06/23/2013 8:00AM

Catching up with Peppers Pride: Unbeaten mare still shows class in retirement

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Laura Donnell of Taylor Made Farm
Peppers Pride, who won all 19 of her starts and earned $1.07 million, has produced three foals, including two by Distorted Humor, and is in foal to Hard Spun.

Not much has changed about Peppers Pride from her racing days to her current career as a broodmare.

“She’s really a classy mare to be around,” said Frank Taylor, vice president of boarding operations at his family’s Taylor Made Farm, the Nicholasville, Ky., facility where the 10-year-old daughter of Desert God resides. “She just does everything right.”

Peppers Pride did everything right during her racing career, too. From July 16, 2005, to Dec. 14, 2008, the mare answered the call to the post 19 times and emerged victorious on each occasion, the longest undefeated career by a modern North American Thoroughbred. The streak included 14 stakes wins, and she earned $1,066,085.

“She was a tremendous athlete, not only physically, but mentally,” said Joel Marr, who trained Peppers Pride for owner and breeder Joe Allen. “You don’t do that by just getting lucky 19 times in a row, obviously, or it would be done all the time. She had that sense that most horses probably don’t have – she knew how to win. She had that ability and that sense and that determination. She knew exactly what she was doing.

“We trained her to be fit and to do the best job she could, but she ultimately won the races,” Marr added. “It was just something that she had. I can’t explain it. Just the ability she had within her and ... it was just something that she possessed way before we touched her.”

All of Peppers Pride’s races came in her native New Mexico, where she dominated her division for four seasons. She captured the New Mexico Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes as a 2-year-old, the New Mexico Cup Championship Fillies Stakes during her sophomore season, and won back-to-back editions of the event’s Fillies and Mares Stakes in 2007 and 2008. Her list of stakes triumphs included two editions each of the New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap and the Sydney Valentini Handicap. Peppers Pride carried weights as high as 127 pounds, an impost she won under three times.

“She was just one in a million,” Marr said. “And a lot of it was mental. Obviously, she was physically a superb athlete and had tremendous abilities. And people will say, ‘Well, you ran her in New Mexico.’ Well, we did, and [a New Mexico-bred is] what she was. But it really doesn’t matter.”

Attempting to explain the mare’s success, Marr also noted that consistency in the barn’s routine and attention to detail may have helped Peppers Pride reach her full potential.

“All the people around her – I was her only trainer,” Marr said. “[Carlos Madeira] was her only rider. She had the same farrier, the same vet, the same groom. She stayed in the same barn at every racetrack, the same stall. She went to post with the same pony every time. Just a lot of things like that. Horses are creatures of habit. They need to be fed at the same time; they need to be exercised at the same time. They need a routine, and she had that for the four, almost five years that we had her. She went to the track at the same time every morning, with the same person on her back.

“Joe Allen was the breeder and the owner and the partial stallion owner. It was really special. It wasn’t something we went out and bought. She was raised there. It made it a lot more special just to be around her.”

Just as Peppers Pride’s mental attributes and personality made her an ideal racehorse, that disposition has endeared the mare to her caretakers at Taylor Made Farm, where she is boarded for Allen and Michael Stinson, who now co-owns her.

“She’s doing great; she’s having nice foals,” Taylor said. “She’s just really easy to get along with and never causes any problems. She fits right in.”

Peppers Pride produced her third foal, a colt by Malibu Moon, on Feb. 22. Her first two foals are by Distorted Humor – a filly foaled in 2011 and a yearling colt. The filly, named Funny Pepper, is at a training center in New Mexico, preparing to join Marr’s string to see if she can follow in her mother’s large hoofprints.

“She has a few of the mental characteristics that [Peppers Pride] had,” Marr said of Funny Pepper. “She’s not stubborn, but she’s very determined, I guess I would say.”

The yearling colt is expected to be offered at this year’s Keeneland September sale, where he could be among the featured horses in the catalog.

“I think Peppers Pride is putting plenty of bone on [her foals], and they’re athletic-looking,” Taylor said. “I really love the Distorted Humor yearling she’s got this year. He’s just a really big, strong, good-looking horse. He’s got a lot of class to him, I think. I think people will really like him a lot.”

Marr said Peppers Pride is back in foal to Hard Spun. As on the racetrack, the mare has settled comfortably into a routine at Taylor Made. During foaling season, expecting mares spend the night in the barn and are turned out during the day. Once a foal is at a mare’s side, however, the routine becomes the opposite. Now, Peppers Pride and her 4-month-old colt come to the barn in the morning to be looked over and attended to before being turned out in a group for the rest of the afternoon and night.

Although these days she lives a quiet life outside of the public eye – and her win streak was never afforded mass media attention outside of the racing industry – fans have not forgotten about Peppers Pride.

“We get some regular calls from people wanting to come visit and come see her,” Taylor said. “We probably get [a few] a month, fans wanting to know how she’s doing or wanting to come see her.”

Indeed, the memories of Peppers Pride’s remarkable streak have not faded, for her fans and for those most closely associated with the mare.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Marr said. “It was tremendous to be a part of it. And you look back and you can say that you were part of something like her [winning streak]. Not very many people get to say that. You knew there was something special about her, just the way she held herself, the way she looked, the look in her eye. I was just lucky to be a part of it.”

Peppers Pride

Desert God–Lady Pepper, by Chili Pepper Pie
Foaled 2003 in New Mexico
Race record: 19 starts, 19 wins, earned $1,066,085
Stakes wins: New Mexico Cup Fillies and Mares Stakes (twice), New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap (twice), Sydney Valentini Handicap (twice), New Mexico Cup Championship Fillies Stakes, New Mexico Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes, La Senora Handicap, La Coneja Handicap, Rio Grande Senorita Futurity, New Mexico Distaff Handicap, Russell and Hellen Foutz Distaff Handicap, Lincoln Handicap
Honors: New Mexico's champion older female, 2007-08; New Mexico's champion 3-year-old filly, 2006; Ruidoso Downs Racehorse Hall of Fame induction, 2011

Longest win streaks by a modern North American-based Thoroughbred

22 Rapid Redux (2010-12)
19 Peppers Pride (2005-08)*; Zenyatta (2007-10)
16 Cigar (1994-96); Citation (1948-50); Hallowed Dreams (1999-2000); Mister Frisky (1989-90)

* Retired unbeaten

Unbeaten American Thoroughbreds with at least 10 starts (since 1900):

Peppers Pride (19), Colin (15), Personal Ensign (13), Handsomchamp (10)