When Breeders’ Cup champion Better Talk Now ended his racing career at age 10 in 2009, owner Brent Johnson never wavered on how the earner of $4,356,664 would spend his retirement. “Blackie” was, is and always will be a Fair Hill horse.
That decision certainly set well with everyone here at Herringswell. After seven seasons on the racetrack – which took him all over North America as well as Japan and Dubai – none of us could imagine daily life in the barn without him.
Now 17, Blackie’s best mate is Graham’s first stakes winner, 28-year-old Gala Spinaway. The two geldings spend their days in a large paddock built specifically for them at our Parlo IV barn. At night they’re brought in to stalls bedded knee-deep in straw. It’s a sweet routine for a couple of old guys.
But on Wednesday, June 22, Blackie had a very special guest. Retired jockey Ramon Dominguez and Blackie had an amazing partnership, winning eight graded stakes over the years. All five of Blackie’s Grade 1 victories came with Ramon aboard, including the 2004 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf at Lone Star Park.
“We had a great run for a few years. I rode him at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and he got in the clear early and took off,” Ramon said. “Then he stopped…and from that we learned. He was always very consistent but also a problem child, and Graham did a great job with him. I rode many horses that liked to be covered up, which is pretty typical on the grass. But with him, he was pretty tricky in the beginning. He wanted to be aggressive too, but then over time he was able to really calm down and then was actually pretty easy to ride.”
Ramon regularly posts motivational messages on Periscope and Facebook, and he was anxious to share his reunion with Blackie with his many followers. Armed with a selfie stick – and Blackie looking over his shoulder – he began his message with “I’m visiting an old, great friend – Better Talk Now.”
“I’ve driven by here before and have seen him turned out in the field, but today is the first time I’m getting to see him and visit with him,” he said. “And he looks amazing, whether he were 3 years old or 17 years old. He looks like he could go back into training right now.”
On August 12 Ramon, along with legendary mares Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, will be inducted into Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Congratulations from all of Team Herringswell, Ramon. We’re proud and honored that Blackie played such an integral role in your remarkable journey.
And – of course! – no visit to Fair Hill is complete without an audience with Tom the Turkey. Ramon and his wife Sharon (who was completely smitten with Tom) enjoyed chatting with the coolest barn mascot in racing.