Saratoga Springs

Horse-for-the-course Quick Call memorialized at Saratoga Race Course

An inmate interacts with Quick Call as part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances program at Wallkill Correctional Facility.
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An inmate interacts with Quick Call as part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances program at Wallkill Correctional Facility.

By the time the New York Racing Association named a stakes race at Saratoga Race Course after Quick Call in 2008, the horse was well into his second career.

Ideally, a horse of his caliber — a four-time graded stakes winner with over $800,000 in earnings — would have been sent to stud to pass on his good racing genes to future generations.

Instead, Quick Call spent his post-racing career passing on something different, but also profoundly important. As a member of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s national herd, he became a fixture in TRF’s “Second Chances,” a vocational training program for inmates at Wallkill Correctional Facility downstate, where the inmates learn to care for retired racehorses.

For that — and his horse-for-the-course affinity for Saratoga — his ashes have been buried at Clare Court, where a memorial grave marker was unveiled by TRF and the New York Racing Association on Wednesday morning, the eve of the 153rd Saratoga race meet.

He was lauded not only for his success at the Spa, where he won the Grade II Forego twice and experienced nine of his 16 lifetime victories, but for his contribution to Second Chances, which he joined in 2001. Quick Call died at the age of 35 on Oct. 8, 2019.

“He had a lot of interaction with a lot of guys,” said Jim Tremper, the now-retired farm manager of the Wallkill herd. “There’s one guy that completely changed his life around. He had two favorites, and Quick Call was one of them.

“Quick Call taught him that he couldn’t just bully the horse. He had to convince the horse that what the inmate or student wanted was the right way to go. The horses teach the guys to get in touch with their more humane side. It’s an amazing thing to watch. So many stories, time after time, seeing guys lives turn around.”

Quick Call’s grave marker stands next to that of another Saratoga favorite, Fourstardave, along with stones for A Phenomenon and Mounjare in a shady spot inside the Clare Court jogging ring at the Nelson Avenue end of the Saratoga backstretch.

Quick Call raced 86 times for a record of 16-15-12 for purse earnings of $807,817.

Trained by Sid Watters and Warren “Jimmy” Croll, he did his best work at Saratoga, where won nine times from 17 starts, including the 1988 and 1989 editions of the Forego, with Pat Day in the saddle.

“He always showed up, he was always prepared, and my goodness, he loved Saratoga, where he had a knack and always stepped it up,” Day said in a story from NYRA. “Some horses have the talent, but no heart. Quick Call had both talent and heart.”

“He was an honest horse, one you knew would always give you 110 percent,” said NYRA TV’s Ernie Munick, who was a handicapper for the New York Daily News when Quick Call ran. “As a handicapper, I always looked forward to seeing him, and at Saratoga in particular. You knew he’d be there. God bless that horse.”

As a gelding, Quick Call had no stallion potential.

He was retired from racing in 1992 and eventually found his way to the TRF herd in 2001.

Quick Call embraced his second job as vigorously as he did his first one. Tremper said Quick Call was by far the most accomplished racehorse to come through Wallkill’s program, and also “a handful when we first got him.”

TRF has Second Chances programs at a total of eight correctional facilities in seven states, including New York, Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, California, Illinois and South Carolina.

“Whenever his name is mentioned at a New York track, someone will tell a story about him,” TRF Executive Director Pat Stickney said. “We were honored to have had him in the TRF herd for so many years. People would visit the farm to just see him and to have their picture taken with him. Until the end he was dignified and all class. He knew he was special.”

“Few thoroughbreds ever had that kind of dual career and did it so well for so long,” TRF Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving Kim Weir said. “He had an aura about him. Quick Call was a legendary horse who earned respect from the other horses and from the men at Wallkill. To know he’ll be at rest at Saratoga Race Course, which he loved so much, is a great ending.”

“Quick Call was a people horse, but he kind of wanted to do it his own way regardless,” Tremper said. “He wasn’t sociable with the other horses so much, but you’d call his name, and he’d come right over. He loved being groomed and taken care of. The final 10 years of his life, he was in a special area just for the older horses, got special grain three times a day, and he just loved the attention.”

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