Little Patch of Heaven

By John Williams -- Oh, the joys of horse farming. Barren mares, rotavirus, overpriced stud fees, slipped pregnancies, broken batwing mower, ice storms, crooked foals...and a few hundred other things that can make you wonder why you do what you do. But then, something wonderful happens along the way, and you know how very lucky you are to be a horse farmer.

The dinner dishes had just been cleared from the table when the phone rang. The night watchman was saying, "I think this mare is warming up." The mare was La Confidence, one of the many mares boarded at our farm by our number one patron, the Harbor View Farm of Lou and Patrice Wolfson. With a little effort at 8:30 that cold evening of Feb. 7, 1988, I helped La Confidence ease a lightly made bay filly into the world. I wrote in my journal, "very strong and active, up in 20 minutes. Odd shaped white marking on face." Little did we realize how famous that white marking would become. This was Flawlessly.

She wasn't the biggest, or the most correct, or the standout of the foals born at our farm that spring, but she was unmistakable in the field of mares and foals with that patch of white paint across her face. She was special to the Wolfsons because she was sired by their outstanding Triple Crown champion, Affirmed. She was to become special to the sport of racing later on.

At two, Flawlessly was sent to Dickie Dutrow in New York, and for him she won two grade III stakes, the Gardenia on turf at Meadowlands and the Tempted on dirt at Aqueduct. The Wolfsons sent her as a 3-year-old to Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham, under whose tutelage she became back-to-back champion of her division in '92 and '93, and one of the greatest turf mares of all time.

Unlike many who come and go in our sport, Flawlessly remained at the very top of her game throughout her racing career. Over a span of five racing seasons, Flawlessly faced the starter 28 times, winning 16; she won nine grade I races and finished second or third in six others. Only five times did she finish in a position other than one, two, or three. Under Chris McCarron in 20 of her career starts, she often took a "lot of warming up" to get comfortable for her battles with the likes of Hollywood Wildcat, Toussaud, and Kostroma. But in the final strides of those clashes they and many others felt Flawlessly's hot breath at their flanks, as she would run them down with her tremendous determination.

For the Wolfsons, Flawlessly was the ultimate reward for their unyielding confidence in their champion Affirmed's ability to pass on his greatness. Few people in racing have supported our sport to the measure of these wonderful people. How fitting that they should be rewarded so deservedly with a filly such as Flawlessly.

On Oct. 28, 1994, Flawlessly returned to the place of her birth to become another celebrated Harbor View broodmare. She had two fillies in a row, both by Storm Cat. The first, named Flawlessness, showed great promise as a runner, but died of colitis-X. The second never ran. Things got worse, as Flawlessly was plagued with reproductive problems and died at age 14 in 2002. A bronze plaque on a piece of Kentucky limestone marks her grave at our farm. Now, another bronze plaque will mark her contribution to racing in the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Of all the runners to have carried the famous flamingo pink silks of Harbor View Farm, Affirmed and his brilliant champion daughter Flawlessly stand above the others in the hearts of Lou and Patrice Wolfson. For me, she stands alone as the best racehorse we ever had the privilege to raise. How very fortunate that this "little patch of white paint" so appropriately named Flawlessly came into this horse farmer's life.

John Williams owns Elmwood Farm near Versailles, Ky.