07/17/2008 11:00PM

Ask the Lord gets new life on farm

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Ask the Lord made a lot of people a lot of money as a winner of 23 races and $769,640. Now, at the age of 11, he has been retired as the result of work done by a group looking to get aged earners of more than $500,000 off the track.

Ask the Lord won his maiden in March 2000 at Fair Grounds and went on to win six stakes during a career that took him to Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, and Churchill Downs. But in time his star faded and his slide down the class ladder started in earnest in August 2006, when he ran for a claiming price of $30,000. By fall 2007, he fell to the $5,000 claiming ranks, and last month, Ask the Lord ran second for a $4,000 tag at Evangeline Downs.

"It's about the dignity of the animal," said Alex Brown, a Woodbine-based exercise rider who runs the website alexbrownracing.com, the home of the Fans of Barbaro. "These guys have made a lot of money. They served the industry very well. They've had the high accolades, and now they're running in races that don't really befit the quality of horse that they once were."

Through his website, Brown was contacted about Ask the Lord by Fans of Barbaro member Mary Overman. She wanted to retire the horse and went to work negotiating a purchase price with the horse's latest owner, Steve Isaac, who in April had claimed Ask the Lord for $7,500. From there, it became a matter of raising the funds to do the deal. And while Overman was working on the project, Sue McPeek, the wife of trainer Ken McPeek, got an e-mail about Ask the Lord.

"I got involved and told Kenny about it," Sue McPeek said. "It was at a point Ask the Lord was probably going to be running pretty soon. He ran on the 19th of June. We needed to get the deal done."

Ken McPeek, who was in California to run My Baby Baby in the American Oaks, wired the asking price of $4,000 to Isaac. Angelo Trosclair, a retired jockey who now runs an equine vanning service, shipped Ask the Lord at a reduced cost from Louisiana to the McPeeks' farm in Lexington, Ky.

"Everyone wanted to make this happen, even the current owner," Brown said. "These guys at Evangeline were quite open to retiring the horse. They didn't make money off this horse. He had been claimed quite recently. Everybody did good by this. It was a whole network of lots of different people doing a little bit."

The original plans were for the horse to be sent to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Lexington, Ky., but that has changed, Sue McPeek said.

"When he came off the van, he looked great," she said. "He had good condition on him. He was sound. Once we got him off the van, we gave him a bath and he settled right in. We took a personal liking to him and thought maybe we could use him as a pony. He's just very classy."

Sue McPeek said Ask the Lord will work with young horses at their farm, Magdalena. She has been involved in projects like this for a long time and one way has been through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

"Every winner that Kenny and I have, we donate money to the TRF," she said. "It's kind of an automatic way of giving back. There's an easy form for owners and trainers and jockeys to fill out and participate. It's a tax deductible donation."

Brown said Isaac has been updated on Ask the Lord working as a pony.

"A lot of horsemen really care about this issue, and they want to know that the horses are not going to be sitting in some field the rest of their lives with no real purpose," Brown said. "Steve Isaac was excited to hear that Ask the Lord will be passing on his wisdom to the next generation."

A few months ago, Brown compiled a list of 10 horses who have earned $500,000 or more and are running for a claiming price of $5,000 or less. His goal is retirement for all of them, and so far two of them are off the track, Ask the Lord and Top Bunk.

"There's lots of horses, and you can't help them all, but you do what you can do," Brown said.

Brown said his next goal is to see the retirement of Witt Ante, a former Louisiana-bred champion who last raced at Evangeline, and Lights on Broadway, a former Texas-bred champion who last ran for a $2,500 claiming tag at Anthony Downs in Kansas. Together, they have earned $1.1 million.