When Fred Heyman and Nancy and Tom Clark claimed P. Kerney for $25,000 in 2006, they had no idea he would go on to win four stakes, earn them more than $340,000, and set track records.
The owners also did not expect to get so attached to the son of Pleasant Tap, who is described by Heyman as “a treat to be around.” So when it came time to do the right thing by the bay gelding, there was no hesitation. P. Kerney would be retired with dignity and live the rest of his life like a former racehorse should: as a retrained Thoroughbred with a useful second career.
“When you own horses, it should be a passion,” said Heyman, a Baltimore-based attorney who became involved in Thoroughbred ownership in 2000. “These horses give you everything they have and will do anything you ask of them. You have to treat them right when it’s all over.”
P. Kerney was unplaced in a pair of stakes and raced mostly in optional claiming company when trainer Benny Feliciano Jr. recommended the owners take a chance on the 5-year-old in January 2006. So they snatched him out of the claimer at Laurel Park, a race in which he went wire-to-wire for his fifth win in 14 lifetime starts. He was just rounding into his best form.
“He had some back class, and he looked like a specimen,” Heyman recalled. “He had a presence about him.
“It wasn’t Benny’s plan to run him in stakes company right away, but at the time there wasn’t anything else available for him. So we took a shot.”
It paid off too, as P. Kerney romped by more than five lengths in the Northern Wolf Stakes at Laurel in March 2006. In July he set the Charles Town track record for seven furlongs while winning the Cry ing For More Stakes in 1:23.29.
P. Kerney, who was bred in Maryland by Robert Evans and is out of the Stalwart mare Substantial, would win another stakes later that year before suffering a tendon injury that caused him to miss half of 2007. But after being moved into the barn of Michael Trombetta, the hard-knocking horse came back to win three of five starts in the second half of that season, including a repeat in the Taking Risks Stakes at Timonium, and twice more in 2008. In all, he would win eight times in 20 starts for Heyman and the Clarks.
The owners were planning on racing 8-year-old P. Kerney in 2009 and then retiring him at the end of the season, but he developed hemorrhagic pneumonia in February, a rare condition in which a virus causes an infection in the lungs. The horse was treated successfully at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., before being sent home.
“At that point we decided to retire him even though he had fully recovered and was sound,” Heyman said. “We didn’t want to drop him into claiming races and risk losing him. He deserved better.”
The owners were thrilled when the facility where P. Kerney had been turned out for the last two winters, DMC Carousel Stable, agreed to take the retired horse at their Berryville, Va., farm, a diverse operation that trains flat and steeplechase racehorses, breaks yearlings, and rehabilitates injured horses after surgery, Carousel also retrains retired horses for a second career.
“We are well on our way to deciding what Kerney’s future holds for him,” said Diana McClure, who owns Carousel with her husband, steeplechase jockey Michael Cooney. “Fred envisioned a stable pony, my husband still fantasizes over the steeplechase option, and one of our riders plans to ride him in the Olympics. I am just happy to have him in my life. He is just so special.
“Fred and the Clarks are to be commended for taking such wonderful care of their horses and for always doing what is right for the horse.”