By Doug McCoy
Gerald Aschinger spent a lot of time with and around horses when he traveled the United States and the world for a number of years playing polo. So when it came time to hang up his mallet and helmet it was no great surprise Thoroughbred racing would be the focal point for the future for Aschinger and wife Dana.
Chief executive officer for U.S. Inspection Services, a company with 14 locations in the U.S. that tested components and infrastructure for potential weaknesses and dangers of catastrophic danger, Aschinger sold the business in 2006 at age 61. He had purchased a 175- acre farm near Keeneland in 2002 he named War Horse Place, and as he explained to Blood-Horse not long ago, he and Dana have worked to expand War Horse Place to a full-service operation.
"We cover about all facets of the business," Aschinger said. "We board broodmares and we are prepared to handle foaling. We do sales preps, post-surgical recuperation, breaking and schooling of yearlings and 2-year-olds, and we stand stallions. You name it and we do it at War Horse Place."
The Aschingers also operate a racing stable with a combination of their own runners and five from other clients. This season they have 12 head at Tampa Bay Downs and eight others on their farm near Sarasota, Fla. They began racing at Tampa Bay five years ago and the track's safe, sandy main track and top-flight turf course made them decide to make the facility their winter headquarters.
"Horses who train over this main track stay sound, they have a lot fewer leg problems than at other tracks, and after they've trained over this surface all winter they leave here dead fit and have an excellent foundation when we ship north," Aschinger said. "We also lean toward turf runners, and the course here is excellent."
The Aschinger horses seem most at home on turf. Last season their turf runners won at a better than 25% rate and his prize project, Dramedy , left Tampa Bay and stunned the field in the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland, posting the biggest win of his career at odds of 31-1.
Aschinger said his aide-de-camp, Sandra Adkins, was instrumental in bringing Dramedy back to top form.
"(Dramedy) had been breaking slowly then rushing to his field only to tire in the drive," he said. "Sandy said he was sluggish early because he was sore and didn't trust himself to fire out early. We worked with him between races with medication and therapy, and eventually the soreness subsided. Once he started breaking with his field things turned around."
Dramedy, a half brother to grade I stakes winner Bluegrass Cat , is retired now and stands at War Horse Place. Aschinger said Dramedy has an unusually large heart and his genetic markers indicate that trait will be passed along to his offspring.
Heart size in Thoroughbreds is felt by many to be the most important part of the animal's physiology, and history would seem to bear that out. The great Secretariat's heart was estimated to weigh 22 pounds and his arch rival Sham's was estimated to weigh 18 pounds. And as was the case with Secretariat, their real value emerges as broodmare sires.
"We think (Dramedy) be a very good sire and yes, we feel the heart size is a crucial factor in a sire's makeup."
Young horses with promise are what all horsemen hope for, and Aschinger has a Kitalpha colt out of Race the Breeze he believes could have a future.
"His name is Itsnotezbeinbreezy and he acts like he could be a nice sort," the trainer said. "His sire, Kitalpha, who was a full brother to Kingmambo, passed away so we're hoping he can carry on those bloodlines."