HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - A horse like Deputiformer might not be your typical headline maker, but the redoubtable gelding epitomizes the type of runner celebrated in Saturday’s Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park.
"We claimed him off Maggi Moss and then ran him in California for $16,000," Keen recalled. "Then we took him back a year later for $8,000--basically for half the price coming off an eight-month layoff. My wife told [then trainer] Jeff Mullins, 'Thank you for giving our horse some time off.' He'd gone 30-some races without a win, but then we took him home."
Indeed, Deputiformer endured a drought spanning nearly three years, though he picked up checks along the way. Now owned by Brent Gasaway and Ian Yarnot, the dark bay has a responsible conditioner in Keen. In addition to training a full string, the horseman and his wife Donna also established the Remember Me Retired Racehorse Program, which is located in Burleson, Texas. The Keens focus on rehabilitating and retraining former competitors in hopes of finding them new homes.
"We had been taking a lot of off-track horses, retraining them and finding them homes," Keen explained. "Another 501[c]3 [foundation] told us that we would need to start a 501, too. We know how much our owners love their horses, and we train horses because we love them. So we saw a real need for it.
Keen often sends horses to race in California, where he got to know Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. After hanging up his saddle for a few years, the popular reins man returned to race-riding in 2013. He won the Preakness Stakes with Oxbow, and capped a memorable season last month at the Breeders' Cup by piloting Beholder to victory in the $2-million Distaff and Mucho Macho Man in a thrilling renewal of the $5-million Classic. Shortly after that, Stevens was looking for ways to give back to the racing community.
"Gary Stevens has always been a big supporter of ours right from the get-go," Keen pointed out. "Two days after he won the Breeders' Cup Classic, he called me up and said that he and his wife Angie would like to send us some money. They sent us $5,000, but he said that he didn’t really want anyone to know. I said, ‘Gary, people need to know, and it really helps our industry and lets people see that we really care about what we do.’"
Keen added that Rich Papiese, whose Midwest Thoroughbreds is perennially among the country's leading owners, also donated a 20-stall barn for the Remember Me rescue horses. There are currently 13 horses ready for adoption.
"It’s people like that that allow us to take these horses, because we may have them for over a year before we can actually find them a home," Keen summed up.
Deputiformer has been a consistent performer in the last year. He has won eight of 12 starts this year and is listed at 6-1 on the morning-line. He is the eldest of the 14 runners entered in the Iron Horse, but appears to have discovered the fountain of youth in his return to Florida.