Special Report, winner of the 2008 Levy Memorial, was recently retired and is now stabled at Olive Branch Farm in North Carolina.
Although Special Report hasn't made a pari-mutuel start since May 13, 2011, it wasn't until recently that owner Hugo Iodice, trainer Kim Asher and driver Larry Stalbaum (Asher's husband) made the decision to "officially” retire the 11-year-old gelded son of Keystone Raider.
The news marks the end of a remarkable career for a pacer whose path began on the Michigan fair circuit and took him to the top of his class, with his biggest victory the $390,000 George Morton Levy Memorial final in 2008 at Yonkers Raceway.
Overall, Special Report made 186 starts over his career, with 59 wins, 42 seconds and 23 thirds contributing greatly to his $1,515,489 in earnings.
Special Report has been residing at Chris and Georgia Coyle's Olive Branch Farm in North Carolina, where his routine has begun to include being ridden.
"He goes out in a paddock at night with a couple of other horses,” Chris Coyle said on March 19. "Yesterday morning when we brought the two riding horses in, he started flying up and down the fence line, wanting to call attention to himself because he wanted to come in too.
"I'm fond of him because his mother is by On The Road Again, who was at Blue Chip during my days there. It's fun to have him here. He's like a war hero!”
Special Report was purchased for $10,000 as a yearling by Michiganders Jack and Dena Cobb from breeder Gardner Farms, and sold at the end of his 4-year-old season to Iodice for $100,000.
Stalbaum said they had tried to buy Special Report several times over his first two years of racing but each effort was rebuffed. When Cobb finally priced Special Report at $100,000, Stalbaum said he jumped at the opportunity and didn't even try to negotiate a price. All told, Special Report earned all but about $147,000 of his earnings while in the Asher/Stalbaum barn.
"I tried to buy him during his 2-year-old year and his 3-year-old year, and then at the end of his 4-year-old year he priced him and I didn't even squabble,” remembered Stalbaum.
Stalbaum said various ailments over the years hampered Special Report some, but the primary issue was a continuous battle with EPM.
"It was a lot of fun when he was a good horse,” said Stalbaum. "He had as much high speed as any horse. If he hadn't had those ailments he would have been a lot better horse than he was. He had enough star quality in him to make him overcome anything.”
Stalbaum said he knew after a pair of qualifiers last June that Special Report's career was likely over.
"He seemed to have lost his go, but he mainly had real bad EPM forever and it was affecting his breathing,” he said. "We made the decision it was enough, especially since we knew he wasn't going to race the caliber he once was.”--By Gordon Waterstone/harnessracing.com