The Derby Hat Collection by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®
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From the Gaelic Beann Bhorb, meaning “defiant cliff,” the castled village Benburb is in County Tyrone, Ireland, the equine athlete Benburb was 1992 Horse of the Year in Canada. Racing for Steve Stavro’s Knob Hill Stable, Ben carried the blue silks with gold sash and starburst later carried by 1999 Horse of the Year, Thornfield. Eventually, the two champions would find a home in neighboring paddocks at Old Friends.
First trained by Jerome C. Meyer, Ben found himself gradually maturing into a graded stakes winner under trainer Phil England. First came his Prince of Wales (G2) victory at Fort Erie, Ontario, where he turned the tables on Alydeed, against whom he’d been gaining in the Queen’s Plate (G2) a few weeks earlier. Benburb’s next victory brought glory when he beat A. P. Indy in the 1992 Molson Export Million (G2) at Woodbine. Ben’s regular jockey, Larry Attard, was off mounts due to an injury, so Richard Dos Ramos picked up the ride. Thereafter, each jockey would guide the strong-closing roan to more wins. Ben’s prowess earned him the title of 1992 Canadian Horse of the Year—and he’d beaten the 1992 American Horse of the Year, A. P. Indy. At 4 Benburb won the Durham Cup (G2) at Woodbine and got seconds in the Eclipse Handicap (G3) and Fair Play Breeder’s Cup (G2). In all, he earned $1,159,904, with a best distance of 1 1/8 miles. Fort Erie celebrates his excellence with the annual running of the Benburb Stakes.
By 2009, when he came to Old Friends, Ben had serious issues from melanoma (a particular risk to gray horses). His gentleness inspired affection from all, but the ailing 20 year old seemed subdued. That is, until he met 6 year old Smokey Stover. Young and old, black and white, the two took to each other at once, galloping over the grass every evening like carefree kids. Whatever may come, Ben’s found joy.
Here's the thing about Bennie--he is the most easygoing, unassuming, kind-hearted, happy horse in the world. You could leave small children to crawl under, on, and around him and he would take care of them perfectly. You would never know he was a fierce racehorse who won over a million dollars and was Horse of the Year in Canada. I think the juxtaposition of the two Benburbs is explained by his intelligence. When he looks at you, you realize that he knows everything you know and then some. Nothing fazes him because he understands everything, and therefore nothing is surprising. Had Bennie not been a racehorse, he would have been a wonderful dressage horse or a great trail riding horse or a fine jumper. No matter what his job he'd have been, and is, a terrific friend to have.
Bennie has melanoma and the tumors are very noticable. When the Horseshoeing School comes to the farm to trim feet, I always tell the students who work on Bennie who he is. They never believe me at first--they just see a large, well-fed, white horse with unsightly tumors. But he must convince them, because invariably the person holding him ends up cuddling up to him, slipping him mints, and introducing him to the other students. The person trimming his feet always takes extra time and effort to do a good job. I am willing to bet when the students leave, after working on dozens of horses, Bennie is the one they remember.
Even if you just met Benburb, somehow you know he is something a little extra special.
For more information about Benburb or any of the retirees at Old Friends contact the farm at (502) 863-1775.
To place a bid on the “Benburb” auction hat or to learn more about Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm, please visit the Old Friends website to access the eBay link or call them at 502-863-1775.
To view the couture Derby hats from previous hat auctions, please click on the following - Old Friends Hat Auction Portfolio