03/13/2011 3:01PM

D'Accord's 32nd birthday party


Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue
Part 1 of 3

Every horse in every field at Akindale is a vignette wrapped in chestnut or bay or grey.

There was a time when many were simply names in programs. Some were speedsters, others routers. Some preferred mud, while others wanted a track like a highway. Some raced for years, for top trainers. A few won stakes but others never made the starting gate. While many are rescues, others are sponsored, still others are homebreds or horses bought by the farm - and a few are too young even to think of grownup things like racing.

And then, there's their resident old man.  

Erin Pfister and Karin Millard good-naturedly helped out with my recent visit to the farm in Pawling, NY, which was founded by John Hettinger, a leading force to end horse slaughter until his death in 2008 (he was as remarkable a person as I’ve ever met).

Erin has been at Akindale for 17 years, starting when she was in high school. Somehow, she just never left. The same goes for Karin, who began at Akindale nearly a quarter-century ago. They’ve watched the farm grow from its years as a breeding-training farm into an ever-changing equine rescue-retraining and breeding-training center.

D’Accord’s Birthday 3-9-11

D’Accord – 1979 dk.b./br. h. by Secretariat – Fanfreluche, by Northern Dancer. Winner of five of ten starts, including the Breeders’ Futurity (G2). Leading New York sire. Pensioned since 1999.

There must be quite a few Secretariats still around as his final crop came in 1990, and those horses would be just 21. But there can't be many as old as, or older than, D'Accord.

The dark bay son of Secretariat – Fanfreluche officially turned 32 on January 1, but the farm staff celebrated on his actual birthdate (3/9). Devout racing fan Sue Rosenbach brought a lovingly crafted, custom-designed cake.

D’Accord has lived at Akindale most of his life, initially standing at stud there and now living the life of revered pensioner. The fields are full of D’Accord relations – mares who'd been bred to him, and his daughters, grandkids, great-grandkids. One of his most distinguished daughters, Lady D’Accord, 24, who won two Bed o Roses (G2) and earned nearly $600,000 for Akindale, resides in a nearby paddock.

Above:  D'Accord in 2003 (age 24) with Akindale trainer Kate Feron, in winter 2005 (age 26), and enjoying a fresh snow in January 2011 (age 32)

Above:  D'Accord's power-packed dam and sire.  Champion (and producer of champions) Fanfreluche at age 31 at Big Sink Farm, including with her pasture mate Optimistic Gal; and Secretariat at Claiborne Farm in 1984 and 1977

Above:  Some of D'Accord's best mates/offspring.  Avichi (top left), dam of Akindale standout and multiple graded stakes winner Lady D'Accord.  Right: Yestday's Kisses, daughter of D'Accord and stakes winner/earner of nearly $200,000.  Second row: My Sika (left), who, when paired with D'Accord, produced Warfie (Akindale stakes winner/track record holder/earner of $418,490).  Right:  Lady D'Accord

D’Accord used to be very powerful and opinionated, and some might have considered him difficult.  But as farm trainer Kate Feron said in 2007, "D'Accord is just a big kid.... He might bowl you over because he's big, and strong, and pushy, but he doesn't really have any mean bones in his body." 

Nowadays, D'Accord shows his age. He’s slim, and his coat is a shag rug. His front legs no longer straighten completely, and his movement is definitely hitched. But he still eats six quarts a day and still spends a few hours outdoors daily.  He can still be pushy as he makes his way to the paddock, and his pride…well, he is still, no doubt, all stallion.  

But even proud stallions have their fears. What could be more terrifying than...balloons?

A handful of friends attended the celebration, with grand plans of holding birthday balloons near D’Accord as he happily chomped on his cake. What wonderful photos that would make! But, no sir. As soon as Karin led him from his stall, he caught a glimpse of the balloons.

In the stall doorway, he stood with large eyes and large nostrils, considering the enemy.  The balloons were quickly put away. But, despite that, as Karin brought him out, D'Accord danced and backed away - at one point, slowly stepping up onto a small pile of snow.

The balloons were but a memory, and D'Accord's cake was loaded with shredded carrots, peppermints and sugar cubes. Who could resist?

D’Accord. All he wanted as to just be left alone in his paddock.  He allowed a few quick photos…but the cake was a reminder of the Day the Balloons Invaded.

Karin released him in his paddock, and he shuffled outta there. He made his way to the back corner and glared at us. When I got close he lowered his head, snorted. Now, I don’t mean to make fun of him, but the ancient boy was trying to convince me he was the king, when I knew darned well I just needed to pull a balloon from my pocket to send him scrambling in retreat.

Happy birthday, D’Accord – and many more!  (and next year, we promise...no balloons)

Above:  Sue Rosenbach coaxes D'Accord to eat his cake as Karin Millard (right) assists