified state.
Knowing that the last of Gus’ beloved yearlings will be passed on to a young man like Joshua Attard just feels appropriate to me. I wish everybody involved in both the Schickedanz and Attard families all the best with this filly and hope that she goes on to win either the Canadian or Kentucky Oaks. After all, Gus bred GAL IN A RUCKUS who did both back in 1995.