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Barn Notes: Friday, September 16, 2016
DUBAI BEATY GOES FROM WINNER’S CIRCLE TO BREEDING SHED AND BACK
When Dubai Beauty won the eighth race at Arlington International Racecourse on Sept. 15, it marked four years since she had last visited the winner’s circle at the Chicagoland oval. The 9-year-old mare, owned and trained by Virginia-native Jed Steffee, had been through a few changes: after recovering from a leg fracture as a 4-year-old, she returned to form and was back winning races, then was sidelined in 2013 with a tear in a tendon. After being told the mare’s chances of racing again were slim to none, Steffee retired Dubai Beauty to his farm outside of New Orleans and sent her to rest until being bred the following spring.
After visiting My Pal Charlie, she came back in foal to wait out the pregnancy at Steffee’s farm. In the spring of 2015, Dubai Beauty gave birth to a colt – a spitting image of herself. Steffee tried to breed her back to one of Louisiana’s top studs, but she didn’t become pregnant. After weaning the colt in the fall, Steffee left her in the pasture with the other mares until winter.
“She was very different; we went home about this time last year to wean the foals, and she was like, ‘good riddance,’” Steffee recalled. “Mares normally don’t look that good when you wean them – you have to keep their feed down so they stop lactacting – and a friend came by that winter, saw her [in the pasture] and said, ‘one of these things is not like the other.’ She looked like she was fit and ready to run. He got on her and we started going back through the paces.”
Dubai Beauty returned to the track on May 29 for a five-furlong sprint over the synthetic Tapeta track at Presque Isle Downs. After pressing the pace early, she tired late and was beaten 9¾ lengths. Two weeks later she was trying again, with the same result. Another two weeks passed, and third start off the layoff she captured a win at six furlongs by a ½-length margin on June 29. Since then she has hit the board in all her starts, putting her 2016 record at 9-3-2-2. And she’s done it all in glue-on shoes.
Steffee, who started training over 25 years ago, shoes all his own horses. The saying ‘no hoof, no horse,’ rings true with him, who has seen Dubai Beauty’s feet transform before his very eyes. And he credits her current success to that transformation.
“She had very small feet when she was younger, and I think that’s where all her problems came from,” Steffee remarked. “When she became pregnant, her feet got bigger and spread out to support the weight. She’s sounder – she has no issues with being lame or sore. For a horse her age to be as sound as she is is just remarkable, and I think so much of that has to do with the fact that she had the baby and her foot got bigger. We haven’t kept it as big as it was – we actually have taken it back a bit. It’s like going from a size five shoe to a size eight shoe. She has glue-on shoes now – it’s just a regular aluminum shoe like you would nail on. It’s a little bigger than her hoof, and we build out the rest with the glue.”
“I put glue-on shoes on all three of my horses one day, and they all won the next time out,” Steffee explained. “They actually had been performing well, but then… it wasn’t like I put shoes on them, it was like I put wings on them. They absolutely responded to it – and they’re happier too. It just starts a process of getting everything right. None of my horses have any problems, I’m almost bored – I run with bandages on them just because I think it looks good – but I don’t have a sore horse in the barn.”
“I do everything myself,” Steffee said. “My own grooming, hot-walking, bandaging, and shoeing, it would be cost prohibitive to have the glue-ons if I didn’t do it myself. I didn’t go to shoeing school – my horses took me to shoeing school. I started practicing on my broodmares and ponies then started shoeing my racehorses. We’ve done pretty well the past few years.”
Steffee has owned Dubai Beauty for eight years now. He purchased her for $7,500 at the 2008 Ocala Breeder’s Sale as a yearling, took her to his farm and started her himself. Early in her career she was plagued with injuries – she bucked her shins as a 3-year-old and fractured her front leg at four before even breaking her maiden. Steffee gave her 10 months stall rest, which he said she handled surprisingly well. When she finally healed up and made it to the track, she won her first race by six lengths.
“The horse as an individual I thought was really well balanced,” Steffee said when asked why he bought the filly. “I just really liked her. She got loose before coming in the ring – I should have known it would interesting from that. I’ve broken horses all over the world, and this was one of the most difficult. Sometimes I wonder if she’s still not broke. She’s tough to train. She goes out at almost a breeze pace. Jonathan Joyce, an ex-jock friend of mine, gets on her and knows you let her roll and she will come back to you. She comes home strong, then she bucks the whole way back. She’s different in the afternoons – she’s just a handful in the morning.”
Before tearing her tendon in 2013, Dubai Beauty racked up four wins and four seconds, bringing her career record to 23-4-4-2. Since returning from the breeding shed, she has almost doubled her number of wins.
“I figured this was a nice spot for her,” Steffee said of the race at Arlington. “Age and experience goes a long way, especially when you don’t get a great trip – until Julio made it a good trip. That was one of the most amazing rides I’ve ever gotten. It was probably the most satisfying win of my life, even for a little race – guys like me get more out of that then when the big boys get beat in a million dollar race and run second. She ran a 70 Beyer, which for an old mare like her is huge. She ran a 60 last out, and was running in the upper 40s before that, so she’s put about 22 points on since [coming back].”
Happy with his mare’s condition, Steffee is already planning for her next start, which he says will be the last of the season. He has no plans on breeding her again next year, as long as she shows an interest in racing and stays healthy.
“There’s a chance she might run the last day of the meet at Arlington, just because it is definitely her preferred surface, and it would be her last start of the year. She’ll let us know. There’s not a race that fits her right now, and I’m not going to throw her in with the wolves. If we don’t get to run here, for one reason or another, she’ll make one more start at Presque Isle. The thing is, you’ve got to run her every two weeks, or she’ll kill you. She gets to be where she’s like, ‘I want to run now.’ After that, we’ll turn her out and maybe bring her back around March.”