On a warm and windy overcast morning March 6, trainer Joel Marr stood pensive in the shedrow of his undefeated world record holder Peppers Pride’s new home at Nathan Fox's Richland Hills Farm near Midway, Ky. Although in less than 24 hours, he will be bidding farewell to the best horse he has ever trained, Marr approached the subject with ease.
“It’s almost like taking your kid to college,” he said of the 6-year-old dark bay or brown daughter of Desert God—Lady Pepper, by Chili Pepper Pie, who will soon embark on a career as a broodmare. “It’s hard, but you know it’s not goodbye forever.”
Peppers Pride seemed unfazed from her lengthy, cross-county van ride from her native New Mexico. The strapping mare looked ready for action as she posed stoically with Fox and Marr for a photograph, her flanks dappled and her ears pricked in curiosity. Upon reentering her stall, she munched enthusiastically on a generous portion of hay.
“She made the trip well, and is settling down,” said Marr, who personally vanned the filly along with his colleague, Ray Ashford. “She’s a little excited, but she’s an aggressive mare and likes to get out and do things. She’s eating and drinking and she’s healthy.”
After owner/breeder Joe Allen retired Peppers Pride from racing, Marr said it was an easy decision to send the millionaire and multiple New Mexico champion to the Bluegrass state to be bred to WinStar stallion Tiznow .
“I’ve known Nathan for awhile; I met him several years ago with another client of mine, and we kind of kept in touch here and there,” said Marr. “He’s from our part of the country, and he’s got a great facility and a great crew. We wanted (Peppers Pride) to be somewhere where we knew we could talk to somebody and she should get taken very well care of, so we talked to Nathan and it worked out.”
Added Fox, “Joel does an incredible job in New Mexico and the training with this mare was just unbelievable. I gave him a call, and we were kind of just thinking the same thing, and I just told him we would love to take care of a filly like that, and she would be a star here, so we’re excited about having her. I think we’ll have a lot of fans coming to see her.”
Marr expressed his enthusiasm for Allen’s decision to breed Peppers Pride to Tiznow.
“We thought it was maybe a once in a lifetime shot to take a mare like this and breed to a stallion where you could possibly get that horse that everyone dreams about,” he said. “(Tiznow) has a good pedigree, but he was also a great racehorse and was sound, and showed a lot of determination in his races.
“We’d love for (Peppers Pride) to get in foal as soon as possible and just have a nice, healthy foal,” Marr continued. “And from there, if that happens, that’s half the battle. We’d love to have a horse that can be competitive anywhere. Of course everybody dreams about Derby horses, but that’s a long time in the future. We’d just like to get a nice racehorse.”
Peppers Pride set the modern-day world record for consecutive wins when she sailed to a 5 3/4-length victory in the New Mexico Racing State Commission Handicap in December 2008, breaking the mark set by Hong Kong sprinter Silent Witness. She broke the modern-day North American record Oct. 4 with her 17th win, topping the record shared by Citation, Cigar, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky.
While running exclusively in New Mexico, Peppers Pride earned $1,066,085 during her four-year racing career. She won at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to one mile by margins ranging from as much as seven lengths to as little as a hard-fought nose.
“She’s been the best horse I’ve ever had, but it was more than just winning 19 races…it’s something myself and everybody that’s been involved with her from the start will have for the rest of our lives,” Marr said wistfully. “It’s something where we’ll sit back and stick one of her (race) DVDs in one night and just remember when. (Peppers Pride) has been the most enjoyable part of my career.”