Always Perfect To A Tee
With the Secretariat biopic opening today nationwide, it’s a good time to share a horse story.
Two wmrw editors share tangential relationships with that immortal champion; one shares a birthday while another was lucky enough to witness his 1973 Derby win, but that’s beside the point.
This is a story of a far less accomplished runner who had a very special owner too, someone we all knew well and miss very much.
Chilaw79, a distinguished member of the in-house counsel team who passed away about a month ago, was a part owner of a successful string of racehorses. We chose to maintain Chilaw’s anonymity with her passing, but were given the go-ahead to share a story, one that would even set her back on her heels.
We’d long thought that it was Robert Wone’s murder that brought Ellen Fredel and us together. Unbeknownst to either of us while collaborating here on motions, estoppel and trial strategies, the Racing Gods, who work in very mysterious ways, had plans of their own many, many years ago.
In 2004, the Washington Post’s Andrew Beyer, the dean of American turf writers, wrote about how four local attorneys pooled a modest amount of money (by thoroughbred racing standards), to form the Nonsequitur Stable. Ten years later they found themselves in the rarefied air of the game, saddling a runner in the Preakness.
“When Ellen Fredel, Pat Dooher, David Dorsen and the late Al Ablondi put up $10,000 apiece to launch their venture in 1994, they weren’t dreaming of the Preakness or of profits. Recognizing the economic realities of the sport, they structured their partnership with tax write-offs in mind. If they were fated to lose money, they agreed, they wanted the fun and challenge of directing the stable…”
Their second purchase was even more successful. They spent another $14,500 for the gelding Perfect to a Tee, who went on to win more than $500,000 in an extraordinarily productive career.”
Perfect To A Tee was one of the Nonsequitur Stable’s more dependable stakes horses.
The gelding, foaled in 1992 went on to race seventy times between 1995 and 2001, and racked up sixteen visits to the winners’ circle.
We learned of Ellen’s involvement in the racing game only recently, after she passed. The first clue was the many horse pictures drawn in crayon by children that were on display at her memorial service.
I signed the guest book on behalf of the readers and didn’t give those pictures a second thought. The second clue came in by way of our stats a couple weeks later. We got some hits by way of a memorial website that Ellen’s family put together; it noted two of her passions – horse racing and solving Robert Wone’s murder, and it had a link to our site
I punched up the racing page on the memorial site and there was a picture of Ellen in the Pimlico winners’ circle, standing next to her partners, trainer Linda Albert and jockey Al Cortez. Ellen’s hand was on the trophy presented to them for winning the 1999 renewal of the the Grade III William Donald Schaefer Handicap, a key race on the Preakness Day card. Perfect to a Tee won that $100,000 race by a half length.
Secretariat is a name that even the most casual of racing fans knows, but a relative few will remember Perfect to a Tee these days. To remember Perfect to a Tee, one would have to have been a railbird at the local tracks or in this particular case, a former employee of the Maryland Jockey Club. I remembered that horse.
Pinned to my office bulletin board for the last ten years is a reminder of those halcyon days at the race track, a few years before shifting my tack to K Street. Up there next to pictures of the dog, the family, the nephews and nieces is a winners’ circle photo.
On my last day of work in the Laurel Park press box I had the opportunity to do the trophy presentation for that day’s feature race, the $100,000 Congressional Handicap. You can guess who won that race.
Ten years ago, I stood nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with Ellen, with only jockey Al Cortez standing in between us. It’s often said here that Robert Wone brought people together in life and that he still does in death. Lady Luck brought Ellen and I together years ago, and it was Robert that reunited us in a way, but neither of us knew it.
Had Ellen dug deep through the wmrw archives from last spring, she would’ve seen a couple of racing-related posts. Maybe it’s better that she didn’t, otherwise we would never have kept our minds on the business at hand.
The Congressional was the last win in Perfect to a tee’s four race streak in the autumn of 1999. He’d go on to win only once more in his career, at Philadelphia Park nearly a year later. He beat a horse named Judge’s View rather handily, by almost three lengths, and stood for his final picture in the winners’ circle.
After that race, Perfect ran twice more in 2000 at Laurel in the Hail Emperor Stakes and once again in the Congressional. He finished third and fifth respectively, on both occasions finishing behind a horse named Sly Joe. Some horse players love hunch bets, even years after the fact.
We don’t know where he is now but in 2004, the Baltimore Sun reported that, “their horse Perfect to a Tee, retired now on a farm where he goes on fox hunts and rounds up cattle…” He earned a nice rest and although it came much too early, so did Ellen.
Perfect to a Tee (Bay Gelding by Parfaitement – No Time to Write by Staff Writer)