11/02/2017 2:17PM

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint entrant Bucchero result of rescue mare

Barbara D. Livingston
Bucchero has a chance to become the highest-earning Indiana-bred of all time.

Even the humblest horse at a reputable Thoroughbred auction is afforded the dignity of a black and white sticker on its hip to designate its lot number.

Dignity was one of many things on short supply for Meetmeontime in the summer of 2009, when the Marion County Humane Society found her among 33 neglected horses on the Ocala, Fla. farm of Lope Gonzalez. A year and a half after going through the auction ring as Hip 718, the mare was identified by the Humane Society with a sickly green “29” painted on her neck.

Reduced to chestnut hide and rain rot draped over hipbones and a ribcage, Meetmeontime found the fortitude to survive when many around her didn’t. Eight years later, the mare unloaded from a trailer to spend the winter at Ledgerwood Farm in Salem, Ind., plump, content, and especially popular.

Bucchero, her second foal born post-rescue, had recently won the Grade 2 Woodford Stakes and was pointed toward a start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a race that could make him the highest-earning Indiana-bred of all time.

“The way Bucchero has been gritty and workmanlike in his career, and the way he fought against the other horses, I’m guessing he got that from his mom,” said Harlan Malter, managing partner of owner Ironhorse Racing Stable. “To have a mare fight through that, it could have brought out an element of her that could have foretold that she’d have some tough horses in the line.”

The catalysts in Meetmeontime’s journey from neglect case to graded stakes producer were Greg and Karen Dodd of Southern Chase Farm in Williston, Fla.

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The Dodds, along with a partner, initially purchased the winning General Meeting mare for $15,000 at the 2003 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Meetmeontime’s foals sold and ran at a moderate level, but when entry time came for the 2008 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. winter mixed sale, it was decided to dissolve the partnership and sell the mare.

Meetmeontime was offered in foal to then-Florida resident Alke, and sold to Gonzalez for $2,200. She was one of five purchases by Gonzalez at the sale.

Mare trade is part of the breeding business from the highest levels on down, and the Dodds were aiming to improve the quality of their broodmare band by moving an under-performing member. The downside of the auction setup is it removes control of where the horse can land. The transaction finished above reserve and was with a buyer in good standing, at the time. Business moved on as usual.

At the following year’s OBS August yearling sale, Karen Dodd was stopped with some news by Kim Cookson, who handles consignor information for the auction company.

“She happened to walk out of her office and she saw me and said, ‘Hey, did you hear about all those horses starving out on [Florida State Road] 326?” Karen Dodd said.

Dodd was unaware of the seizure of 32 Thoroughbreds and a Quarter Horse at Gonzalez’s farm, most of which were in varying states of infirmity and malnourishment, some beyond the point of return. The mares were being pasture-bred by the owner’s stallion.

The case was so severe, The Jockey Club permanently revoked Gonzalez’s Stud Book privileges during a February 2010 meeting. Some of the horses, Cookson told her, came out of the OBS winter sale.

“I was driving home and the light went off in my head, ‘Uh oh, we sold a mare in that sale,’” Dodd said. “As soon as I got home, I turned on my computer and saw who had signed the ticket. I saw the guy’s name and I didn’t know him.”

Dodd contacted Jill Lancon of the Marion County Humane Society, and learned that Meetmeontime was one of the horses involved in the seizure. She was still alive, but for how long was still uncertain.

Removing horses in a neglect case can often be a slow process, and Dodd said about 10 of the horses died before the Humane Society could get them off the property. One of them was Meetmeontime’s then-yearling Alke colt.

Without a second thought, Dodd said she’d take Meetmeontime, but first, she had to identify her.

“[Lancon] said, ‘Be prepared, these pictures I’m sending you are pretty graphic. Just tie yourself on,”’ Dodd said. “She sent me the pictures, and I knew it was her right away. It didn’t look anything like her except for the markings, it was basically skin stretched over bones.

“You can’t always control where they go, but if I know something of ours is in that kind of situation, we’re going to try to get them out,” she continued.

The mare needed time to regain some weight and strength before she could be moved back to Southern Chase Farm, but Dodd finally got the call when she was in Kentucky for the Keeneland September yearling sale. They got the trailer and picked her up as soon as they returned.

“She didn’t look so great, but she had looked a lot better than in the pictures,” Dodd said. “She had gained some weight and was steady on her feet. She had a long way to go, but she was a huge improvement over where she had been.”

Meetmeontime took to her familiar surroundings, and proved herself well enough to resume broodmare duty in 2010, when she was bred to Imperialism, and produced a filly the following year.

In 2011, she was part of the first book of mares for Grade 2 winner Kantharos. Looking to take advantage of the state’s lucrative incentive programs for breeders, Meetmeontime was shipped from Florida to foal out in Indiana, and produced Bucchero.

Two years passed, and Malter was looking to buy a horse. He had connected with the Dodds over his fandom of champion sprinter Lost in the Fog, who the Dodds broke and sold as a 2-year-old, and he trusted their eye for horseflesh implicitly.

Bucchero was entered in the OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age as a horse with some baggage after an aborted breeze show effort forced his withdrawal from OBS’ spring juvenile sale earlier that season. A minor x-ray issue also kept buyers off the colt.

Greg Dodd contacted Malter prior to the June sale to let him know Bucchero was on the market, likely within his price range, and he had the look of a serious runner despite his flaws. The Dodds signed the $43,000 ticket as agent for Malter, and his Ironhorse Racing Stable had a horse to tackle the Indiana-bred stakes program, so he thought.

Bucchero has lived up to the name of his stable, with Del Mar being the 10th different track at which he’s raced. Built like a fullback, the 5-year-old has won 10 of 22 starts from five furlongs on the turf to a mile and a sixteenth on the main track, mostly for trainer Tim Glyshaw.

Like Malter, Karen Dodd theorized that Bucchero’s toughness comes from a maternal influence.

“I said to my husband when we picked her up, ‘I wonder if it’s changed her? I wonder if she’s beaten down now?’” Dodd said. “I can say without a doubt that’s not the case. I can go out and handle her no problem, she’s good with her foals. She doesn’t take any garbage from any mares. She’s a very good mother, but I think they just get that from her.”

Over four seasons of racing, Bucchero has amassed earnings of $669,566. A victory or runner-up effort in the Turf Sprint would make him the highest-earning Indiana-bred in history, leapfrogging the still-active Lady Fog Horn at $824,273. A solid, lower-placing, effort would make for a heated race in 2018, should they both return.

Glyshaw trained the previous Indiana-bred record-holder, Unreachable Star, meaning Bucchero’s Breeders’ Cup run is not just about establishment for a trainer seeking his first win on the card, but redemption.

“We’d love to get the earnings record back for Tim,” Malter said. “Tim’s an Indiana guy, went to the University of Indiana. He’s just like Ironhorse Racing. He has the ability to have a horse in the top level, it’s just not that easy if you’re not in that elite group right now.”

Meetmeontime has had nine foals during her broodmare career, six of which came after her rescue. The most recent is a yearling full sister to Bucchero. The mare was sent back to Indiana for the 2018 foaling season, this time carrying a foal by Uncaptured.

Even before Bucchero became what he is, and could still become, Meetmeontime had already become a favorite of the Dodds. The owners grew close to the mare while bringing her back from the brink, and the horse rewarded them with a graded stakes winner. Both sides have made the most of their second chance.

“She loves the water,” Dodd said. “We have misters in our fields for when it’s hot out in the summertime, and I go out there and turn it on, but she really loves you to bathe her.

“I go out two or three times a day in the summertime, and she could be at the other end of this 30-acre field, and as soon as she sees me coming from the house, and here she comes,” she said. “She’ll stand there and she’ll pose for you like, ‘Okay, get this side,’ then she’ll give you her head so you can wash her head. She’s got a lot of personality.”