Friday, February 12, 2016

A Stalwart Anomaly ...

On Friday, February 12, 1993, the US president was Bill Clinton. Sweethearts canoodled to Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You, and Robert James Waller revived passionate remembrances of flings and flames in The Bridges Of Madison County

And on that same Friday, under the sign of Aquarius, MS. STALWART, a daughter of STALWART, gave birth to a chestnut colt adorned with a star and connecting stripe. He was a dream come true for his owner Edwin Wachtel. A long awaited 11-month gift sired by Wachtel's own stakes-winning stallion Claramount.

From the time of his arrival, the prized colt was well-attended by the teams in the employ of Mr. Wachtel's Exeter Stables.

In 1994, the coppery coated youngster was cataloged in the venerable NY-Bred yearling sale at Saratoga. Keane Stud served as Wachtel’s sales agent for the colt known as Hip #523. When the bidding stopped at $5,500 he was not sold. He returned to Wachtel's Exeter Stables and was officially named STALWART MEMBER in keeping with his lineage.

'STALWART' is an adjective meaning strong and valiant. Good attributes to claim, even in name alone for a thoroughbred racehorse. According to Roget’s Thesaurus: Athletic, bold, courageous, daring, dead set on, dependable, fearless, forceful, gutsy, hanging tough, indomitable, intrepid, muscular, powerhouse, sinewy, solid, spunky, steamroller, stouthearted, strapping, sturdy, tenacious, unafraid, undaunted, valorous, and vigorous.

We don't know how 'Member' came into play. Perhaps it evolved from Wachtel’s iconic Members Only brand, a global phenomenon he created in the mid-1970’s. Members Only racer jackets were distinguished by their narrow epaulettes, collar strap, knitted trim, and the irresistible tagline "when you put it on, something happens".

Like Wachtel's uber-successful fashion line, Stalwart Member’s debut also commanded attention. On December 21, 1995, at age 2, he romped to a 7-length victory in the 3rd race at Aqueduct; this began a career that would amass over three-quarters of a million dollars.

On July 16, 2000, at the age of five, Stalwart Member, already a multiple stakes-winner was claimed away from Wachtel for $35,000. Sandy Goldfarb took ownership, and Stalwart Member transferred to trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. The big-hearted runner brought home eight more wins, including two big stakes victories for his new connections.

Just shy of one-week to the eight-year anniversary of his debut win, Stalwart Member, entered the starting gate for his 64th and final start. It would be his 32nd race over the Aqueduct oval. He finished a game second by a mere ¾ of a length to a gelding six years his junior.

On December 13, 2003, as the ten-year-old, three-time graded stakes winner cooled off, his owner spoke with press, "For three years Stalwart Member has been like a member of our family, he has brought us thrilling races with many victories," SandyGoldfarb said. "He has a lot of life in him and we look forward to following his progress." The story headlined in The Thoroughbred Times, NY Post, Blood Horse, The Daily Racing Form, and broadcast on Time Warner Cable’s NewsChannel 9.

Stalwart Member’s life story, along with that of his dam Ms. Stalwart represent a rare anomaly in the world of thoroughbred racing – the gift of a natural lifespan supported by people who valued their sentience, and their right to live far beyond their ability to earn.

In his last several years, Stalwart Member was the cherished companion of Erin Looman. She nicknamed him STALLY, and she lavished him with affection through his last breath on March 30, 2013. Today, would have marked Stalwart Member's 23rd birthday. Although he is gone, we celebrate his presence by savoring the gifts he deposited into our lives. 

STALLY with his friend LIAM
Stally, we will always love you.

Ms. Stalwart lived out her days with dignity and grace at Our Mims Retirement Haven in Kentucky. She was laid to rest at the sanctuary on January 28, 2013. Our Mims is a glorious piece of heaven on earth run by Jeanne Marie Mirabito. Please visit Our Mims, watch the documentary One Day, and consider a financial gift in honor of a thoroughbred who has blessed your life. But for Our Mims, mares like Ms. Stalwart would otherwise be forgotten in corridors of great suffering.

Ms. Stalwart & Jeanne Mirabito