|Sign up for KyForward news updates|
Fittingly it happened a few minutes after midnight, when Marcie’s Girl was good and ready.
The bay mare, by the stallion Copelan, seems always to do things on her own terms.
The day after Mother’s Day, just minutes after midnight Sunday, she finally gave birth to a filly by Spring At Last. She was six weeks beyond her due date. We had begun to think “Guinness World Record” when we could be flippant about it, but deep down all of us were anxious for her.
We should have known Marcie would do it her way.
When we first met her, about five years ago, at the Fasig Tipton winter sale, it was obvious she wasn’t inclined to do things by convention.
Consigned as a mare in foal, she was supposed to go with her new owner to foal on their farm after the sale. Instead she decided to have her baby, a colt, on the sale grounds. So into the ring came Marcie’s Girl and her fresh newborn colt.
She had caught our eye in the sale book because she was a Copelan mare. The stallion Copelan is distinguished as a “broodmare” producer. So the notion of acquiring a Copelan mare bred for an early foal was attractive on paper.
She came into the sales ring with a new, wobbly legged foal who looked so vulnerable and confused. Marcie, a new mom, would be ready for early breeding. It was a great temptation. Wife bought her. One raise of the hand, one measly bid. No others. Surprise. Sometimes things happen that way.
Home with incredulous us they came.
The colt, a strapping individual, was relegated to the racing string because of the less than spectacular bloodlines of his sire. (No offense intended, just the way it is.) The important task of naming the fellow fell to wife, whose naming abilities far exceeds the rest of the clan’s. In what I consider one of her better efforts, she arrived at the name Mattering. What makes the name so special, I believe, is how she came to it.
She had been inspired by the remarks of actress Reese Witherspoon who had most recently accepted an Academy Award for her portrayal of June Carter Cash. Reese described how she had come to be “June” and how they had become friends. And how, when she would call her friend and say, “Hey, June, how ya doing?” June would inevitably respond, “Just tryin’ to matter.”
Wife, believing these things matter – and believing we all should – decided the colt’s name would be “Mattering.” And so it was.
And so he did, at least to us. Which is really the point, isn’t it?
In the history of great race horses, Mattering won’t merit a footnote. Honestly, few do, considering. But to our family, well, he always will – matter, that is. He grew to be a big, strapping colt, one who loved attention and returned affection – and who tried his best to please.
He won his maiden claiming race at Penn National, paying $48.80. Back home, he won at River Downs, paying $23.80. In all, he won about $20,000, running out his conditions before being retired to become a jumping horse, beloved and loving, having a kind eye and an engaging personality. He was ‘mattering’ greatly to a fledgling racing stable – and to a sappy family who tends, from largest to smallest, to connect emotionally with its horses.
Mattering is just one reason we have a special place in our hearts for Marcie’s Girl. There is another.
Marcie suffers from an atrophy in one hip. We’re not sure what caused it. It is not genetic. She came into the sales ring that way. Had she been blemish-free she may not have come home with us. She certainly wouldn’t have been ours for one puny bid.
Marcie walks with a slight limp. Other buyers shied away, probably fearing her ability to breed. But she has. In fact, besides Mattering, she has produced four foals for us, including the most recent, the just barely post-Mother’s Day filly – way past due, way big, with legs way to there and back. And with her mother’s kind, alert eyes.
Marcie is not Rachel Alexandra. She is not Zenyatta. Sometimes, because of her slight disability, she struggles to keep up with the rest of her friends in the field. But she never gives up. She is never ill-tempered or difficult. During an over-long pregnancy she never showed impatience or discomfort – or “complained” of aches and pains and the unfairness of life. She endured a difficult delivery with grace and courage – and an unspoken gratitude to the human who came to her aid.
She is a caring, protective, proud mom who takes exceedingly good care of her baby, as if that big girl were the only baby in the world. And isn’t that what moms do? And doesn’t every new life represent the greatest hope we can have for the future?
We understand that chances are slim she’ll ever produce a stakes winner or a racehorse for the record books. But, we feel privileged to know her and honored to love her, and if you think her filly doesn’t have a longshot’s chance of racing stardom, please don’t tell Marcie. Or us.
Gene Clabes is senior editor of KyForward. He is former equine director of the Kentucky Equine Education Project and a thoroughbred trainer, breeder and owner. Gene was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2004 and was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of Kentucky College of Communications in 2005