Friday, April 03, 2015

Ageless Tahoe Warrior Runs Again: In Shoes, This Time, for Keeneland's New Dirt Track

At some point today, someone in the stands at Keeneland Racecourse is sure to read the fine print in the program and notice that in the second race, there's a 12-year-old horse running in his 96th lifetime start. And if he or she is a savvy horseplayer, they'll put a few dollars on Tahoe Warrior, and cheer him home.

Today is opening day at Lexington, Kentucky's magnificent Keeneland Racecourse. It's raining, and 61 degrees. The track is listed as sloppy and at least some of the turf races are moved to the dirt track.

Yes, to the dirt track.

This is the second meet on Keeneland's new surface. The Polytrack artificial surface was dug up last summer and replaced with "classic" dirt. The prize at the end of the dirt pile was that Keeneland will host the Breeders Cup this fall. And it took a lot of dirt to do it.

Trainer W.W. Rice had ten horses ready to race today, though some may have scratched; he hauled 29 from his farm outside Ocala for the meet. Rice has been featured in this blog many times because he worked Keeneland's Polytrack quite successfully by sending runners out without shoes.

No horse in Rice's stable is better known that Tahoe Warrior, who goes to the post in today's second race. The now-twelve-year-old has a following, but those who followed him because he wore no shoes will see some clinches on his once bare hooves.

Plenty of people think Tahoe Warrior should have been retired a long time ago; Rice says he's waiting for the horse to tell him that he wants to retire. By way of history, Tahoe Warrior's last race on dirt was three years ago, on April 1, 2012, when he finished dead last at Gulfstream for Wayne Rice's sister, Linda Rice.

Tahoe Warrior went with Wayne that summer to Presque Isle in Pennsylvania, with an artificial surface. He won his second race there. In the past three years, he has won $121,520 in 33 starts on synthetic tracks. Without shoes he won nine races, and finished no worse than fourth in 24 of 33 of them. It's safe to say that artificial tracks gave Tahoe Warrior a new lease on life.

Or maybe they even saved his life. He was claimed from Wayne Rice last summer; Rice had to claim him back again.

Tahoe Warrior, like all of Wayne Rice's horses, had to be shod to be sure he could handle the new dirt track. In an interview this week, Rice said that Tahoe Warrior was in fine shape, but that the "firm" new surface at Keeneland put his horses at risk for bruising, so he had shod them all.

It's the end of an era. Not one horse races without shoes today at Keeneland. They are shod for the surface, they are shod for safety, they are shod for traction, protection, whatever reason, but the great experiments are over. 

There's not much to write about but I read the fine print and I saw that name: Tahoe Warrior is still running, and that's always worth a story on The Hoof Blog

If you're able, go to and watch the second race, even a replay. He's number two in the second.

Update: In his first start on dirt in three years, Tahoe Warrior finished last.

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