Around life of `Carl' revolves generosity

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

April 20, 2003|By TOM KEYSER

Just Call Me Carl did a lot of good for a lot of people when he was a racehorse. When he retired, a lot of people did a lot of good for him.

The 8-year-old gelding raced from 1997 to 2001 for Steven T. Newby, a stockbroker from Gaithersburg. Newby bought him in 1996 at Keeneland as a yearling for $80,000 with charity in mind.

Six years earlier, Newby won $50,000 in a stock-picking contest. He donated the money to Project Excellence, the college-scholarship program for African-Americans founded by the late newspaper columnist Carl Rowan.

Accompanied by his trainer, Dale Capuano, Newby bought the young colt and pledged to donate his earnings to Project Excellence. Newby named him Just Call Me Carl because the first time he met Rowan, the columnist said: "Just call me Carl."

Said Newby: "I didn't know the horse would end up earning half a million dollars and be the best horse I ever had."

Just Call Me Carl earned $525,708. He won 12 of 25 races, including six stakes. He finished second in a Grade I stakes, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, three years ago at Laurel Park.

Newby kept his word. He donated every cent of the horse's earnings to Project Excellence. The program stipulates that Project Excellence will pay for a student's first year of college. If the student continues on, then the college will pay the remaining years.

Just Call Me Carl's earnings ended up generating about $2 million in scholarships and sending at least 20 students through college, Newby said.

For Newby, giving away all the earnings meant he had to pay Capuano, the jockey and all the bills out of his own pocket. And Just Call Me Carl wasn't cheap.

He was a "rogue," Capuano said. He had to be gelded. Twice, he had to be operated on for the removal of chips in a knee and chips in an ankle. In his last race, Sept. 7, 2001, he got bumped at the break, broke a sesamoid bone in his foot and still won by 3 1/4 lengths. He underwent surgery a third time, even though his chances of racing again were slim.

After a year's convalescence, he attempted another comeback but couldn't make it. He was retired in September. Capuano hated to see him go.

"He was always one of my favorites," the trainer said. "He was kind of nasty and hard to deal with, but he had an attitude about him even before he ran that he was something.

"He was a great horse. I haven't had one like him for a while, that's for sure."

Capuano turned to Laurie Calhoun, who owns Summer Wind Farm in Libertytown with her husband, Jerry. Just Call Me Carl had always convalesced at Summer Wind, and the Calhouns had always found homes for Capuano's retired runners.

Laurie says she finds homes for other retirees, too, maybe 15 to 18 a year. She gives them away as riding horses, companions and sometimes even show-horse broodmares.

"They deserve it," she said. "They've done whatever we've asked them to do."

Trying to be as tactful as possible, Laurie described Just Call Me Carl as a "character. ... Carl intimidated a lot of people. He's such a smart horse."

At Summer Wind he began settling down. Rachael Hoover, his groom last year, even taught him to bow for mints. All this time Newby continued paying his board.

A couple of months ago, Laurie finally found a home for Carl. Janis and Rick Grooms took him, and they drove him to their farm in Pennsylvania, just across the Maryland line near Emmitsburg, on Valentine's Day.

Rick is a farrier, and Janis gives riding lessons. They have about 20 horses, three of whom they got from Laurie. One is Bay Capp, a 14-year-old gelding and former racehorse.

So far, Janis is the only one who rides Carl. But her goal is to let her more experienced students eventually ride him, maybe even in shows.

"He's turned out with one of our older, quieter horses," Janis said. "He's living quite a good life."

Seabiscuit comeback

The one-hour PBS documentary Seabiscuit, based on Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, will be televised at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

It focuses on the relationship between Seabiscuit and his jockey, Red Pollard.

The Universal film Seabiscuit, also based on Hillenbrand's book, will be released July 25. Previews in theaters feature images of the bleak 1930s and these words:

"In a time of uncertainty, in a world consumed by fear, for a people whose spirit was shaken, it would take a broken hero to get them back on their feet. ... The dreams of a nation rode on a long shot."

Cue the tears.

Et cetera

Laurel-based Bop's record-setting performance in the Yankee Affair Handicap last weekend at Gulfstream Park was the 6-year-old horse's third track record in 21 starts (11 of them wins).

The Michael Trombetta-trained horse set the five-furlong turf record at Gulfstream in 55.10 seconds, breaking Texas Glitter's old mark of 55.60.

Bop also set five-furlong turf records last year at Penn National and Colonial Downs.

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