While Melmich has decided to hang up his racing shoes, another stakes champ by the name of Aldous Snow wasn’t too quick to let them go of them. Well, to be accurate, the seasoned racehorse owned by Sam-Son farm dipped his hooves into hurdling before transitioning nicely into his new career as a track pony for the Ontario outfit.
“He is great. We don’t use him for the babies because he gets a little keen around the gate still, but for riding out with the older horses he is great,” said Michael Balaz, speaking on behalf of Sam-Son Farm.
Aldous Snow, a son of Theatrical (IRE), who was bred and raced by Sam-Son, has a bit of an unconventional backstory for the Canadian racing operation.
“Well, he was a pretty cool story, said Balaz. “He went through the CTHS sale and we bought him back. That dam (Brave Destiny) always threw a smaller horse, not the most impressive looking individuals, but obviously she got a few runners. There were a couple before him that had talent but really couldn’t put it together. He was the first one that kind of did it. But he was also the first one that we put through the sale ring. So, it’s almost a bit of a fate thing if you look it at that way. He wanted to be in red and gold, apparently.”
Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Aldous Snow began his racing career at Woodbine in 2011 and stuck around to be a titan on the turf for six years. While the bay gelding found himself in the winner’s circle a handful of times, he is probably best-known for claiming top honours in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes.
Racing proudly in the red-and-gold Sam-Son silks, Balaz says the stakes champ has most definitely cemented himself in the hearts of his entire team.
“Super special to always have him. He was almost a touchstone. You would expect him to be back every year. Sound, great keeper. I mean Malcolm (Pierce) and Sally did a great job with him throughout his career and I know he was kind of a barn mascot for them.”
In 2018, at the spruce age of nine, the stakes champ wasn’t quite ready to call it quits with the racing world. Still very sound and maybe ready to give his owners a bit more excitement, Aldous found himself jumping fences at Aiken, Fair Hill, and Charleston under the tutelage of horseman Neal Morris.
“I know there was a farm connection with Neal and it’s a very relaxed, competitive lifestyle – like it’s almost closer to being a show horse. So we reached an agreement that we maintained ownership and control, but he looks after expenses and he runs once every couple of months in central Pennsylvania somewhere. I think that was a good transition for him while he was still completely viable and still had a lot to give,” said Balaz.
Aldous made four starts over the fences and then made his way back to the Sam-Son operation in Ocala, Florida. “We brought him back to the farm, about four to six months ago, he’s been ponying, and he’s been great.”
Not ready to spend his days grazing with other Sam-Son pensioners just yet, Aldous has been ponying champs such as El Tormenta to the track. The son of Stormy Atlantic, also bred by Sam-Son, captured the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile with champion jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva.
Breeding and racing horses for close to five decades, Sam-Son Farm understands the importance of producing graded stakes winners in both Canada and the U.S. Although there’s too long a list of Sam-Son champs and victories to name, it’s worth mentioning their homebreds Desert Ride and El Tormenta are both finalists for the 2019 Sovereign Awards. Desert Ride, the 2019 Woodbine Oaks winner is a finalist for champion female three-year old, while El Tormenta is a finalist for outstanding champion male turf horse. Sam-Son is also nominated for outstanding breeder and owner at the 45th edition of the Sovereign Awards.
Aside from producing stakes champs, Sam-Son also understands the importance of finding a soft landing for the horses that have represented their outfit over the last several decades.
According to Balaz, once Aldous decides it is finally time to fully retire from a working career, he has a reserved grazing spot alongside other Sam-Son pensioners. “I think the plan is to leave him on the farm down there. Eventually, he is one that we will pension, too.
The living legends’ paddock maybe, with other successful racehorses and fan favourites like Up With the Birds.
“We retire a lot of our good old geldings on the farm, like Desert Waves was on the farm for a long time and Soaring Free is still retired. A lot of the good older geldings we will do that with. It’s just kind of neat to have one that…”
Balaz pauses, smiling through the next words as Aldous comes to mind.
“Like he was a pensioner, that was paying for the other pensioners really,” said Balaz of the bay gelding, who still wanted to rock his racing plates and give ponying his best effort before saying his goodbyes to the racing oval.
Sir Dudley Digges
While one champ is starting another career and another is still heading to the track (in a different capacity), there are some champs that are simply enjoying the easy, breezy life.
Case in point: 2016 Queen’s Plate champ Sir Dudley Digges, who is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and formerly trained by Mike Maker.
According to Nolan Ramsey, Sir Dudley said goodbye to racing last summer and has earned himself a cozy spot at a retirement home in Georgetown, Kentucky. Ramsey, who currently works as an assistant to trainer Mike Maker, had the opportunity to work with Sir Dudley throughout his racing career. No doubt, the stakes champ continues to hold a special place in Ramsey’s heart.
“He is definitely one that will be hard to forget. I ventured to Kentucky Downs, to Barbados, to Canada with him. So, I spent a lot of time with him. When I travel around with them it gives me the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with the horse, rather than overseeing a large string. I got to know him really well.”
The Ontario-bred son of Gio Ponti primarily raced in the US, but made his first appearance at Woodbine for the 2016 Plate Trial Stakes ‒ an adventure Ramsey easily recalls.
“That was awesome. I remember when we first came up for the Plate Trial, I believe he ran third that day, but we saw what he could be. He was always kind of a green, immature type of horse and not necessarily mentally, just physically, and it was something about the Plate Trial that woke him up. Once we got home with him, he was a whole other horse. He was very aggressive in his training, he put on some weight, so we were really feeling good,” said Ramsey as they prepped the colt for the Queen’s Plate.
Travelling buddies from one country to another, Sir Dudley and Ramsey shipped back to the US and re-grouped after the Plate Trial. Soon enough, with a fresh game plan in mind the duo made the trek north of the border for the Queen’s Plate.
“I think one of the big factors that really helped us was that we came up about ten days before the race. We were able to get a work over the track, we were able to paddock school him a couple of times, so all that seemed to quiet him down. He was very professional.
“I forget what odds he went off at. I called everybody and told them I loved the horse, he ran a huge race that day. I don’t want to say I was surprised; I was definitely happy and thrilled, but I definitely wasn’t surprised. He had shown me leading up to the race that he had what it took. To have Mike Maker up for the race and all of my family was up there for it too, and to be able to deliver on a big day like that was really special. It was definitely something that nobody will forget.”
Another experience that is not far from the horseman’s mind is the 2018 Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup. It was yet again another adventure that Dudley and Ramsey embarked on, but this time in hopes of securing a third Gold Cup for his grandfather, Ken Ramsey. Ramsey won the race back in 2014 with Major Marvel and also in 2015 with Sayler’s Creek.
Sir Dudley and Nolan had company on their trip to Barbados in the form of another Ramsey contender for the race.
“That year we ended up having two horses compete in the Gold Cup. Dudley was one and another horse named Shining Copper. In the US, Shining Copper is probably the more accomplished horse. He is a graded stakes winner and he had run with better horses. I think he was Grade 1 stakes-placed, too. So to bring him down there, everybody thought that was the horse to beat. He might have been the better horse in the US, but on that particular day Dudley just flat outran him. It was really cool to watch that and to be able to do it with the local jockey Jalon (Samuel) was nice, too.”
Dudley then shipped back to US and continued his racing career. However, no matter where the stakes champ went or how he did, his fate was already sealed.
Actually, to be quite honest his destiny was already decided before he went on his tropical adventure. Back in September 2017, the stakes champ secured a race that would ultimately find him a soft landing upon hanging up his stakes-winning plates.
“He won a stakes at Kentucky Downs, the Old Friends Stakes. What was cool about that race is that the winner has a guaranteed spot at the Old Friends Retirement Farm. Now that he is done racing, instead of trying to stand him somewhere or sell him we all agree that he’s earned his spot there. So he is going to get to live out the rest of his life in style and ease, which I think is more than deserved.”
Dudley is currently living on Ramsey’s Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and will transition over to Old Friends sometime during the spring.
It goes without out saying that Dudley is greatly missed in the Maker barn, especially by Ramsey, who feels grateful for having Dudley be an important part of his career.
“When we went up for the Plate Trial that was the first time I had ever taken a horse to a different country. That was one of the first times Mike really trusted me to go off on my own with one of his big horses. The Plate Trial didn’t end the way we really wanted it to, but we came back and spent a longer amount of time at Woodbine. To be able to take the horse up on my own and oversee it and have a result like we did, so that was kind of like my first big win, I guess you could say.”