Three years after William Landes III's Roxelana scored the most important victory of her racing career in a dazzling 11 3/4-length romp in the $100,000 La Troienne (gr. III), the 6-year-old mare was sent home May 1.
Training veteran William "Blackie" Huffman helped her on a van, marking the second time the daughter of Boundary was retired. She was just short of a planned run in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) on Kentucky Derby Day, a race that was to have served as the final start of her racing career. Huffman said the decision to retire his mare was made following her final pre-race work.
"She breezed in :48-and-a-fifth, just as nice as anybody," said Huffman. "But she came back coughing, then I found out why she came back coughing and that was it. It was going to be her last race anyway. Win, lose or draw, she was going to retire."
The La Troienne turned out to be Roxelana's most notable victory, but she followed that race with a strong third-place finish to Finder's Fee in the Acorn (gr. I) at Belmont Park. She was retired a few months later and was bred to Carson City, but encountered problems with the pregnancy and the foal, delivered by Caesarean section, was stillborn.
Rather than keep her on the farm, Landes -- at the encouragement of his wife, Sally, and daughter, Laura -- returned her to Huffman's care at Churchill Downs early last year. She rounded into shape and won allowance races at Turfway Park and Churchill Downs before she suffered an upset loss in an allowance race late in the meet. She returned to competition over the winter at the Fair Grounds, where she defeated multiple stakes winner See How She Runs in an allowance race that proved to be the final race of her career.
Roxelana left her career at the track with a record of 7-1-1 in 11 races and earnings of $264,726.
Huffman has trained some good fillies in his career, including stakes winners Alcovy and Undermine in recent years, but he will remember Roxelana as a special talent.
"She probably had as much natural talent as any filly I've ever had," said Huffman. "I've had fillies that made more money than her, but I don't think I've had any that had as much natural talent."
Huffman said Landes, the manager of famed Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Ky., plans to breed Roxelana again this spring.