06/10/2011 2:09PM

Lone Star Park: Breeder aims for color

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Dawn Lawhorn
Hint of Majik was eighth in his racing debut.

Hint of Majic, who made his career debut last month at Lone Star Park, is literally a horse of a different color. He is one of just 178 palomino-colored Thoroughbreds registered with the Jockey Club, which last year alone registered about 30,000 foals. The organization began recognizing the palomino, or “golden-yellow” coat color, in 2003.

“Most people think he is a Quarter Horse,” Dawn Lawhorn, who bred and owns Hint of Majic, said of the color more associated with Quarter Horses.

Lawhorn, a 35-year-old elementary school teacher, raised Hint of Majic at her farm outside of San Antonio. She has a small Thoroughbred breeding operation, and has a different philosophy than most when it comes to mating her foundation mare, Mystic Mint.

“I decided to add colors,” she said. “If they don’t do well on the track, then I don’t have a problem selling because I have color on them. A lot of colored lines are used for dressage and jumping. There’s always someone who wants a palomino Thoroughbred.”

Mystic Mint is a chestnut – a common color for Thoroughbreds – yet she is the oddball in Lawhorn’s breeding operation. Mystic Mint has produced a white Thoroughbred foal, A Lot of Praying, on a mating to the white stallion, Arctic White. She has also produced two palomino-colored Thoroughbreds. The first was Praying for Gold, a 5-year-old registered Thoroughbred mare, and the second was Hint of Majic, who is 3. Both are by R F F El Dorado, a palomino-colored Thoroughbred who is a son of the Grand Prix dressage horse Glitter Please.

Dressage might be in Hint of Majic’s future, said Lawhorn. He made his debut in a maiden special weight sprint for Texas-breds on May 28, and finished a distant eighth. The horse, whose nickname is Dusty, was the first runner to make it to the races for Lawhorn.

“We are not sure if Dusty is very interested in racing,” she said of herself and the horse’s trainer, Karl Broberg. “He seems to have more of the laid-back attitude of a dressage horse. We are going to try him again on the turf, and see if he likes the grass better than the dirt. We’re kind of trying it.”

Lawhorn said the experience of racing Hint of Majic has been made enjoyable by the patient guidance of Broberg, one of the leading trainers at Lone Star. She noted that some breeders of rare-colored horses choose not to race them because their pedigrees are tiered more toward dressage and jumping, and there is also the risk of injury.

“Karl’s taking care of me and Dusty through all of this,” Lawhorn said. “I think he’s getting the best shot he could have possibly gotten with Karl.”

Hint of Majic’s debut was a big event for Lawhorn. Her father, Paul, who is retired from the Air Force, watched the race via Skype because he is currently working in Abu Dhabi. Her mother, a retired nurse named Linda, was on hand at Lone Star, while her brother, Sean, flew in for the race from Washington State. Other family members watched via simulcast at Retama Park. The race was also worked into one of Lawhorn’s lesson plans for the second-grade class she had this past year at Rodriguez Elementary in Seguin, Texas.

“The kids have followed him,” she said. “They know he tried. I taught them that if they lose, it’s okay, as long as they try.”

The Jockey Club’s listings of colors defines palomino as such: “The entire coat of the horse is golden-yellow, unless white markings are present. The mane and tale are usually flaxen.”

Hint of Majic is a textbook example of the color, which has made him a standout this meet at Lone Star.

Region mourns Courtney Darnell

The region’s racing community has spent the past week mourning the loss of Courtney Darnell, the 25-year-old daughter of jockey Cindy Darnell and the late jockey Kenny LeBlanc. Courtney Darnell died when a tree fell on top of the truck she was driving just outside of Hot Springs, Ark., on June 5. Courtney, who would have been 26 on Sunday, was born in Bossier City, La.

“She had come to our house and dropped off her animals – she had six finches and a dog – and was going on her way,” said trainer Cliff Darnell, Cindy’s husband, who had adopted Courtney. “The next day she was going to fly to Hawaii. On her way home, a storm blew up fast and quick.”

Courtney, who at one point was a groom for Cliff, is the granddaughter of trainer Clay Loetscher. Her godfather is trainer Alvin Sider. She had recently been working at a pet store.

“She was always happy to see me and my dog,” one mourner wrote in an online condolence at www.hotspringsfh.com. “She was outgoing, enthusiastic, and she would greet me with that ‘Hello Darlin’ along with her smile. She always made me feel like a human being. She made an impact on my life.”

◗ The multiple stakes winners Tortuga Straits and Foreign Production will meet in the fifth race, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance, at Louisiana Downs on Sunday.