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All About Horses | Hovdey: Eclipse Dinner Could Be Big Night For Caleb's Posse And Von Hemel

Posted By: JR

There is an everlasting appeal about the Eclipse Awards process that allows for the relatively unsung to take a well-deserved turn in the spotlight. And in every case, it’s a horse who took them there. On Monday night in Beverly Hills, the tradition will be renewed, when the 41st Eclipse Awards dinner plays back the brightest notes of the 2011 racing season.

For those who take comfort in the familiar, there will be plenty of the sport’s readily identifiable names and faces to go around, particularly among such front-line horsemen as Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Bill Mott, Graham Motion, Larry Jones, Kiaran McLaughlin, Michael Matz, and Dale Romans. They’ve all got a stake in Monday night’s action, and they’ve all been there before.

But who’s that over there at the Amazombie table? Bill Spawr has been a rock among California trainers since the 1970’s, when went out on his own after working for the widely respected Joe Manzi. He has coddled and cajoled just about every class of Thoroughbred known to man, run an operation second to none, and now, at 72, Spawr’s got a shot at his first Eclipse Award champion with his winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

[MORE: 2011 Eclipse Awards finalists, with DRF profiles ]

Those who know Florida’s Bill Kaplan are not the least bit surprised their man will be in the room at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Musical Romance is the reason, she of the old-timey, 14-race campaign crowned by a comprehensive score in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Kaplan, 65, has spent his 30 years as a trainer combing sales for bargains and putting people in the game. Now, there could finally be a Eclipse Award with his name attached.

Don’t look for Don Warren to be cutting a rug once the dance band begins to play later in the evening. He has had back trouble lately, a by-product of four decades working at close range with the horses of California’s fabled Johnston family. But if Acclamation’s name is read Monday night as either the outstanding older male or male turf horse, Warren, 60, could be floating on air in celebration of his first championship courtesy of the best animal he has ever trained.

For vast segments of the racing game the Eclipse Awards are elusive pipe dreams, forever to be won by somebody else. Then along comes a colt like Caleb’s Posse, and suddenly a rich and vibrant family tradition is made known to a national audience.

The Von Hemels of southwestern Kansas have been steeped in horseflesh for three generations. As the winner of the King’s Bishop, the Ohio Derby, and most significantly the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Caleb’s Posse may the ultimate refinement of their history.

Between them, Donnie K. Von Hemel, his father, Don Von Hemel, and his brother, Kelly Von Hemel, have won more than 5,500 races. Donnie gives ample credit to his grandfather, a rancher and farmer who hailed from Manter, a little town close enough to the state line that on a dark night a wrong turn might find you in Colorado. Donnie was born in Syracuse, just up road.

“My grandfather worked on a place that had racehorses,” Donnie said this week from Oaklawn, where he is wintering with Caleb’s Posse and the rest of the main string. “It was so far back he’d ride a green colt to and from work just to help break him. Anyway, that’s how my father got started.”

Though destined for the racetrack, Donnie diverted long enough to earn a degree in accounting from Fort Hays State University. He got his Masters, basically, at Remington Park in Oklahoma city, where he is the all-time leading trainer, and has made his mark at every major Midwestern outpost with horses like Clever Trevor, Mariah’s Storm, Evansville Slew, and Bien Nicole. And now Caleb’s Posse, a colt who would get anyone noticed.

“It’s still going on,” he said. “I’ve still got people who haven’t seen me for a while coming up to congratulate me on the Breeders’ Cup. As for celebrating that night, it felt similar to winning the King’s Bishop up in Saratoga. It was such a satisfaction I didn’t need to celebrate. I just went home and went to bed.”

Von Hemel gave Caleb’s Posse his first breeze of the year Thursday at Oaklawn Park – three furlongs in 36.80 seconds – before he left Hot Springs for the bright lights of L.A. The trainer is getting vibes that the colt will be every bit the star at 4 he was at 3.

“He’s rambunctious and ready to go,” Von Hemel said. “Full of piss and vinegar. I’m going to rely on him having beaten older horses last November to give us confidence going into this year.”

Whether or not Caleb’s Posse will be doing business in 2012 as a reigning champion remains to be seen. He stands as one of those ‘tweener types, with an imposing r é sum é that does not quite fit into the traditional Eclipse Award categories available. As a result he is a finalist in both the voting for outstanding 3-year-old male – up against classic winners Animal Kingdom and Shackleford – and in the category of outstanding male sprinter, along with fellow Breeders’ Cup race winners Amazombie and Regally Ready.

“It would mean a lot if he wins,” Von Hemel said, “not only to myself but to my father, for all the years he’s put in the game, and my brother, too. My mother, my wife, my daughter – we’re all about horses.”

But not necessarily about formal dinners.

“Yeah, it’s been a few years since I’ve had to put on a tuxedo, but I’ve managed to put something together I think will do,” Von Hemel said. “We’re going to go out there and have fun no matter what happens. Win, lose, or draw it’s been a great year.”

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All About Horses | All About Horse Brasses

Posted By: JR

Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. We are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork.

  • Title: All About Horse Brasses
  • Author: H. S. Richards
  • ISBN: 1409727068
  • Publisher: Amberg Press
  • Pub Date: 2008-05-18
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All About Horses | All About Horses

Posted By: JR

FROM my long time school friend, Gabby la’ O, I received his annual invitation to the Horse Festival of the Clark Freeport Zone on November 26 and 27.

This gathering of various activities centralized on horses, is open to the public and is a continuous “work in progress”. The participation of many of horse enthusiasts has made the event’s organizers expect this yearly horse activity to emerge and be established as a main annual event of the Clark Freeport Zone and is regularly scheduled on the last weekend of November.

To be held at the El Kabayo Riding Stables on Clark’s picnic grounds on Main Avenue, the event starts on November 26 with the registration of the participants for the various events. There will be a grand parade of horses and carriages during the welcome and opening ceremonies.

There will also be exhibitions on horseback (with a quadrille), sales of horse tack, feeds, and souvenirs.

At the Clark’s Centennial Road, the horse harness or tiburin races will be held. Aside from that, games like the barrel race, a “mad dog” race (without the horses but with motorcycles this time), an obstacle race, a cross country race and a jumping exhibition will be held during the two day festival.

This will definitely be exciting for horseback riders and non-riders alike.

Shall we see each other there?

Talking about horses, Steven Virata, secretary general of the Philippine Equestrian Federation (PEF) informed me of the national and international dressage events in two categories for the 2011 National Indoor Dressage Championships.

Karen Concepcion with New Zealand bred “SMEG Daylight”, won the Preliminary category and on her second horse, “Dernier Rivage”, Karen then took another Elementary category title with a score of 507 pts or 68.51%.

In the Medium Category, lone competitor Becca Dosch with Australian bred, “Lochart” established a score of 527 pts or 65.88% to take the class; Vitorrio Barba, competing on two horses in the advance category; won the class with 446 points or 67.5% on “Pavarott”, four points over his ride with “Royal Society”.

In the United States, Philippine banker Michael Oyson, based in New York, won a silver medal in the Prix St. George level at an international dressage competition in New Jersey. Mike earned a commendation from the President of the Ground Jury because of his stellar performance.

The National Indoor championship was officiated by international FEI judge Gisela Nilsson-Harding from Australia and national judge Marivic Cortes. The event gives our riders the opportunity to gain competition exposure in preparation for the highlight dressage competition of the year; the FEI World Dressage Challenge, scheduled for the first week of November.

Last year the Philippine dressage team, made a quantum leap beating New Zealand for third spot. In medium category, Vic Barba tied for second in a field of over twenty top rated competitors from 5 countries.

To all the horse afficionados, Congratulations……as you ride on to greater glories.

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All About Horses | Emily Brady And Olivia Bugs Trotting

Posted By: JR

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