It’s safe to say it’s very unusual for a 10-year-old pregnant Thoroughbred mare that hasn’t raced in seven years to return to training.
But after Pennsylvania-based owner-trainer Andrew Davidovich’s mare Violet Eyed Diva, who is 2 1/2 months pregnant to his farm stallion Draft Age (by Storm Cat), was entered in a July 1 claiming race at Presque Isle Downs & Casino but then scratched by stewards, Davidovich began working to prove his mare was in fact healthy enough to race and deserved to make a comeback in spite of the extraordinary circumstances.
According to Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission officials, though Davidovich presented a compelling argument in the form of a letter stating the details behind the mare’s strong training and positive veterinary exams, regulators want to take a closer look before approving the mare to race at the Erie track.
Davidovich outlined how during her racing days in 2002-03, Violet Eyed Diva won three of 12 starts and earned $79,000. After having surgery to remove chips in her knee, however, the mare was no longer performing up to par, and Davidovich decided to retire her from racing to become a broodmare.
Violet Eyed Diva produced three foals, two of which never made it to the track. The one foal that did race—Justhitoverdrive (by Rahy)—has failed to hit the board in six starts.
After Violet Eyed Diva had spent seven years at Davidovich’s Mt. Pleasant, Pa., farm, her poor produce record, combined with the fact she “acted like she wanted to stretch her legs a bit more” led Davidovich to try and put the mare back in training. After confirming his decision with the approval from a few other horsemen, Davidovich breezed Violet Eyed Diva at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in West Virginia and was pleased with the results.
He then began working her steadily with the intention of running her in the July 1 race at Presque Isle. But two days before the event, Pennsylvania state steward Hap D’Angelis told Davidovich Violet Eyed Diva would be scratched due to the length of time since she had last raced. D’Angelis initially told Davidovich he could work the mare in front of the stewards, but then changed his mind.
Racing commission officials said it was too close to the time of the race to be able to fully evaluate the mare’s condition.
Davidovich said D’Angelis told him that allowing Violet Eyed Diva to race at Presque Isle would stir up “bad publicity,” and that he should pursue racing her at Mountaineer instead.
Davidovich said the commission told him it needed to “gather more information” from himself and others about Violet Eyed Diva before they could approve the mare to race at Presque Isle.
“If there’s no decision made in three or four weeks, I might as well give up on the idea, because there’s no way I’m going to race her when she’s four or five months pregnant,” said Davidovich, who noted he wouldn’t race his mare on dirt at Mountaineer. He said he wants to race Violet Eyed Diva, who had excelled on turf during her career, on Presque Isle’s synthetic surface.
Davidovich, who has owned horses since the 1960s and took out his trainer’s license in the 1970s, said he would continue working Violet Eyed Diva until the situation is resolved. The mare last worked four furlongs in :51 at Presque Isle July 13. She has been deemed fit for racing by both the Pennsylvania and West Virginia state veterinarians, as well as the Mountaineer board of stewards Davidovich said.
“Some horses you know don’t want to race anymore, but (Violet Eyed Diva) is still going good and is sound, and I want to race her if at all possible,” Davidovich said.