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Horse slaughter in Illinois
|Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/7/09)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
On an unusual racing day recently when Suzanne Barrett arrived at Arlington after the gates had opened, she was asked to show her horseman’s license to allow her the free admission.
“Which one would you like to see?” she asked innocently, fanning them out like someone with a winning three-of-a-kind hand. First out came her owner’s license, but as added proof, out came her hotwalker’s license and finally her pony person’s license.
That’s been the intense nature of Barrett’s involvement with Thoroughbred racing – a sport she adopted as her own at first exposure.
“I always loved horses as a little girl,” Barrett said. “My parents took me to a horse preserve when I was 5-years-old and I loved the smell of ‘em. They let me go ride on the trails for an hour – accompanied of course – but without any riding lessons other than ‘kick to go, and pull to stop.’
“When my classmates in school had pictures of rock stars hanging in their bedrooms, I had pictures of Man o' War and Secretariat,” Barrett said. “My family knew nothing about horses or horseracing, but for some reason than they loved the Kentucky Derby and would watch it every year while eating strawberries and toasting the race with champagne.”
Fast forwarding to Barrett’s life an adult with 14 years experience in the corporate world, including a stint as deputy press secretary for a mayoral campaign, Barrett then quit her job and used her learned acumen to start her own business – Barrett & Associates – handling the back office operations of other small businesses.
However, with the love of horses still ingrained in her soul, she applied her organizational skills to learning all aspects of Thoroughbred racing, aided at first by Hawthorne racing secretary Gary Duch who taught her all the intricacies of its structure.
“He couldn’t have been nicer,” Barrett said. “He showed me everything I needed to know about that phase of the sport, and then he suggested that I get a job as a hotwalker to learn the game from the ground up.
“Again, I had no experience, other than the instructions to go to the end of the barn and turn left,” Barrett said, “but everyone in the barns – from grooms to trainers to veterinarians – all sensed how serious I was about learning and went out of their way to teach me.
“It’s amazing to me that most people – even most racing fans – don’t know much about how much work goes on back there in the barns,” Barrett said. “I wish they did. It’s a whole different world back there.”
Not too surprisingly, Barrett eventually succumbed to the urge to own a horse – winning with her first starter who dramatically gave her an added thrill by coming from dead last.
“I didn’t even know where I was,” Barrett said of that initial taste of success. “I can’t even describe the feeling that came over me. I was completely awed by the experience.”
Now, with the experience of the claiming game behind her, as well as the rush of having ponied her own horses to the gate a few times, Barrett has upgraded her stock and has formed Barrett Racing Stable LLC, with herself as its managing member and Jim McMullen as its trainer.
Barrett describes McMullen as an ultimate horseman (whose own talented horsemen brother handled Mine That Bird in the starting gate in the 2009 Belmont Stakes).
“Jim has the qualities of patience and organization.” Barrett said, “and under him my horses are absolutely thriving lately.”
Barrett’s racing silks are black and white, and she was asked how she came to choose those silks.
“When I win the Kentucky Derby,” Barrett replied with a smile, “I don’t want my racing silks to clash with anything I might be wearing that day. Also, I want my colors to reproduce well in the photos for the book I’m going to be writing.”
And what might be the title of that as yet unwritten book?
“My Life As A Hotwalker,” she said.
Saturday’s jockey autograph session on behalf of injured jockey Rene Douglas raised $5,888.65 for Douglas and his family. That total was matched by $5,000 from Arlington Park – bringing the event’s total to $10,888.65.
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