Wakizashi Hanover Retired

Published: April 4, 2020 07:33 pm EDT

If you were to ask longtime horse owner Bruce Kennedy what the cost of dreaming is, he might tell you the cost is $23,000. That $23,000 figure comes from the yearling sale price of Wakizashi Hanover, the 2015 North America Cup and O'Brien Award winner who was recently retired from racing and became the newest addition to the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption program.

“He was a spectacular two and three-year-old and we always had plans of continuing to race him as an older horse. He had some issues along the way - a throat issue, that he had two surgeries on in six months. He recovered and came back and continued to race well. He actually came back and set his lifetime record of 1:47.3 at the Meadowlands. But then he developed a bit of an ankle issue. We addressed it, and laid him up for some time,” Kennedy recalled.

As with all iron-tough horses, no matter the setback, there is always a comeback. “His issue solidified and he came back to race again,” he chuckled.

“We tried to start racing him intermittently, and while he seemed to be okay we were getting further between starts and racing against tough company every week, and we decided that after a couple years of sparse racing we should give him a break. He raced well his whole life, he served us well his whole life, and he made us proud his whole life. We wanted to be good and kind to him the same way he was to us. The best way to do that was to race him less, so we made the final decision to bring him home to Nova Scotia.

“We did some acupuncture on him, shockwave therapy, we did everything we could to help him be as comfortable as possible. My brother-in-law and one of my partners worked on him every day."

After some time off and rehabbing on Canada’s picturesque East Coast, Wakizashi Hanover made a qualifying appearance at Truro Raceway in June of 2019. His first start under the care of Brent MacGrath was a winning one in 1:54.4.

“He wasn’t really ready to race that day, but he raced well. It was very exciting for the crowd to have him home and watch him race and we were more than grateful to have him home. We had him ready to race in some Maritime events and things just didn't work out for us. We couldn’t get into one race because we had only one start on the East Coast, and it just wasn’t fair to the horse to be travelling all over the Maritimes to race. You also never know with the weather if you will be able to get back across the nine mile bridge.

“So I called Jim King and told him what our situation was and he offered that they would be more than happy to have him back in Delaware. He was racing good, but his big money making days were behind him. He was still having to race against tough company and we decided that it wasn’t fair to race him like that. So we retired him.”

The multiple stakes winning son of Dragon Again will be gearing up to give someone else the same thrills and joy he gave Bruce Kennedy and the rest of his connections.

Wakizashi Hanover, 2015 Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt O'Brien Award winner. Left to right: Percy Bonnell, Diane Bonnell, Sheila Kennedy, Bruce Kennedy, Shannon Doyle, Jo Ann Looney King, Jim King, Wyatt Beaver

“We checked out New Vocations and discussed it with all the partners and we did it. We think it was the right thing to do, retiring him while he still has the ability to perform. New Vocations was thrilled to have him in their program - and that brought a lot of heartfelt emotion to us all, knowing that he is going to be well taken care of and loved the way we always loved him. He is going to be broke to saddle and hopefully he behaves himself and takes to it well.

“I don’t think he is going to be an Olympic jumper, but he is a personality horse and he is going to make someone one heck of a companion. Even being miles away from him the majority of his racing career, he was a great companion for us, too. It’s bittersweet because we had really thought and planned to have him around here [Maritimes] to race but we made the right decision and now with everything going on with COVID-19, we really made the right decision.”

The retirement marks a joyous ending to a fabulous career for grateful partners. While Wakizashi Hanover’s presence on the track will be missed, Bruce Kennedy has another young hopeful in the pipeline.

“I have a share in a Control The Moment two-year-old colt back home in training here with Barry Whidden. He is out of Isabella Blue Chip, who was a great mare and produced some good horses. He looks awesome and is doing everything right. We’re really looking forward to seeing what he can do someday. I’d like to say he is our next Wakizashi, but you never get two of them,” Bruce laughed.

“He [Wakizashi] was a dream-come-true horse. We only had so much to spend at Harrisburg that fall when we bought him and we spent it all to get him. Now we have memories and smiles to last us all the rest of our lives. When he won the North America Cup, that may have been the biggest thrill of my life. The fact that he became a free for all horse was something we never even dreamed about. He peaked at all the right times in his career - maybe he will become a champion hunter/jumper some day.

“I don’t know how you could even dream of having a better run than we did with Wakizashi,” Bruce added.

(Photos courtesy of New Image Media)



I was hoping that Wakizashi would have one final race against another horse which was attempting a comeback this year, probably his main adversary when they were both 3yo's, Wiggle It Jiggleit. Both horses raced on the same track, (Dover Downs) on the same night, a couple times this year, but never in the same race.

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