The flashy five-year-old gelding has seen a lot in his young thoroughbred life and he’s been a lot of places: from a sickly foal, to a woman’s first sale yearling to stakes winner and finally to a low claiming horse.
Spanky, his racing name is Quick Code, has returned some 2,000 kilometres from south Florida back to Ontario to his birthplace where he will live out the rest of his life as a pleasure horse.
Ericka Rusnak, 34, recently doled out $2,500 to buy back the son of Omega Code whom she foaled from her first mare, She Ain’t Much (Sam) from Florida owners who had been racing him without success in claiming events.
Sentimentality and love for the horse aside, Rusnak watched Quick Code, the first runner she ever bred, win the Kenora Stakes at Woodbine two years ago and go on to earn over $250,000. When his original owners lost him through the claiming ranks in Florida late last year, she never lost track of him.
“He was not doing well in the claiming races,” said Rusnak. “I decided to track down his owner and trainer. I told them I was interested in getting him back.”
After many phone calls and much negotiating on price, Rusnak was able to buy back Quick Code. She sent the gelding to the farm of bloodstock agent Niall Brennan in Ocala while paperwork was done and by mid-June, was occupying his own grass paddock in Ontario.
“He’s quite foot sore,” said Rusnak, who was born in Woodstock, ON. “His shoes came right off before he was sent to me and his feet just need to harden up.”
Rusnak’s background in horses is the typical story of a horse-crazy young person who rode in horse shows and wanted to eat, live and breathe horses. Sure, there were thoughts of taking veterinary medicine, or do police work, but she never did leave the horses.
Today, Rusnak is a manager at the famed Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Aurora, ON where she foals mares, monitors yearlings and layups and everything in between.
It was during her first few years at Hill ‘n’ Dale that she made her first “shopping trip” to a horse sale and, with help from Hill ‘n’ Dale owner Glenn Sikura, raised her hand to buy She Ain’t Much for $4,500. “My signature was totally illegible, I was shaking so much.”
The following spring, Quick Code was born.
It was a hairy first few months as a breeder for Rusnak, however, as Quick Code ended up at Guelph Equine Hospital for a week with a mysterious illness. For a single woman with a job on a farm, it was not something she could readily afford.
Quick Code made a quick recovery, however, and in September of his yearling year, he was sold at the Woodbine sale for $20,000. It was Rusnak’s first sale yearling and soon to be her first winner and stakes winner.
Rusnak now has 10 horses of various ages including three mares. In 2013, she has already had two of her yearlings from 2012 race and both, Bold ‘n Golden and Paladin Bay, have been stakes placed.
The latter, a daughter of Sligo Bay (Ire) from Stormin Wife, was second in the Shady Well Stakes on July 13 at 40 to 1.
“It was so exciting,” said Rusnak. “It’s been a really great year. And now I have Spanky back too.”
With her personal horse population growing, Rusnak realizes that she can’t make a habit out of buying back her former homebreds. She hopes, however, she can return to riding.
“My goal is to board him at a stable and get back into riding,” said Rusnak. “I have had plenty of offers for him to be a track pony, but, I think I want to keep him for myself.”