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Foiled Again's surprise appearance a big hit

February 26, 2019
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Moments into his speech to accept the Stan Bergstein-Proximity Award on behalf of legendary pacer Foiled Again during Sunday’s U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, co-owner Joe Koury Jr. was halted by USHWA member Gordon Waterstone. Koury knew he had not exceeded his time limit because he was just getting started, so he was surprised.

Surprise was about to turn to shock.

“Don’t you think we ought to have the award-winner here to accept his award?” Waterstone soon said to Koury.

Enter Foiled Again.

Foiled Again turned the idea of a surprise party upside down when he emerged from behind the curtained stage area to the delight of the 320 banquet attendees at Rosen Shingle Creek resort. Only a handful of people knew in advance of Foiled Again’s appearance, which was conceived by Waterstone with Foiled Again’s co-owners Ron Burke and Mark Weaver.

“I was wondering what was going on,” said Koury, who like the entire Burke Brigade other than Burke, Weaver and Foiled Again’s caretaker for the night, Devan Miller, had no idea of the plan. “Next thing you know, Foiled was coming out. I was absolutely shocked. It was a great experience. It was exciting.”

Said Joe Koury Sr., “When Foiled showed up, it was unbelievable. I was shocked. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, it was just amazing.”

“I didn’t expect it; that’s the last thing that would have crossed my mind,” said Yannick Gingras, who drove Foiled Again for the majority of the gelding’s career and won numerous major stakes together. “I thought it was really cool, something different.”

Many others had the same reaction, which was what Burke and his co-planners had hoped.

“It was unbelievable,” Burke said. “I knew it would be a hit, especially with my father (Mickey), but it was a hit with everybody. It was one of the coolest moments ever. We thought it would be something nobody would be expecting and would add a little bit of fun, and it did.”

Waterstone, who in addition to being a member of USHWA is associate editor of The Horseman And Fair World magazine, worked with the resort’s staff to set up Foiled Again’s appearance. It required an extra bit of insurance and a protective covering for the banquet room carpet, which was new.

“I called Mark about bringing Foiled Again to the banquet and he said to talk to Ronnie,” Waterstone said. “I called Ronnie and he said absolutely, but he wanted to do it as a secret.

“It came off better than I thought it would. You keep your fingers crossed. The reaction was unbelievable. To be involved in this was really cool.”

Foiled Again was already staying near Orlando, at the Burke’s winter stable in Astor.

“Devan did a great job,” Burke said. “She had to prep him for it and people were wondering why she was prepping him when he was just there hanging out. He looked incredible. I was thrilled.”

Unfazed by the cheers that filled the banquet room and the joyful commotion that soon engulfed him, Foiled Again stood perfectly for his admirers.

“He was like a little showman,” Joe Koury Sr. said. “He’s like a celebrity, a celebrity of the humblest measure. It was just unbelievable. He’s amazing. I love him to death.”

Foiled Again reached harness racing’s mandatory retirement age of 15 when the calendar turned to 2019. He is the sport’s all-time richest horse, with $7.63 million in purses, and ranks ninth with 109 lifetime wins. He received Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was Pacer of the Year in 2011.

Last year, he embarked on a Farewell Tour that attracted numerous fans to racetracks across North America, as well as garnering mainstream media attention. He will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July.

Foiled Again is owned by Burke Racing, the partnership of Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, and the Koury family’s JJK Stables. The group bought the horse in 2008 when he was 4. He was trained by Mickey Burke briefly before Mickey retired and handed the lines to his son Ron.

“He’s a dream come true,” Joe Koury Jr. said. “To be a part of this with such great friends and partners is amazing. We were all young guys who, for the most part, were just getting started. He brought us up all together and put us on a different level. It’s just been a phenomenal ride.”

And now that the ride is completed, Foiled Again will enjoy a life of leisure.

“He’s basically going to live my dad’s life,” Ron Burke said with a laugh. “They’ll be hanging out together forever.”--By Ken Weingartner/USTA

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