February 18, 2018
Article by Pamela Burton, Horsereporter
Faith to furlongs – Cancer Survivor to Darley Nomination
Lynn Bennett bought Always and Forever sight unseen as an endurance prospect. The mare was then in foal to Kaolino at Mandolynn Hill Farm in Aubrey, Texas. The mare’s little grey filly was named Last Call MHF (Callie). The story begins here.
“My first time on a horse was at age four, and horses have been the love of my life ever since,” said Bennett. “Friends of my parents took me under their wing and invited me to the former Longacres race track south of Seattle, Washington, where they had box seats. (Famous Thoroughbred racehorse Seattle Slew once appeared at Longacres for a noncompetitive showing.) Over the many trips to the track, I was taken backside and introduced to owners, trainers and jockeys, all with a keen eye and wining advice for us. At the age of eight I was picking the winners from the colors of the silks and more importantly, the color of the horse’s coat. My favorite color has always been a grey!
Later in life I discovered endurance riding and befriended long time FEI endurance rider Beverly Gray. Over the years Bev enthused about the outstanding endurance prospects with racing bloodlines from Michelle Morgan’s Mandolynn Hill Farm. In 2011, on Bev’s recommendation, I purchased the mare Always and Forever (Virgule Al Maury) in foal. Once Callie was born, I brought them both back to California.
Two years later, I sold Callie to a friend. A short time later, Callie’s new owner called advising me that the filly had developed a serious problem in her jaw. I immediately got Callie to UC Davis, where they determined she had an Ameloblastoma in her lower right mandible, which is an extremely rare cancer in horses. After prayer and soul-searching, we agreed to the surgery and Davis removed a third of her lower jaw.
Due to the overwhelming surgical expenses, I purchased Callie back and moved her to our wine country farm where she went through a difficult and lengthy rehabilitation. Six months later our team of vets pronounced her completely recovered and ready to be started under saddle. That’s when I contacted Michelle Morgan about the possibility of racing Callie. Michelle had just employed Simon Hobson, a respected Thoroughbred trainer, now training for MHF. Michelle felt Simon was of the old school and would work with Callie’s special needs with regards to her mouth.
In July of 2016 at the age of four, Callie began her racing career. In a year and a half, the mare accomplished a great deal. Her 2016 race record was 5 starts and 1 win in her first 6 months, and with 11 starts and 3 wins in 2017, including placing in several Stakes races, her total earnings were $59,000.”
Simon Hobson said of the mare: “She is a very tough, opinionated filly. I am excited about her for this year. It is incredible what she has accomplished in such a small time. From August 2016 until October 2017, in 14 months, she did all her racing and all her winning. For a horse to make her debut and have the record that she has in that time, including Graded Stakes races, I think she has done incredibly well and has no issues related to her cancer or treatment. I am very proud of her and how far she has come in so little time. She has an incredible amount of speed, and she is tough and determined.”
Lynn Bennett said: “Michelle Morgan has been a wonderful mentor to me. I’ve had many ups and downs and setbacks, but Michelle has helped ease the way for me. When I compare my racing struggles with those little Callie faced, I can only smile proudly and feel confident that 2018 will be a great year for both of us. Callie was just nominated for the 2017 Darley Older Mare Award. I am absolutely thrilled for her and thankful for all the hard work done by Simon.”
Hobson grew up as a horse trainer’s son in the UK and has worked as a jockey in the UK, Italy, and France before coming to the US where he has trained Thoroughbreds for the last 20 years