My father is the very antithesis of a hunch bettor: he has little use for the betting proclivities of his daughter (in fact, he frequently refers to me as “the worst bettor of all time”), and I can’t remember a single time when he bet a horse for any other reason than that he thought it was going to win. But even the man without a sentimental racing bone in his body liked Spooky Mulder.
He liked the X-Files, too, and maybe that’s where it started, but even before I followed racing year-round, I’d get the occasion call from him. “Spooky Mulder’s in,” he say, or “Do you know how Spooky did?” I don’t know whether he actually ever placed a wager on Spooky, but he certainly followed him.
So I did, too, and we weren’t alone. Four years ago, Alan Mann at Left at the Gate (himself not terribly given to the sentimentalities of the game) wrote a blog post about Spooky; the same day, Jerry Bossert wrote in the Daily News,
Spooky Mulder will not be remembered as a Classic winner or a Breeders’ Cup winner but to the fans of New York, there is no one gamer…Winning trainer Pat Reynolds said, “If I was stuck out in the desert or riding a horse into battle I’d want Spooky Mulder snorting under me, that’s for sure.”
And here’s the race they were talking about:
In July 2009, Spooky Mulder was retired by his trainer, Scott Lake, after a fourth place finish in a claiming race at Delaware. It was his 85th lifetime start, and he was 11 years old.
Spooky started his racing career at Turfway Park on September 15th, 2001. He won that first start, the first of 34 races he’d win in his lifetime. He finished second 17 times, and fourth four times. That’s first or second in 60% of his races, and his paltry show record might indicate that if he didn’t think that he was going to get one of the top two spots, maybe he just didn’t try that hard.
Bred in Kentucky, the bay gelding was by Brunswick and out of Suana. He raced at 17 tracks and won at 11 of them. By the time he was retired, he’d earned $950,548.
Spooky had been in Lake’s care at various points through his career; he’d raced in the name of nine trainers, with Lake taking at least three turns. And when it came time for Spooky to head off the track, he went home with Lake. Or at least, with Lake’s mother-in-law, Felicity Stisted. He spent a few months on Stisted’s farm before moving to his permanent home with Sally Court, not far from Annapolis, Maryland.
Court has been friends with Stisted for years, and it was Court who got the call when Spooky retired. She lives on a farm with several equine retirees, two miniature horses, and a bunch of cats. She demurs when it’s suggested that she rescues horses. “I don’t rescue them,” she says. “I give them a home.”
And what a home it is. Across the road from the house, a retired Warmblood named Baise shares a paddock with Older But Smarter, who raced 42 times with nine wins and earnings of more than $300,000. Out behind the house, Hunt The Fox, a veteran of 60 starts with just four wins, hangs out with Wilma June, who by her fourth start had made it clear that she didn’t really want to be a racehorse. Her career earnings? $69.
And a couple of paddocks over lives the star of the show, the Big Horse who knows it, but whose best friend is a very little horse indeed, whose name is Hercules. (As always, click on photos to enlarge.)
Spooky’s almost 13 years old, but he’s definitely trying to lie about his age: when visitors arrive, he comes right to the fence to say hello, and he welcomes us into his paddock. He knows that treats await, and after a few peppermints, he bounds across his paddock, chasing Hercules and showing off moves that belie more than a decade on the track.
He needs to be encouraged to slow down; on this day, he works himself literally into a lather, and those knees and ankles and tendons aren’t quite what they used to be. We lead Hercules away, and Spooky is persuaded to take it easy. Peppermints make an excellent bribe. He thinks that if he shows his tattoo, he’ll get a few more…and he’s right.
It’s hard to know who’s happier: Spooky to be there or Court to have him. A lifelong horsewoman, she is attentive to his needs and meticulous about his care, and wildly affectionate with him.
An Internet search about Spooky reveals multiple queries on message boards about where he is and how he’s doing; his following didn’t stop at his retirement, and the folks out there who have wondered can be assured that he’s about as lucky as a horse can get. After a long and productive life on the track, Scott Lake, his family, and Sally Court have made sure that Spooky Mulder is enjoying a well-earned, pampered retirement.
Past performance information courtesy of Daily Racing Form.