A Descendant of Racing Royalty

By Becky Adler Fagan

It was a hot day in August and I had just finished a ride.  The training process over the last four months had been pretty basic – some days Grady would be more relaxed than others but overall the progress was good. On this day, I had been pleased with how Grady had gone especially because the delivery truck with our shavings and supplies had arrived and was being unloaded at the end of the aisle near the ring.

I brought Grady in through the door at the other end of the aisle to untack and put him on crossties facing the truck. Most of the time he was fine on the crossties but this was the day I learned that if something scared him, he would go backwards, feel the pressure and then go backwards some more until something broke.  On this day, that something was the crossties along with all the hardware from the wall.  Here’s what happened…

The delivery guys finished unloading the truck and slid the big door on the back of the truck down with a loud grinding to a thud sound.  Upon hearing this and seeing the big door slide down into its closed position, Grady began to panic and back up.  Once he felt the tension from the crossties, he panicked more and backed up harder.  The baling twine that was tied to the ring linking it to the crossties must have been really strong because instead of that breaking like it was supposed to, Grady managed to pull all the hardware out of the wall and take off running out of the barn with two crossties plus all their hardware flapping beside him.

Our barn had a fence around it with a gate opposite the barn door through with Grady had just made his exit.  A few minutes earlier, I had gone out of that gate for something without closing it behind me thinking “well, I’m going to take him through this gate to graze so no need to close it”.  In the time I had that thought and was walking back into the barn only feet away from the gate, I saw the whole scene unfold and Grady was now running past me and right out that gate onto the back lawn behind my parents’ house.  This was also the day that I was reminded of the all-important rule: ALWAYS CLOSE THE GATE!

Now completely terrified, Grady ran at top speed toward the back of the property but the pond at the end convinced him to turn back, still at top speed, still with crossties and hardware chasing him.  He was running towards me as I stood near the gate cursing my complacency for not having closed it.  Wondering if he had any plans to stop when he got closer to me, I watched helplessly in complete horror as he continued his panicked run.  Luckily, he then stepped on one of the crossties which caused his halter to break, freeing him from the monster that had been chasing him.  He finally slowed down and I was able to convince him to stop before he headed past me toward the street and beyond.  Thank goodness he was unharmed (physically at least).


Grady’s ability to run at top speed was no surprise.  At the time of his purchase only four months earlier, we had been given Grady’s papers and were amazed at the fact that he had some royal bloodlines.  “Seattle Slew?” I exclaimed when I first saw the name listed as Grady’s grandfather on his father’s side.  My mom and I were not exactly avid racing fans and we think about his early days at the racetrack with concern as to what he must have experienced, but to think that our “little prince”, as we sometimes affectionately called him, was related to the great Seattle Slew, 1977 Triple Crown Winner, was pretty cool.

It wasn’t until a closer look at Grady’s papers that we saw the royalty went even deeper.  His great grandfather on his mother’s side is Secretariat, 1973 Triple Crown Winner.

copyright The Jockey Club Information Systems Inc.

I began researching Grady’s racing history through the Jockey Club website.  I was able to find some win photos (he won three races) and even one video of him coming from way behind to win by six lengths.  I was impressed with my new little buddy.  He had some chutzpah!

copyright Hoofprints, Inc.

copyright Hoofprints, Inc.

copyright Four Footed Fotos

I felt proud of him and sorry for him at the same time.  I was proud that he was successful but I still couldn’t help but feel bad for the fact that he was running races at age two and had fifteen different jockeys over the course of his career that ended just before he turned five.  But that’s a topic for a different blog.


When I met Grady that day in February 2007, he had just turned six years old and was only a little over a year past his last race.  He had made a nice transition from racing and whoever started his retraining process did a great job because he enjoyed his work and didn’t seem to have any lasting scars from his early life of hard labor.  I was determined to see that through and continue his education to the best of my ability.  And I would definitely never leave the gate open again.

2015 Halloween Dressage Show at Mistover (Replica of Seattle Slew’s silks)


7 thoughts on “A Descendant of Racing Royalty

  1. Love those pictures this is really wonderful to read about. And it’s a gift to see your love and commitment to your horse. You have tremendous patience and perseverance.

  2. Pingback: A Very Special Dad | Making the Grade

  3. Even though I thought I knew Grady’s racing career, I discovered more from reading your blog today. The “prince” has certainly earned his “crown” through your patient teaching over the years and won the lottery when he came to be part of your family. And yes, your experience with the gate reminded me that we all learn lifelong and sometimes dramatic lessons from our time with these beloved creatures.

  4. So fun to find out about your horse! We did the same with my Beau last year but we had to do it with DNA. It gives your relationship even more dimension. Thanks Becky. Very interesting!

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