07/24/2008 11:00PM

High Limit loving new life as foxhunter


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Dell Ridge Farm manager Des Ryan rides out with the Iroquois Hunt Club's hounds this fall, he will be extraordinarily well mounted.

His horse is three-time Grade 2 winner High Limit.

The bay son of Maria's Mon was supposed to become a stallion in Florida in 2007 after a racing career that included a second-place finish in the 2005 Blue Grass Stakes and wins in the Louisiana Derby, Strub Stakes, and San Pasqual Handicap. Standing at CloverLeaf Farms II near Ocala for his owners, Gary and Mary West, he attracted a book of more than 100 mares. Then came bad news.

"He just didn't have any live semen," said Ryan, who keeps a number of the Wests' mares at Dell Ridge.

In an effort to salvage the horse's stud career, the Wests sent High Limit to Texas A & M and then to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. The specialists' verdict: High Limit is infertile.

The Wests briefly put him back in training, but before he could race, he aggravated an old injury. High Limit returned to Dell Ridge, and Ryan approached their racing manager, Ben Glass, to ask if they would mind gelding the horse and letting Ryan train him to jump.

"They said, 'Gladly,'" Ryan recalled.

"Their main priority was that, whatever happened with him, that he'd be taken care of the rest of his life, whether by me as a foxhunting horse or in their band of horses," Ryan said. "They wanted him to stay with someone they knew who would take care of him."

High Limit proved an able jumper in lessons this spring. He's also been schooled in dressage, and was introduced informally to the hounds earlier this month.

"Class always comes through, and he was a classy racehorse," Ryan said. "He seems to love it. He likes to try a new challenge every day, and he's much happier doing something than hanging out in a field.

"He takes everything in stride. When we took him around the hounds the other day, he was leading everyone around like he owned the place, and he was on a loose rein.

"Obviously, getting him out with 20 other horses might be a little different. He's the kind of horse you have to let do his own thing and be confident riding him, because if you take a hold of him he might think he's back at Del Mar!"

This isn't the first horse that Ryan, the Wests, and other Dell Ridge clients have found new homes for.

Local foxhunters and some show jumping trainers in Florida, all well known by Ryan, have adopted more than 30 former racehorses out of Dell Ridge in the last four or five years. And High Limit is following in a grand tradition. Among other stakes-winning field hunters are five-time Grade 1 winner With Anticipation, now a field hunter in Pennsylvania, and the late champion Kelso.

"I've got a good bunch of clients who all love their horses," Ryan said. "Rather than drop a horse down the ranks, they ask me to find homes for them and make sure they're good homes. They don't just offload them. These people love their horses, and I'm lucky to have clients like that."

For Dixie injured, euthanized

Jim and Mary Anne Squires's stakes-producing mare For Dixie, the dam of Cotton Blossom and Vicarage, died on Thursday after rupturing an intestine. The Dixieland Band mare was 19 and was euthanized at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington.

"She was a grand mare, physically," Jim Squires said, "the epitome of what a Thoroughbred mare should look like. She was a big, stretchy, beautiful mare.

"I've owned hundreds of horses or all breeds, but I've never had a dominant mare as dominant over every other animal as this mare was. And yet she never hurt another horse."

Squires purchased For Dixie, a stakes winner, in foal to Gilded Time for $77,000 in the 1994.

In 2002, For Dixie produced the Vicar colt Vicarage, who won the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes, was runner-up in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby in 2005, and earned $444,291.

Her best foal to date is Cotton Blossom. The Broken Vow filly captured the Grade 1 Acorn and the Florida Oaks in 2007 and the Grade 3 Schuylerville in 2006. She also was second in the Grade 1 Spinaway in 2006 and earned $724,987.

Squires said For Dixie was not pregnant when she died. She foaled a full brother to Cotton Blossom on April 6. Her ashes will be buried at the Squires's Two Bucks Farm in Versailles, Ky.

Etc. . . .

Ellen Bongard, owner of Rojan Farm in New York, will dedicate the National Museum of Racing's Bongard Room on Sunday in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The room was created in memory of Bongard's late father, Bertram, a founding director of the Eastern New York Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. . . . The new magazine Horse Society and the Saratoga Springs restaurant Siro's will host a charity party benefiting Kentucky's Old Friends equine retirement facility at Siro's in Saratoga on Aug. 5 starting at 6 p.m. The evening will offer raffles of Thoroughbred memorabilia and art. Tickets are $30 and include admission, food, and raffles. For more information, call (401) 490-0988.