Monday, May 31, 2010

My old buddy, Haul Away...

It was Sunday July 12, 2009 when Haul Away first caught my eye. I was home watching Flamboro from the couch and I saw this big, somewhat clumsy looking two year-old post parading with Joe Hudon sitting behind him. I had to check it out. My discovery through TrackIT was that nine days earlier, the horse won his first-ever qualifier at Mohawk and that tonight was his first lifetime start.

The race goes -- Joe rides the pocket for three-quarters of the mile, moves Haul Away over and absolutely runs away from the others! He won by four in 1:57.3! I thought to myself, "Joe Hudon just won with a first-timer? Joe never wins with first-timers! This might be a special horse!".

Five days later, Haul Away finished a deceptively good 4th from an impossible spot in a Grassroots Event at Flamboro. I thought it was an even better performance. I watched him a few more times, added him to my Stable Mail, checked on him on TrackIT everyday during my morning routine. He had become like a part of my family! I was scouting and selling a lot of horses at the time, so it was important for me to keep tabs on what the special ones were doing. I knew what I had seen and I knew that Joe didn't mind selling, so Haul Away was at the top of my list. I hadn't made any phone calls yet though, neither to Joe or a prospective buyer, so I didn't even know I'd be able to broker a deal or not.

Fast forward to Sunday August 30, 2009. Haul Away is four starts into his career and is a few minutes away from making his fifth, in a non-winners of two event at Mohawk. He draws outside, isn't given much respect at the windows but I still liked him. Joe eases him off of the gate and by the quarter he's 20th in a nine-horse field, 60 lengths off of the leaders (who were Aracache Hanover and Mcaracas -- both Stakes winners this year). At the race's completion, Haul Away ends up 6th to Mcaracas, but only beaten a couple of lengths despite taking a lot of track in the last turn and being bothered by a breaker. I had seen enough. It was time to move before one of the other vulture agents beat me to the punch after all of this watching and waiting.

Dave Menary is a friend of mine and I had a rapport with him. We were both gamblers, saw eye to eye about a lot of horses and he just knew I knew my stuff. He had had me on the lookout for a good two year-old for his Fast Pay group. At this point in the season, Fast Pay had already earned $158,904 of his own and the ownership group was looking to re-invest. Little did they know, I had the horse for them -- I just didn't know if it was one that was actually for sale!

I called Joe. "What the (expletive) do you want, Petey?," said the likeable eldest Hudon. "Yeah, yeah, he's for sale -- they're all for sale!," he laughs. He told me his asking price. It wasn't the number I wanted to hear. My initial feeling was that Haul Away wasn't going anywhere. I tried to dicker with Joe but dickering with Joe just doesn't happen! Price established, terms clear, it was time to call Dave.

Dave and his guys liked the horse but, just as I, thought the price was a little steep. "Any chance Joe would drop the price a little?," David asked. "Any chance Santa Claus is going to drive the winner of the 1st?," I cleverly answered. By this point, Haul Away was in-to-go in a Grassroots Event at Grand River and Dave, his ownership group, myself, my wife, our unborn child -- just about everybody was glued to the tube to watch the big, somewhat clumsy son of Modern Art. Sent off as the 3-5 favourite, the race was over before the first turn. Joe effortlessly sent Haul Away to the lead and won with absolute condescending ease in 1:56.2 with a :29.0 kicker without any horses pressing him. It was good timing, but was it enough to seal the deal? I still wasn't sure.

My phone rings. It's Dave. "Find out if I can train him. We like him, but I want to spend some time with the horse and I'd like to train him.". I line it up with Joe, who is in an even better situation now that Haul Away seems like the best Grassrooter on the Tour. Sell or not, he's making money with this big boy this year!

Myself, Dave and his salt-of-the-earth father, Larry, drive to Joe and Karen Hudon's new farm and as we pulled onto the property, I couldn't believe my eyes -- Phil Hudon was working. That's a story for another day. Anyway, the friendly and cordial members of Team Hudon direct us to the stall where this secret weapon was living and upon seeing him, he looked just as he had when I first saw him on television at Flamboro that night in July -- big and clumsy! Bigger, actually! Out he comes, he gets harnessed up, Dave trains him and the rest is history.

It should be noted that Fast Pay's win in the Gold Final at Grand River just ten days earlier helped to seal the deal because with an extra $65,000 kicking around, it was easier for Dave and his group to part with the six-figure sum that Joe had demanded for his prized possession. Haul Away would win three of his five 2009 starts for Team Menary and immediately earned back the purchase price thanks to two of those wins coming in Gold Finals.

Now, he's won the $472,500 Upper Canada Cup Final and I couldn't be happier for Dave, Larry, Denis, Phil and Joe. The interviews, hugs, handshakes and high fives shared among them on Saturday night are what this game is supposed to be all about. Watching it all brought a tear to my eye. Dave was quick to point out that I didn't pick him to win, which I didn't -- but I was never as happy to be wrong in my entire handicapping life. I guess the big, clumsy colt is going to be alright!

Grand River and Mohawk are the featured versions of THE PETE SHEETS for tonight. Subscribers -- check your inboxes late this afternoon. If you're not already a subscriber and would like to be, it's absolutely free. Send an email request to and I'll add you to the list of regulars.

Have a good day everybody...

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