courtesy of Collette Mulhall

Inside Track: Happy Trails

In the midst of disappointments, it's refreshing to hear a story with a happy ending.

In the midst of the disappointments and tragedies that sometimes occur in the horse industry, it’s refreshing to hear a story with not one, but two happy endings. 

When Mike Becker, who was suffering from complications from diabetes, checked into a hospital in Monroe, N.Y., Collette Mulhall never dreamed he would have such an impact on her life. Mulhall, an emergency room nurse, was surprised when Becker began talking about horse racing, as she was also an avid fan of the sport.

“He had come from a nursing home where he had been for rehab,” said Mulhall of Becker. “He was very depressed, and he told me he just wanted to get better to get back to his horses.”

A former owner and philanthropist, Becker spoke of a dual grade I-winning horse he had campaigned named Influent, whom he had to give away because of his declining health. Becker told Mulhall it was his greatest wish to know what had become of the horse that had made him so successful.

Before becoming an owner, Becker had been a groom. When he received $2.2 million in a car accident settlement in 1996, he used part of the funds to acquire Influent with co-owner Richard Kumble.

After the gelding was transferred to trainer Howard Tesher’s barn, Kumble and Becker decided to switch Influent to the turf, and the 6-year-old quickly moved up in status, winning six stakes including the 1997 Caesars International Handicap (gr. IT) and Man o’ War (gr. IT) Stakes.

In an attempt to help Becker, Mulhall decided to inquire about Influent’s whereabouts. It wasn’t long before Mulhall was able to locate Influent, who is enjoying a restful retirement at a farm in New Jersey.

“Our goal had always been to get Michael better to bring him down to the farm to see Influent, but we were just never been able to get him well enough to do that,” said Mulhall of Becker, who succumbed to his battle with diabetes complications May 23.

Little did Mulhall know that her kind gestures over the last year would be rewarded in the form of another talented gelding named Super Hero. Soon after Mulhall met Becker, Mulhall’s mildly autistic 11-year-old son Morgan, who is also a race fan, fell in love with Super Hero at Saratoga upon witnessing him capture a claiming contest last summer.

“Little boys love superheroes, so when he heard that horse’s name over the loud speaker, he almost yanked my arm out of its socket to get over to the rail to watch this horse race,” said Mulhall.

After the race, Morgan began following Super Hero’s career and watched him go down through the claiming ranks. When the son of Fusaichi Pegasus was a well beaten seventh in a $3,500 claiming race at Emerald Downs, Mulhall contacted Super Hero’s trainer to inquire about where the horse would go when he was retired, and a deal was made.

“I called the trainer (Robbie Baze), and he said he had been considering giving him away to become a pony horse to the track,” Mulhall said. “But since we had been tracking him all year and the horse meant so much to us, he would give me the horse.”

Super Hero was shipped across the country to her husband’s farm near Millerton, N.Y., arriving the morning of May 22. He has quite the personality, according to Mulhall.

“(Retired racehorses) are perfectly good horses that if somebody took an interest in, they could be retrained and do so many other things,” she continued. “It just goes to show you how you can easily save a horse’s life.”