01/16/2012 9:40PM

The beloved Buck Jakes

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Buck Jakes (March 3, 1988 - January 4, 2012, by Turkoman - Acharmer, by Al Hattab).  Buck Jakes won 18 of 77 starts and earned $321,318.

To see Buck Jakes was to fall in love.  

I didn't know him well.  I saw him only twice and, both times, I was visiting the farm to photograph his old friend Highland Bud.  Bud was a two-time Breeders' Cup Steeplechase champion, a beautiful rich-toned bay son of Northern Dancer, complete with the signature Northern Dancer blazed face and body type.  

But Jake....now, Jake....well, just look at him.  Notice the high head, that powerful body, the wise and willing look, that rich-toned grey coat. How could you help but be smitten?

He was 17.1 hands of willingness - the very definition of 'gentle giant' with a strong head and body typical of Turkomans.  On the flat, Jake was nothing to write home about, with just 4 wins in 31 starts.  But when Charles Fenwick, Jr., took over the training and shifted Jake to timber racing, few horses in history could match his accomplishments: two Maryland Hunt Cups, three American Grand Nationals, two International Gold Cups, and two Pennsylvania Hunt Cups.  And in his first Hunt Cup victory, in 1995, Jake battled his way to victory over the topnotch Florida Law to set a new course record.  It's no small feat to set a course record in the Hunt Cup. 

Jake was often ridden by Anne Moran, whom Fenwick describes as 'an amateur choir singing mother of three who could not have done a better job.'  Who wouldn't love watching such a duo leaping grandly over the jumps and landing in the winner's circle time and time and time again?    It was the kind of stuff that inspires legend.

Charlie trained the big-hearted jumper, and it was he and his wife Sherry who watched out for their beloved Jake after the horse's retirement.  The word "retirement" isn't completely accurate, as Jake hunted with the Green Spring Hounds in Maryland for at least seventeen adventuresome years.  He was also ridden around the farm, not just by Charlie and Sherry but by their children, and others, as well.  Along the way, Jake became dear friends with the hot-spirited Highland Bud, and he helped watch out for old Bud as that champion became ill, and eventually died, in 2008.  

Jake touched the hearts of both horses and people who had the honor of meeting him. And so, while some mainstream racing publications may not have taken note of Buck Jakes' passing on January 4, Steeplechase Times' Joe Clancy wrote not just one article about the beloved old grey, but two.  A woman who worked with Jake for just a short time, but who also loved the great grey, wrote her own blog obituary (links below).

"It seemed that he was particularly fond of women, and they were almost always smitten by him," Charlie says fondly of Jake, with whom he worked closely for nearly twenty years.  "He leaves us saddened but with many wonderful memories."

Above:  Buck Jakes with his friend Highland Bud at the Fenwicks' farm in Butler, Maryland in 2006.  Not bad company!

Above and below:  Buck Jakes, then 18, with his friend Sherry Fenwick.

Above:  Look at Jake's eyes, those trusting eyes.  Such a story they tell.

Above:  Jake and Bud on May 18, 2008.  By this time, Bud was very sick with chronic sinusitis and Jake kept a careful eye on his ailing friend.  Highland Bud was euthanized two days later and buried on the farm.  

When Buck Jakes suffered from colic symptoms on New Year's day, he was shipped to the New Bolton Center for diagnosis.  The prognosis was bleak and surgery was not a viable option.  Jake was sent home to live out his days.  His discomfort continued.

And so, on January 4, with loving friends at his side, Jake was euthanized.  He was buried on a hilltop, near a beautiful 100+-year-old tree and markers of other beloved Fenwick horses who had gone before - including his old friend Highland Bud.

Steeplechase Times' obituary: http://www.st-publishing.com/cms2/index.php/the-times-mainmenu-78/15-steeplechase-news/2068-timber-star-buck-jakes-dies-at-24

Steeplechase Times' followup story: http://www.st-publishing.com/cms2/index.php/the-outside-rail/2070-people-and-horses

Additional blog about Buck Jakes' personality and passing: http://whathappensatthebarn.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/buck-jakes-you-will-be-missed-by-many/