06/08/2006 11:00PM

New Mexico farm plans to regroup

Favorite Trick was bred to several Quarter Horse mares this year.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Three days after a fire killed 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick and five other stallions at JEH Stallion Station in Hondo, N.M., farm co-owner Jim Helzer said the investigation into the blaze is still under way.

But Helzer said Friday that the farm will survive the tragedy.

"We are planning on going forward," he said. "We had a really good operation here. Of course, we know we can't replace the quality of horses that we had. You can't replace a Horse of the Year. We're planning on going forward, but we have a lot of planning and a lot of things to do to get there. It was a catastrophic loss."

The fire is believed to have started between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on June 6. A night watchman had checked the barn at about 8:30, but by the time he returned a half-hour later, flames had engulfed the barn. The fire injured no humans but wiped out the New Mexico farm's entire stallion roster: Thoroughbreds Favorite Trick, Grade 1 winner Saratoga Six, and Gone Hollywood, and Quarter Horses Fredericksburg, The Down Side, and Southern Cartel.

Jim Helzer and his wife, Marilyn, own the JEH Stallion Station's New Mexico division in partnership with R.D. Hubbard. The Helzers also own a second division in Pilot Point, Texas, which stands 10 stallions, including Thoroughbreds Gen. Stormin' Norman and Touch Tone.

JEH Stallion Station's New Mexico stallions collectively covered about 600 mares this year, Helzer confirmed. Those numbers were boosted partly because the Quarter Horse breeding industry allows artificial insemination, a practice barred in Thoroughbred breeding by Jockey Club rules. The syndicated Favorite Trick, who ranked third on the New Mexico sire list at the time of his death, was a relatively new arrival at the farm; he came to JEH Stallion Station last July after standing at CloverLeaf Farms II in Florida.

"We did breed Favorite Trick to several Quarter Horse mares, as well, so you'll definitely see some Quarter Horses out there by Favorite Trick," Helzer said. He added that he wasn't sure at the moment how many Quarter Horse mares might be in foal to the Thoroughbred champion.

"It is a terrible loss, and the investigation is continuing," Helzer said.

Jackson backs anti-slaughter bills

Gretchen Jackson, breeder and owner of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro along with her husband, Roy, is lending her support to anti-slaughter legislation currently in the U.S. Congress.

Jackson joined Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and prominent owner and breeder Arthur Hancock III in a teleconference to promote passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The bill, HR 503, currently is in the House's Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection subcommittee, according to Chris Heyde of the National Horse Protection Coalition. A companion bill in the Senate, S1915, currently is in the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

Jackson said that she and her husband have eight of their former runners in retirement at their Lael Farm in Pennsylvania.

"Some are riding horses, and some aren't even up to that, and some are more than 20 years old," she said. "I just felt that when you own and breed a horse that is yours, it's your responsibility to care for that horse. Caring means seeing that it's fed, it's warm, that it's not in pain."

Regarding the condition of Barbaro, who remains at the New Bolton equine hospital in Pennsylvania, Jackson said, "His long-term outlook is very good right now, even though it's guarded."

New location for Old Friends

The Old Friends equine retirement farm, which specializes in taking in pensioned Thoroughbred breeding stock, has relocated. Formerly housed at Hurstland Farm in Midway, Ky., Old Friends now operates at 52-acre Dream Chase Farm on Paynes Depot Road in Georgetown, Ky., five miles from the Kentucky Horse Park.

Old Friends will host an open house at Dream Chase Farm on Saturday, July 8, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the expected attendees are Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and 1977's Triple Crown-winning rider, Jean Cruguet.

Nuckols granted extension

The Thoroughbred Club of America has extended the term of its president, currently Charles Nuckols III, from one year to two.

The membership also elected Michael Barnett of Blackburn Farm as vice president. Under the club's bylaws, Barnett will succeed Nuckols at the end of Nuckols's term. Also elected to three-year terms on the board were Clifford Barry, Julia Offutt Cauthen, and William Evans III. Harvie Wilkinson was appointed sergeant-at-arms.

Day to attend fundraiser

Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will speak at a fundraiser for Bethlehem Farm and the Center for Women in Racing in Paris, Ky., on June 23. Day will attend a sponsors' reception from 6-7 p.m., with a dinner, art exhibit, and live and silent auctions starting at 7. The auction will feature works by artists Sandra Oppegard, Katherine Landikusic, Valerie Hinz, and Alexia King. Tickets start at $75 per person or $125 per couple.

Bethlehem Farm and the Center for Women in Racing are faith-based initiatives providing housing, employment, medical care, and counseling for women involved in racing. The farm also retrains and rehabilitates former racehorses.