Friday, October 24, 2008
FEATURE: C Karma. Could it be for the filly?
Occasional horse racing fans are always looking for the horse to root for on the big day. They'll watch the Queen's Plate, the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup and want to back a horse they can connect with.
This year, in the 25th edition of the Bredeers' Cup World Championships, set for this Friday and Saturday, October 24 and 25 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, the romantic horse is one with a decidedly Canadian angle.
Trained by Woodbine-based horseman Greg DeGannes, C Karma, rated 8-1 in the morning line for Friday's Juvenile Fillies Turf event, simply shouldn't be here.
In July of 2007, as a yearling, C Karma shredded the skin off her left knee, rendering her immobile for three months.
You see, like all youngsters, equine or otherwise, C Karma was a little rambunctious. She got to running around the paddock on the farm of her Ocala, Florida owner-breeder Pam Edel with all the other yearling thoroughbreds, when she broke through the gate and started tearing around the fields.
That can happen, but when the farm staff retrieved the horses, it was clear C Karma, the undisputed leader of the pack, was in distress. She tore up her knee crashing through the gate.
Her racing career, before it even started, was over. Two attempts to suture the open wound didn't work. Only stall rest would allow the knee to heal even half way.
Young horses are just not used to being confined to a stall. It would devastate the mind of an energetic filly. She wanted get out and run and be with her friends. It was difficult to be in a 12' x 12' stall and to keep it together. She was lonely.
But she was a well-adjusted, level-headed young miss. On her first day out of the stall, she came charging out, whinnied and announced to all that it was her day to run. She was back.
C Karma wasn't allowed to run yet, but soon after she was "broke" (prepped for riding), with no thought in mind for racing, in January of 2008.
She learned her lessons quickly and well, and she started to get stronger and was in fact slowly nearing her debut on the racetrack. Remarkably, just months after gashing her knee, Edel sent Ma-knot-knee to DeGannes at Woodbine in the first week of May.
In fact, when she arrived, DeGannes didn't even know her racing name. Ma-knot-knee, a play on words with monotony (tee hee) and the fact that C Karma has a knot in her knee, was all he knew. And the fact that she could run.
She made her debut on June 21, finishing third in a maiden allowance race at Woodbine. It was a shining moment for all that this filly made it to the races.
"She has the mind of a five-year-old and is just so athletic," DeGannes said. "That's the only way she's made it. But you would never know that with her knee."
But Edel and DeGannes weren't ready to shut down C Karma. Her racing career wasn't over.
"She was the only one who was injured in that paddock incident. She just didn't stop in time as young horses are apt to do. And horses that wouldn't have been hurt in something like that couldn't have out run a fatman," he said, using the vernacular of the racetrack.
A second-place finish in her second start and then finally a win, over Woodbine's Polytrack on August 2.
Was the Breeders' Cup on DeGannes' mind at that point? He laughed when asked to recall.
A third-place finish in the Ontario Debutante. Then the Natalma came along, a "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup one-mile turf race at Woodbine. Over soft turf, she gutted out, like she has most things in her life, a neck victory to earn a spot on the sport's championship stage.
Mind you, now that C Karma is at the Breeders' Cup, the story of the journey doesn't end.
It was a classic best of times, worst of times situation for DeGannes.
Three days after he saddled C Karma to the Natalma win, he was diagnosed with Diverticulosis, a condition that affects the lining of the lower colon which can be fatal.
He was rushed to hospital. An eight-day stay, including five in intensive care ensued. The first night, he was diagnosed with the ailment and it was found that it was too volatile to operate, so he was given antibiotics to hopefully improve the condition.
Once the fever was under control, some 96 hours later, he was stable and risky surgery was not warranted. He was released from the hospital with strict orders to improve his diet and enjoy a less strenuous professional career and schedule.
He lost 20 pounds, is on medication to keep the condition under control and is committed to a high fibre diet. Difficult for the native of Trinidad, who prepares, er, prepared his own hot sauce for the spicy foods he loves, er, loved.
Certainly, C Karma has picked up his spirits.
The barn's "Alpha Female" is a sweetheart. And those around her pamper her. The Florida-bred by Exchange Rate gets her hair braided every day by Jasmine Baggerman, who along with Paul (Movers) Lamonth, rubs her every day.
And all C Karma does, in return, is run. Run all the way to the Breeders' Cup.
Read more articles in the Woodbine category.