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Who Dey's Homecoming

Trot Feature - Who Dey

Who buys a 14-year-old racehorse in July, only months before its mandatory retirement?

Jean Beaulieu and Fannie Saul-Beaulieu do. Because what Jean and Fannie wanted, more than anything, was to travel a few more miles together with their beloved old equine athlete. By Chris Lomon.

The horse that would become known as Who Dey was Hip #233 at the 2005 Forest City Yearling Sale, a son of Mach Three who brought in a top bid of $7,000.

While he certainly looked the part as a youngster, it took the horse some time to hit his best stride.

After two less-than inspiring qualifying sessions at Mohawk and Flamboro, where he finished a grand total of 38 lengths behind the winners, in July of 2006 Who Dey traveled to Hiawatha Horse Park in Sarnia, ON. to contest his first race.

Ignored to the tune of 63/1 on the tote board, Who Dey finished sixth, beaten 8 ¼ lenghths, in 1.59 flat.

Two weeks later at the same track, the Cherish The Memory Stable-bred pacer lined up behind the gate in another $6,400 maiden race, once again with Gary Wiseman holding the reins for trainer Jim Wellwood.

Who Dey improved in several ways that evening, including his time (1.56.4), placing (fourth) and purse earnings ($512 compared to $0).

But it wouldn't be until the first anniversary of his second qualifier that the horse would finally break his maiden, when he romped to a 6 ¼ length victory at Flamboro on July 15, 2007. The milestone moment came in his 19th start, this one for trainer Bruce Goit and driver Anthony Haughan - following a short stint in the barn of conditioner Rob Fellows.

That same year, he contested three Ontario Sire Stakes events for Goit, with his best result being a pair of third place performances. Then, after a short stay with trainer George Plyley, Who Dey became a member of trainer-owner Jean Beaulieu's barn, when he was haltered out of a $12,000 conditioned claiming even at Woodbine on December 23, 2007.

"Before Jean and I were married, when Who Dey was three, he took his daughter, Noemi, who is the same age as the horse, to the track, and claimed him," noted Fannie, who co-owns the horse with her husband. "I was grooming for him at the time and everybody just loved this horse right away. He would drop his head and let this little girl rub her hands all over his face and he just let her do it. He made your day every time you saw him."

"When I claimed him, my daughter, she just loved him," said Jean. "And so did I. I have always loved this horse."

Fannie felt an immediate bond with the "quirky" horse, one with a big personality who craved plenty of attention.

She was happy to oblige.

"He was just a magical horse from the start," recalled Fannie. "When I look back all those years ago to when we first got him… it's such a great story."

It's also a long and winding tale.

With Jean and Fannie as his owners, Who Dey competed at several racetracks, including Hippodrome Montreal, Rideau Carleton, Tioga, Vernon, Pompano Park, and several Ontario racetracks, including Flamboro and Woodbine.

While Who Dey enjoyed success and numerous winner's circle trips over the years, it wasn't always with the couple as owners.

They lost the horse in claimers on a few occasions. But every time they did, the two would always claim him back.

After losing Who Dey in 2015, Jean and Fannie didn't have him until July 2018 when they bought him back again.

"He would go to other owners - which is just part of the sport - but we always kept our eye on him," said Fannie. "He got claimed from us when he was 11 and was out of our lives for about three years. Whenever he was claimed, we had always had everything set up for him to be retired. We knew we would make sure that we'd find him a good home one day. Whenever he was claimed, I told him,' I'll be back for you. Don't worry.'"

And she kept her word.

After being under the tutelage of different trainers, including Jonah Moase, Michael McGuigan, Mary Paulic and Drew Smyth, Who Dey, whose 1:52.1 speed badge came at Pompano Park in Florida when he 11, was purchased by Jean and Fannie this July.

"We were over the moon to have him again," started Fannie. "I didn't tell my step-daughter at the time. With both of them being 14 now, I let her walk into the barn and said, 'Go check the horse over there.' Immediately, she was in shock. She started crying. She was so happy to see him. He was happy to see her, too."

Jean still vividly recalls moment his daughter and Who Dey were reunited.

"My father died this summer and I wanted to give something special to my daughter… they [her and her grandfather] were very close," he said. "So, we got the horse back and I gave it to her. She is so close to this horse. We all are."

Who Dey will be mandatorily retired on January 1, when he turns 15. This year, he has one win and a trio of thirds in 26 starts. In 2017, he won five races, along with four seconds and four thirds from 37 engagements.

While he's no doubt slowing down, Jean and Fannie, sometimes from afar, have seen the competitive edge they know well. Just like the night of March 11 this year at Rideau Carleton Raceway.

With Robert Robinson in the bike for conditioner Drew Smyth, Who Dey, who came into the race off a seventh-place performance the week before, came from 7 lengths back at the half, to be a going-away winner, by 2 ¼-lengths, in 1:56.2.

He went off at 46/1.

Who Dey's lone 'win' since that upset score in March came in a qualifier at Hippodrome 3R on August 14. At the wire, he was 15 ¾ lengths ahead of the next horse, stopping the teletimer in 1.59.4.

His career stat sheet reads: 320 starts, 38 wins, 54 seconds, 44 thirds and $275,194 in earnings.

The brown horse's biggest single-race payday came on March 30, 2013 when he earned $6,250 after a rallying victory at Woodbine in 1:52.3 for driver Scott Zeron and trainer Eric Cote. So he's obviously earned it all the hard way.

But for Jean and Fannie, it's never been about money with Who Dey. Instead, it's the connection between a family and a horse.

"When I recently qualified him at Pompano - he's always had a fan club wherever he's raced - people were in the paddock chanting, 'Who Dey, Who Dey' as he was going on the track. It's wonderful.

"The horse, he just has such a wonderful personality. He's quirky and he's always in your business."

And he's always been the type of horse people would want to go the extra mile for.

"I keep coming back to his personality," said Fannie. "He was always a great horse on the track, very honest, did his job and liked to do it. He would always gap-out to the half and you'd have to have someone driving him that could wake him up. But once he'd hit the half, he'd kick into gear and in that last quarter, he was always flying. You couldn't ask for a better horse, on and off the racetrack."

Which is why the couple is determined to find a good home for Who Dey.

"I've been fishing around, talking to different people, just making sure we can find the best place for him," offered Fannie. "Maybe a small farm that wants a stallion for breeding, something along those lines. But I'm not in a hurry for him to go anywhere. I have three young horses I'm breaking and maybe he can help show them the way, we can use him for training."

"I just want to find him a good home," said Jean. "He means so much to all of us. He always will."

For now, Who Dey is with Jean and Fannie in Florida, readying to contest his final miles.

"He remembers Florida," noted Fannie. "When we pulled up to the stables, I mean he was just screaming and hollering until we got him out of the trailer."

For owner, trainer and horse, it feels just like home.

"He's our mascot," said Fannie. "From the first day, he stole my heart and I fell in love with him. We both did. He may have been with different people over the years, but we always believed he'd come back to us. And he has."

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