For Kathy and Karen Johnson, owners of Amherst Stable, Rewrite helped them through the saddest time of their lives – the loss of both their father, Hall of Fame trainer Phil “P.G” Johnson, and their mother, Mary Kay, four years ago.
On Sunday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course, the sisters will cheer on 5-year-old Rewrite in the 29th running of the $100,000 Yaddo Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares going nine furlongs miles on the turf. The race as originally scheduled for Saturday, August 9.
The grieving sisters soon began the process of dispersing 16 of their Amherst Stable horses through auctions and private sales. One of those horses was Fickle Friends, a stakes-placed half-sister to Johnson’s “big horse,” 2002 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Volponi, who had given birth to a filly by Editor’s Note, named Rewrite.
Just before Christmas, Karen contacted her sister with an idea for the perfect holiday gift -- Rewrite.
“It had been a very rough year and we needed a lift,” Karen said. “We lost our parents within 11 weeks of each other. It was very sad and stressful. We were dispersing our horses and trying to do it in the correct way. It seemed as if we didn’t want to entirely let go.”
The last horse their father bred and trained, Rewrite also kept the family connection to Volponi.
“Our dad had sent a lot of photographs from the farm where she was foaled and grown,” Karen Johnson said. “At that time, I had been working for the Daily Racing Form in Manhattan. I would have the pictures on my cubicle.
“Because of Rewrite’s breeding and her connections to Volponi, we thought it would be fun to keep her. Our dad was a big fan of Editor’s Note. He was always looking for horses with endurance. I think she has to be among one of his top money earners.”
Rewrite has earned $444,195, with nine victories from 16 starts, and has been a joy for Kathy and Karen, as well as Kathy’s husband, Don Brockway.
“Don gets excited each time Rewrite is in the paddock,” Karen said. “When Rewrite wins, he gets excited because he likes to see the pink and blue Amherst silks. He says he likes to see that tradition going.”
Another person involved in Rewrite’s successful career is trainer Christophe Clement. After both Kathy and Karen kept Rewrite, they were looking for a trainer and Clement, who was stabled on the other side of P.G. Johnson at the time, was their choice.
“I think one of the pieces has been Christophe,” Karen Johnson said. “I think he reminds us of our father and his method of training. He is so patient with horses. He always wants to give them the necessary recovery time in between races. He never puts them in places that will be over their heads.”
It is uncertain how long Rewrite will be racing, but Kathy and Karen Johnson, as well as others who are continuously involved with the mare, will keep her going as long as possible.
“Right now, she’s happy, sound, and running well,” Karen Johnson said. “As long as she can keep doing it, we will run her. When it comes time to retire her, we will. For now, it’s one race at a time. Racing will always be with us, even if we don’t have a horse. This was good to have her and she got us through a difficult time.”
Carrying the highweight of 122 pounds with jockey Alan Garcia, Rewrite is expected to be challenged in the Yaddo by last year’s winner, Latitude Forty, and runner-up Factual Contender.
Dee Zee Stable’s Latitude Forty comes into the Yaddo beaten a nose to Rewrite in the Irish Actress Stakes at Belmont. Trainer John Hertler, P.G. Johnson’s former assistant, was pleased to see Latitude Forty finish well after lacking racing room in her first two starts this year.
“She was caught in traffic in both the Mount Vernon and Beautiful Pleasure,” Hertler said. “She had nowhere to go in either of those races. But she did move forward and was beaten by a nose by a very good mare in the Irish Actress.”
Latitude Forty, a 5-year-old mare who has earned $232,707 from 19 career races, has a history of solid performances as a longshot the Spa. In last year’s Yaddo, she was sent off at 23-1; two years ago, in the Irish Linnet Stakes for New York-breds, she rallied to a third-place finish at 34-1.
Not only would Hertler like to be back in the winner’s circle for the Yaddo, he believes Latitude Forty, who will carry a pound more than she did in last year’s race, can get him there.
“It would be nice to win this race again,” Hertler said. “I think she’s as good as she was last year when she won the Yaddo. She’s got some early speed going a mile and an eight. So she will be up there early, but we don’t want her to be too sharp.”
Trainer Barclay Tagg would like to see Thomas Farone Jr.’s 7-year-old mare Factual Contender win a race in defense of her title as champion New York-bred Turf Female. A winner of four of her eight races last year, Factual Contender has been close in all three starts this year.
“She has been very good to us,” said Tagg. “She’s very consistent, runs hard and loves the game. She has been very good to us. I think she will run a lot better here.”
Factual Contender will be ridden again by Eibar Coa while carrying 121 pounds.
Shipping in from the Midwest, You Go West Girl is trying restricted company for the first time for owner Craig Bernick and trainer Thomas Proctor. With just nine career races, You Go West Girl has four wins and three second-place finishes, including the Grade 3 Regret Stakes last year.
This year, You Go West Girl won her 4-year-old debut against allowance horses over Polytrack at Keeneland. You Go West Girl is looking to rebound off her fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap.
The field for Sunday’s $100,000-added Yaddo Handicap:
PP HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1. You Go West Girl Thomas Proctor Julien Leparoux 119
2. Latitude Forty John Hertler Javier Castellano 117
3. Factual Contender Barclay Tagg Eibar Coa 121
4. Rewrite Christophe Clement Alan Garcia 122
5. Chestoria William Badgett Jr. Ramon Dominguez 120
6. Junkanoo Party Charlton Baker Jean-Luc Samyn 116