There is no limit to the amount of hope an owner has when their homebred racehorse finally makes it to the races. In 2012, a British Columbia-based ownership group of five welcomed a big, strapping colt by the well-bred Storm Cat stallion Storm Victory and from their mare Sonia’s Meadow, a relative of Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold. The colt was bred and owned by Ron and Rae Fawcett’s Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds in Heffley Creek, Ashley Krisman, Morris Peter and Warren Wilson. Wilson, a lawyer, had been racing thoroughbreds since the mid 1980s and remembers when Windstrong was getting ready to make his racing debut under the care of trainer Barbara Heads.
“He was a strong horse and he seemed to enjoy racing,” said Wilson, currently a director of the B.C. division of the HBPA.
Windstrong, affectionately known as Doc, began his career as a 3-year-old and showed plenty of promise with a pair of thirds, a fourth and fifth in his first four races at high maiden levels at Hastings Park. Warren remembered each race in detail.
“In his third race, he again ran in maiden allowance company, coming fourth in a good time and less than one length behind the winner. In his fourth race, he came fifth but was again impressive, closing well, finishing three lengths back of the winner and 10 ½ lengths ahead of the sixth horse.”
Windstrong romped in his next start, galloping away to a five-length score in the quick time of 1:17 for 6 ½ furlongs, good for a solid 71 Beyer Speed Figure. But the joy shared by the gelding’s team was short-lived as he pulled up sharply after the finish line, visibly lame from a leg injury.
Not only was his racing career over but Windstrong’s leg would never be able to carry much weight. He was un-rideable.
New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society took the gelding in and worked with the tall fellow through some ground work. Known as Gus at New Stride, the gelding looked as if he would be hard to place in a new home until Colleen King came around.
At 74 years old, King has always had a horse or two in her life and in the summer of 2017 heard about Gus at New Stride.
“He needed a home and I love thoroughbreds,” said King. “My father and I used to go to the races all the time. I even made a scrapbook of Northern Dancer.”
An avid rider, King already had two retirees on her five-acre farma near Princeton; the now 29-year-old quarter horse Kootenay Quick and 13-year-old quarter horse mare Count of Chips Buff Kid.
Kootenay Quick, a former quarter horse racer, blossomed into a successful dressage horse for King’s daughter Catherine. At his advanced age, however, King was seeking another companion for ‘Buffy’.
Colleen and Catherine both liked Gus when they saw him, not just his impressive size and looks but his gentle temperament. In mid-November, the gelding was being led off a van in Princeton.
His new buddies, Quick and Buffy welcomed the gelding into their paddock and Gus was quickly at home.
“He moves around just fine and really seems to be happy here,” said Colleen, who is up at 6:30 most mornings to turn out her trio of retirees and do their stalls.
The only part of the gelding’s new home that seems to be a bit of a distraction is a neighbouring herd of noisy alpacas who tend to have Gus entranced many days.
King says that her love for horses and racing and a concern for the welfare of racehorses who can’t race anymore or be ridden, led her to adopt Gus. “Catherine paid the adoption fee for me, she loves the horses too. Hey, Gus might outlive me, he’s not very old. But he’s happy and doing well.”