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Inside Track: Best-selling Story

The heartwarming story of Skipingo reunited with his breeders deserves to be to told.

As he was a full brother to three-time champion Skip Away, whom many consider as one of the greatest racehorses of all time, big things were expected from Skipingo when he was purchased as a yearling for $300,000 in 1998.

But Skipingo never turned out to be the racehorse his brother was, and in early 2003, after winning just twice in 14 starts, the bay gelding fell into anonymity. As far as Karen Bailey knew, Skipingo had fallen off the face of the earth.

“He was always one of my favorites. I delivered him myself, I nursed and bottle-fed him, I prepped him, and I became really attached to him. Plus, he was out of my favorite mare (Ingot Way),” said Bailey of her early relationship with Skipingo, at her family’s Summer Wind Farm near Georgetown, Ky. “I had no idea what happened to him and neither did anyone I asked. It’s like he had just fallen off the map. I was pretty broken up.”

Nearly a year later, just when Bailey had all but given up hope of finding Skipingo, her prayers were answered.

“I was flipping through the sales book one day (for the Keeneland 2004 January horses of all ages sale) and I saw his name,” Bailey said. “I couldn’t believe it. I started crying. I finally found him again.
“There was no way anyone was going to outbid me for him, but I think I was the only one who bid anyway. I paid ($4,500) for him.”

Bailey ran Skipingo three more times in 2004 and although he didn’t come close to winning any of his races, Bailey didn’t care. She had other plans. She turned Skipingo into a show horse, and the once forgotten horse went on to become a champion on the local show circuit.

“He wasn’t a great racehorse like his brother, but he did become a great jumper,” said Bailey. “I think it’s important for people to realize that every horse has a special talent.”

The heartwarming story of Skipingo being reunited with his breeders deserved to be told. So Bailey and her mother, Jane Lyon, decided to do so. In 2008, they co-authored the children’s book Skipingo Home. It was Lyon’s idea to tell the story through poetry.

“I’ve written poetry for many years; it’s one of the ways I like to express myself,” said Lyon who, along with her husband, Frank, owns 700-acre Summer Wind, a commercial breeding operation. “I thought it would be a nice way to tell the story.

“It wasn’t specifically written for children, but it seemed to fit better that way once we put illustrations to it (which were done by Susie Gordon). Hopefully, anyone who reads it can take something from it.”

It seems people of all ages have taken to the book. So far, Skipingo Home, which was published by Eclipse Press, has sold more than 1,000 copies despite limited distribution. It will be released nationally to all major book stores this summer.

Aside from the feel-good aspect of the story, Bailey and Lyon were anxious to bring awareness to the hotbed issue of horse rescue. That is the reason they’re donating all of the proceeds from the book to Old Friends, a facility for retired racehorses in Georgetown.

“We wanted to do our part in helping get the word out that it’s the responsibility of all of us in this business to take care of horses,” Lyon said. “If everyone does their little part, more horses can be saved.”

Skipingo Home was such a hit that Bailey and Lyon are now working on a series of similar books. One of them, Home for the Brave, about the rescue of a horse named Primerica, is due out by the end of the year.