Homeward Bound


Just about everyone, it seems, has turned a profit with claiming star Not A Prude. Now, at nine-years-old, this popular strawberry-roan gelding is looking for a permanent home out of the spotlight.

Story by Keith McCalmont / Photos by Brian Acton

Bred in Maryland by Winbak Farms, Not A Prude was off and pacing from the moment he dropped. This hard-knocking warrior of the claiming circuit recorded an impressive 160 starts in a racing career that spanned more than six years _ taking a mark of 1:51.1 and earning $412,967. In his travels, the handsome roan gelding was claimed 19 times for a total value just shy of $1 million. Recently retired to the care of the Ontario Standard Adoption Society by trainer Hank Lilley. Not A Prude is now looking for a permanent home after spending a lifetime on the limestone.

From May of 2002 until his retirement in November of 2008, Not A Prude was a happy traveler of the harness paddock, never spending more than a handful of races with any one trainer before shuffling off to the next barn. One particular stretch between December 17, 2005 and February 4, 2006 saw Not A Prude race eight times for five different trainers. Ever the model of consistency the son of Cams Card Shark won four of those races. In fact, Not A P rude finished on the board in 67 of his lifetime starts, which included an impressive 24 victories.

Trainer Jeff Gillis conditioned Not A Prude on five separate occasions. “He was just a new horse on the circuit, a big Cams Card Shark gelding,” he says. “We’d had luck with Dream Shark in the past so I really liked the breed.”

The gelding rewarded Gillis with a win first time out, only to be claimed by Joe Stutzman. Undaunted, Gillis claimed Not A Prude back in his very next start. “Prude was a big strong horse that was pretty sound at the time and we seemed to get along with him,” he says. “If he got loose on the lead, he would beat very good horses and high percentage horses are highly coveted.”

Gillis’ peers no doubt felt the same. Stutzman, Glenn LaLonde and Casie Coleman were all repeat offenders in the claiming game with Prude. “Every time that horse raced it was exciting,” offers Coleman. “He’s pace miles in 50, 51, 52, every week and had a good shot to win each time down the track. Prude was just a fun horse to have. Every time he raced he put out his ‘A’ game. Whoever ends up adopting him will be a lucky person.”

Known for his early gate speed, Prude was at his best when on the lead. “He was a big horse and once he got rolling he was hard to run down,” Gillis recalls. Though Prude may have been comfortable sleeping in different barns, Gillis remembers one occasion where a new environment nearly got the better of the old warhorse. “Prude was used to racing at Woodbine, where he’d go right to the front in 26 flat as it’s a straightaway to the lead,” grins the trainer. “Well, I took him to Grand River once and he had an outside hole. The t urn at Grand River is so sudden he almost ended up in the parking lot he left the gate so fast. He didn’t know what to do and was all out of sorts.”

Coleman remembers a lighter side of Not A Prude – of his coat, at least. With a brown face and four black legs to carry his chameleon-skinned body, the unique equine truly is a sight to behold. “I had him in both the winter and the summer and he really does change colour,” she laughs. “He’s a roan horse and he goes darker and lighter. Just an odd looking horse for a Standardbred. Gary Merner was my groom at the time that took care of Not A Prude and he’d always say, ‘that horse is a different colour as the day changes.’

Several months into his retirement, Not A Prude has adjusted well to a new life at Joanne Colville’s High Stakes Farms. Colville is a big supporter of the OSAS program, having worked as their event coordinator for a number of years. When OSAS Vice-President Sarah Scott phoned looking to find a foster home for Not A Prude, Colville was more than happy to answer the call. “We welcomed him and he’s enjoying his rest and relaxation,” she says. “But he won’t be in the program long. He’s too flashy!”

After living a mostly solitary life as a racehorse, Prude has become good friends with a two-year-old Western Hanover colt named Moose. “We’ve buddied him up with Moose as it might have been rare for him to have any friends at the track,” adds Colville. “Racehorses are often kept on single turnout so they don’t get hurt, so now Prude has a friend that he plays with. We will gradually introduce another retired Standardbred to the group and just get him adjusted to being social with others.”

The adjustment from life on the track into retirement can be a tricky one at first as the equine athlete adjusts to new feed and a little less exercise. “He’s gone from jogging four or five miles a day to individual turnout,” explains Colville, though she believes the strapping gelding will be more than capable of making the adjustment to life away from the track. “He’s a very intelligent animal and I think he’ll slide into the transition problem-free. The way he carries himself he’d be a perfect English horse as his head carriage is high. He’s a proud horse and best suited to the English disciplines. More than likely dressage is where he could fit best.”

Donated to OSAS in March of this year, the Maryland-bred horse is now looking for a permanent home after a life on the run.

He’s just a lovely horse that I’m sure will be a nice pet for somebody,” says Gillis. “I think it’s great that OSAS is trying to find a home for some of these old horses. Especially warriors like Prude, that deserve a good home because they have given a lot to the sport.”

So after a career overseen by 14 trainers, 38 drivers and stars on 10 different racetracks, this nine-year-old veteran is hoping to put down roots in a permanent home, hopefully unpacking his suitcase for the last time.