When Legacy Bloodstock’s Mark Toothaker was getting his start in the Thoroughbred business, one of his first big training opportunities came from veteran horseman Hal Wiggins. Toothaker never guessed at the time that decades later their roles would be reversed.
Wiggins, best known as the former trainer of reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, retired at the end of 2009 following a successful 30-year career. But he couldn’t stay away from the industry for long. After reading the newspaper, playing golf with his wife, Renee, and visiting their grandchildren, Wiggins was approached by Toothaker and Tommy Eastham, who needed his expertise in picking out horses for Legacy clients.
Needless to say, Wiggins jumped at the occasion to dive back in. Once serving as Toothaker’s employer, Wiggins is now working for him. And he couldn’t be happier.
“(Mark Toothaker and Tommy Eastham) are great guys…they have the highest integrity, are very honest, and they represent their clients very well,” said Wiggins, whose wife also assists Legacy with client relations and computer work during the sales.
“I worked for Hal when I was about 20 years old and I thought then he was one of the nicest gentlemen I had ever met,” said Toothaker, who joined Legacy as a partner in 2007. “I was still learning the business, and he was so patient and gave me the opportunity to take some of his horses and run them at Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs while he was based at Louisiana Downs. He gave me some good responsibility as a young man that I never forgot.
“(Wiggins’ role) is a new area for us—we’ve never looked at horses for clients because we’ve always been so busy selling,” added Toothaker while standing at the Legacy barn as prospective buyers looked at horses for the opening select session of the Keeneland September yearling sale Sept. 12. “Hal is a tremendous asset, he knows everybody, and he’s so well liked, so we’re thrilled to have him on the team.”
Based in Houston, Wiggins is currently working for Legacy during the first week of the September sale. Prior to that, he represented the bloodstock company at the Fasig-Tipton Texas summer yearling sale, and he plans to return to Kentucky at the end of October to help at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale.
Because the Legacy position is part-time, Wiggins has had time to visit the various racetracks where his son Lon’s horses are running. Wiggins also continues to rise at 4 a.m. each day out of habit from his years of training.
“For years, I was on the other side of the fence—I was coming to the barns looking at horses and I never fully appreciated how hard these people work,” said Wiggins of the Legacy team. “They’re here at 6 or 7 a.m., bathing the horses to get them ready for the day, and they’re here until dark. You never hear them gripe about anything; whatever needs to be done, they do it.
“It’s great being back at Keeneland,” he added. “The first (Keeneland) sale I came to, I had never been to Kentucky before. We were training at Louisiana Downs, and we started coming here to buy a few yearlings. I went to the grandstand and looked over everything, and I thought, ‘how nice would it be to train here?’ Now looking back, I wound up training at Churchill and (Keeneland) for 16 years, so I consider myself a really blessed person.”