Junior and Elena is a (horse) love story. It is a true-life story about how an unselfish, compassionate broodmare named Emprize Hanover adopts an orphan colt as her own. The colt’s dam, Noble Flirt, who was Emprize’s best friend, succumbed to giving birth. Although Emprize had foaled a filly of her own several weeks earlier, the mare took the colt and raised him alongside her daughter.
The two foals grew up together, forming a strong bond that could never be broken. Through their many adventures and racing careers, the two equine athletes proved that dreams do come true.
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Emprize Hanover Meets Noble Flirt
"You're best friend doesn't have to be human."
Once upon a time in Campbellville, a community in the geographic township of Nassagaweya in the town of Milton, province of Ontario, a pair of unheralded somewhat innocuous Standardbred mares got thrown together, and thus the story unfolded.
Both mares were owned by standardbred renowned horse trainer, Charalambos "Chris" Christoforou.
Mr. C., as he was affectionately called was a gregarious ethnic Greek in true Zorba style that transplanted to Ontario, Canada, from his birthplace on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.
In his seasoned years Mr. C. took immense pride in his horses and opted to have them bred to leading Ontario based stallions with aspirations to eventually race their babies. It is every horseman's dream to breed and own the next world champion; but more than the money that can be quite substantial comes the bragging right of owning the next superstar.
Mr. C. had been breeding standardbreds for decades and was convinced that some actual old-fashioned pure luck was needed, along with intense scientific research.
The ingredients get tossed into a blender--- the DNA and the genetic history--- and then, just maybe, you will stumble on that elusive "golden cross."
There is no shortage of tantalizing success stories--- tales of plodding nags who inexplicably foal champions. Although she wasn't a nag, few predicted the dam Where's The Beach could throw something like the unparalleled Somebeachsomewhere? But it just took one fatal tryst with sire Mach Three, and that's exactly what she did.
Where's the Beach a daughter of Beach Towel was purchased for $20,000 as a yearling, but never made it to the races. Sensing she may be valuable as a broodmare, her owner bred her to Mach Three and that tryst produced one of the greatest pacers in the history of harness racing.
Somebeachsomewhere ranks as one of the best standardbreds to ever look through a bridle. He compelled over $3.2 million in 21 races — winning 20 of them, setting 4 world records including the fastest mile in history of the sport (1:46.4), and recorded sub 1:50 miles in exactly half of his 20 wins.
Of course, his sire and dam have been bred back several times, but nothing approaching Somebeachsomewhere has occurred.
But that's horse breeding — a very imprecise science indeed.
It's well known in the standardbred world that most of the time Overtrick beat Meadow Skipper, but The Trick would go on to be considered a failure as a stallion, while his rival Meadow Skipper re-wrote the record books and might be the greatest stallion of all time.
In the thoroughbred world conversely, Affirmed beat Alydar just about every time they ever met, but it was Alydar that was the super stud.
Secretariat, said by many to be the greatest thoroughbred to set foot on an American racetrack had the looks and the pedigree to match. But despite possibly having the finest book of mares a first season sire ever covered, Secretariat never came close to approaching Canada's Northern Dancer in the stallion ranks.
Some thoroughbred breeders utilize figures such as "The Dosage Index," a mathematical figure designed to project the maximum distance the progeny will eventually handle. While others use "The True Nicks" system to gauge which stallions might work best with a given mare.
And then there are those select breeders who simply use their years of experience to decide which stallion they believe will produce a quality foal with their mare.
While horseracing is extremely exciting, it can be heartbreaking, especially when animals don't perform up to expectation. Standardbred racing, also known as harness racing, is often passed down from generations of family members and can be very much a family tradition.
Those enamored with the exciting, yet nerve-wracking lifestyle of racing and horses, tend to be in it for the long run. Once it gets under ones skin it most likely remains indefinitely.
Horses, being barnyard and/or herd animals, are not pets in the conventional sense of the term. However, many owners fall in love with them and treat them like family, despite warnings to the contrary. Breeding and racing is a business and should be handled as such.
But I can personally attest that this is much easier said than done, for having owned hundreds of horses throughout the years-- I have fallen in love with every single one. But that's just me!
Although horses are one of the most regal looking animals--they are very big, immensely strong and as unpredictable as they are majestic.
Some only think of the glamour involved with horse ownership, but it's not like that for those that work with the animal on a daily basis. Many horsemen and women are literally married to the business-- spending more hours at the barn and with their four-legged family than their two-legged ones.
They don't have the luxury of getting time off as in other careers for they are still needed at the barn on holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Horses need to be cared for each and every one of those 365 days in the calendar year.
This is why most people immersed in the horse business truly love what they do. And that was no different for Mr. C.
One mare owned by Mr. C., Emprize Hanover by Credit Winner, failed to reach the races. Although she never actually competed, Emprize impressed Chris sufficiently in training to breed her first to Angus Hall, then to the leading Ontario sire, Kadabra. That union resulted with the birth of a beautiful filly that unfortunately died soon after.
Despite losing the Kadabra filly, Mr. C. was not ready to give up on this mare so on March 20, 2015 Emprize Hanover was bred to E.L.Titan -- a union that proved successful on the very first attempt.
The second mare, Noble Flirt, was sired by the great Muscle Hill and was jointly owned by Chris and Irving Storfer of Banjo Farms. Unlike Emprize, Noble Flirt did race and accumulated lifetime earnings of $23,830, along with a winning race mark of 1:58.4.
During a brief two-year racing career, Noble Flirt made 18 starts with 2 wins, 2 seconds, and 2 thirds. Being a daughter of the great sire Muscle Hill, both owners sensed she had more breeding than racing value and chose her first suitor to be the Seelster Farms based, Holiday Road.
Noble Flirt was also bred but one time on March 27, 2015, catching immediately. Therefore, given the normal eleven-month gestation period for horses, it figured that Emprize Hanover and Noble Flirt would foal in close proximity to each other. For that reason, Mr. C. decided to keep the two mares together since they had already become good buddies in pasture prior to insemination.
Situated on Chris's farm was an expansive paddock where all in-foal and barren mares resided. Most of them being veterans were accustomed to the routine, but Noble Flirt somewhat full of herself coming right off the racetrack was about to let the other girls know there was a new gal in town and one bad ass to be reckoned with!
Several of the broodmares were not pleased with this haughty presumptuous newcomer, but Emprize Hanover being the senior of the herd embraced the newbie with kindness--- or at least she did once they determined proper rank.
After assorted snorting, kicking, and bucking, the new kid on the block felt she was the victor; but Emprize, more seasoned and wiser, didn't give a damn about juvenile appearances having experienced her share of impudent newcomers before. Once the brawling was settled the two became the best of friends.
An introduction of a new horse to an incumbent herd calls for caution as some can be aggressive and occasionally violent, while others are more docile and accepting. Thus when the newcomer seeks entry into an established herd it seems haphazard, yet it's a natural happening that usually doesn't cause much more than passing disruption.
Since the outsider is not the only one affected by the change, the incumbents will redefine their hierarchy to include the stranger. This momentary uncertainty in the social rankings may be the perfect moment for an ambitious young horse to set her position.
Therefore, when Mr. C. would introduce another new mare, Noble Flirt kept a protective eye on Emprize, not allowing the newbie near her. In return for her friend's comradeship and loyalty, Emprize counseled Noble Flirt on what to expect as a mother and what it would be like to have her first encounter with the opposite sex.
One day when the two were off from the others, Noble Flirt questioned her friend.
"What if I don't like who they're going to breed me to?" nickered Noble Flirt. "What if I'm not attracted to him?"
"You don't have to worry about that for you'll never see Holiday Road--- although he is quite a looker. It will all be done by artificial insemination."
"They collect him at the farm, then the vet will simply inject the semen into you," counseled Emprize.
"Inject! Oh, no. I hate needles," nickered Flirt.
"No. No needles," laughed Emprize. "I hate them too. The vet will do it rectally — the procedure will be like your rectal exam."
"I'm going to be bred to E.L. Titan, who like you is sired by your dad Muscle Hill. If we're lucky we will come into season about the same time, which means we will be inseminated, and if we both catch we will remain together in the same field," further counseled the experienced Emprize Hanover.
After the two mares were bred they were transported to nearby High Stakes Farm, a renowned breeding facility owned by Joanne Colville, whose daughter Emma just happened to be the granddaughter of Charalambos "Chris" Christoforou, via his son Chris Jr. -- one of Ontario's leading harness drivers. Thus, Emma was "bred in the purple" for horsemanship, as even at the tender age of thirteen she was already an accomplished equestrian.
High Stakes Farm was one of the more desirable farms in that area to stable a horse for the animal is treated like family. The barns were whitewashed often to hold down disease and feed tubs were disinfected weekly.
Joanne employed only efficient, trustworthy people who truly cared for the horse. Every day the four-legged residents were brought out of their stalls to be brushed and groomed. On extremely cold evenings the horses were blanketed and the stalls were cleaned daily.
Joanne was also one of the more prominent breeders in the area as she too was a horsewoman since birth and functioned as parade marshal at several local racetracks.
She believed in treating horses like children with a combination of love, discipline and patience. But unlike children, horses need custodial care throughout their entire lives — a fact that is sadly ignored by many horsemen.
When someone approached Joanne to purchase one of her four-legged babies she put the prospective buyer through a thorough interrogation.
"Well let me tell you. It's not all fun and games. They're feet are packed with shit. Not just dirt and mud, but real horseshit! Horses are not neat and tidy. They crap all over their stall and stomp on it and every day, you the caretaker must go in there and clean it out."
"It doesn't matter how pretty they are, they're still horses! And unless you understand this and are totally dedicated — this is not for you."
And with that, several of the wanna-be-owners walked away. But those who truly wished to own a horse would learn the procedure and take one home with them as a new member of their family. But it really didn't matter to Joanne if they bought or not, for she would have kept all of the horses if she could.
Upon arriving at High Stakes Farm, Emprize Hanover and Noble Flirt were assigned the same paddock, although this time they were the invaders to the existing herd.
It was springtime and the temperature was slowly moderating. Horses typically prefer early spring to the extremities of hot humid summer or rigid winter.
The grass at High Stakes was now abundant and emerald green. The trees were budding and the flowers were in full bloom. It was the ideal setting for expectant mares to spend the days grazing and preparing for the upcoming duties of motherhood.
Being this was Noble Flirt's first attempt as a mom she hadn't anticipated the jerky jabs and spasms that sporadically emerged from her protruding belly. Strangely, the two mares seemed to have developed a language of their own, for when the uncomfortable would occur and Noble Flirt would fret, Emprize knew exactly how to calm her friend.
"I swear mom these two mares are special. They are unlike any other we have ever had. I believe they talk to each other," Emma informed her mother.
"That's possible. Why shouldn't animals have their own language, as people do?" laughed Joanne.
Feeding time at High Stakes was hectic and a bit chaotic for the equine residents. When the farmhand brought the feed, the mares would not automatically go to their assigned buckets. It was a game played by the horses daily. If one approached her feed tub, Noble Flirt would spin and kick, shooing them away — that is, all except for Emprize.
In fact, Noble Flirt actually allowed her friend to eat from her feed tub as she would go onto the next, making sure the others left Emprize alone until she was finished. This is very uncommon for mares usually only share feed with their foals.
During their pregnancy the vet made his usual rounds palpating each mare, assuring all was well with the growing embryos. At the six month check-up he informed Joanne that the foal Noble Flirt was carrying seemed rather large for a first time mother. Although this was a bit unusual, he told her it was nothing to worry about.
The next few months flew by. The torrid summer became a bit more tolerant to a welcoming cool fall. Unfortunately, the change of season also meant the frigid Canadian winter was not far behind.
Fall and spring are most appreciated by both man and animal for temperatures are pleasant and the changing autumn leaves can resemble that of a magical Monet painting. Ominously however, Mother Nature is gearing up to show her nasty side.
Winter in Canada is notoriously extreme given the northern latitudes, and caring for the horses has to be managed efficiently. As the days shortened and the air chilled the equines grew long hair to cope with the elements.
It's amazing how nurturing Mother Nature takes over to protect her four-legged children. When a cold snap would occur the horse "miraculously" appeared fluffier in the morning. Although it seems as if their hair multiplied overnight, it really didn't. The fuller coat is merely the horse's clever way of creating insulation.
However, when the bitter winds became too fierce at the farm, the herd would take refuge in the run-in sheds: protective buildings strategically placed in the center of each paddock. There the mares would find shelter, huddled together to decrease heat loss. That is, all except Emprize and Flirt who snuggled in a corner, avoiding the others and keeping each other as comfortable as possible.
In her eighth month of pregnancy Emprize developed a nagging cough so Joanne immediately started her on a round of antibiotics and watched her closely. Noble Flirt sensing something was amiss never left her friend's side.
When Emprize went off her food for several days, Flirt filled her mouth full with hay and brought it over, dropping it in front of her friend in true nursemaid fashion.
"You have to eat. Remember you are carrying my niece or nephew," Flirt whinnied.
"You need to be strong and healthy so you can keep up with the little one once she or he arrives."
Finally, the wrath of winter subsided and the snow began melting as temperatures climbed to the high-thirties during the day.
Excerpted from "Junior and Elena"
Copyright © 2017 Victoria M. Howard.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Word From The Author, xv,
1 Emprize Hanover Meets Noble Flirt, 1,
2 A Complicated Delivery, 12,
3 A Brother From Another Mother, 19,
4 That Dreaded Weaning Time, 27,
5 A New Chapter: On Their Own, 32,
6 Junior heads to Florida, 36,
7 Elena Trains in Canada, 68,
8 A Brief Reunion, 74,
9 And They're Off, 81,
10 An Unexpected Setback, 88,
11 Making the Big Time, 93,
12 We Meet Again, 102,
13 Dreams Do Come True, 107,
14 The Celebration of Two Champions, 115,
About The Author, 119,