The shedrow in Barn 15 is quiet on a sunny morning at Woodbine Racetrack, except for the gaggle of people surrounding one stall.
It's the stall of Rahy's Attorney, and he has come home. The grooms on the shedrow are welcoming him back. He's the main attraction, the cock of the walk, the star of the barn. And he had been missed.
He's a popular eight-year-old gelding, who has returned to Woodbine just in time to celebrate the fourth anniversary of his upset win in the $1-million Woodbine Mile. The 2012 race goes on Sunday. A long shot, Rahy's Attorney showed his heels to a couple of the continent's best milers, Kip Deville and Ventura, in the 2008 running of the race.
He is not returning to race. He'll be starting a new career as a pony for the stable, and his job will be to escort nervous two-year-olds to the track, and anyone else that needs a calming influence.
Last August, Rahy's Attorney was forced into retirement after suffering an injury in the 1 1/2 mile Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., giving up the lead in the final strides. Best wishes flooded his Facebook page. After all, he was the people's horse, the result of a small breeder's dream to have a horse just good enough to race at Woodbine. He's the product of a $3,000 mating, but he won $2.2-million in his career.
He was also known as the underdog that just would not quit. "Nothing bugs this horse, except for losing," said Jeff (Skippy) Bowen, the assistant trainer to his father-in-law Ian Black. If a horse ever managed to pass him late in the stretch, Rahy's Attorney would barrel along, and pass the horse after the wire. "I'm sure he thought he had won," Black once said. Rahy's Attorney refused to allow horses to pass him.
Nobody knows how Rahy's Attorney will adapt to his new life. He's in the early stages of learning it. He will have to be broken to western tack, and he will have to learn that he can lead a horse to the track, but he can't go with him to work. "You have to take the racehorse out of him," Bowen saw.
He'd have this education already, except that while he was turned out last fall, he suffered a paddock accident and a hairline fracture of a hind leg. He had just nicely recovered from his other injury, a small tear on a tendon, but this one required three months of stall rest. Rahy's Attorney handled it, but he was bored.
He likes the action of a racetrack. Owners Ellen and Joe MacLellan always knew he wouldn't be content to live his life out on a farm.
Black and Bowen always thought Rahy's Attorney would make a good stable pony. He had the right mentality. They do not know what he will do when he catches sight of the racetrack. For the next couple of weeks, he will be walked and ridden around Woodbine's backstretch, but he won't see the oval.
As a racehorse, Rahy's Attorney was an easy-going, curious sort. "He was never a run-off horse," Bowen said. "He was never hard to gallop."
The day before a race, when others might get a little fired up, Rahy's Attorney would stand at trackside for an hour, watching. He'd see loose horses barge past him. He wouldn't turn a hair.
When there was some heavy construction at Woodbine, Rahy's Attorney never made a fuss about it. But he'd watch the curious undertakings for hours, if he could.
But now Now he's back, and he's happy and where he wants to be. When Rahy's Attorney left his stall last fall, it sat empty for weeks. "It just didn't seem right to put somebody else in it, at first," Bowen said.
Finally, young Excaper earned his spot in the stall, having finished second in the Breeders' Cup Turf Juvenile last fall. But on Wednesday, Excaper had to move out. "He was only renting it," Bowen said.
"It feels great to have him back," Bowen added. "The barn now feels complete."