Upstaged in the Backstretch

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Contessa Racing sign
On the backstretch of Saratoga’s Oklahoma Training Track is Gary Contessa’s training stable.

On Tuesdays in August 2016, thoroughbred racehorse trainer Gary Contessa presented clinics on different aspects of horse racing.

I attended his recent talk at his barn on the Oklahoma Training Track backstretch on Horse Psychology. A rapt audience soaked up his stories about figuring out what makes a particular racehorse tick, let alone how to deal with what ticks off the horse.

Although Gary is an animated storyteller with many experiences to share, Someone Else stole the show. I don’t think Gary minded being upstaged.

Contessa Stable Clinic

A new two-year-old in Contessa’s barn meets fans. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Gary Contessa seminar
New York horse trainer Gary Contessa talks about horse psychology at one of his clinics. Photo by Rhonda Lane

A video at the end of the post covers almost the entire clinic. You’ll hear Gary talk about how he and his team figure out the needs and quirks of horses.

He tells stories about working with horses, ranging from a horse who relentlessly pawed to a claustrophobic claimer and a glimpse of a horse so rare and young, he’s like a blank slate.

Gary Contessa’s “unicorn”

The look of eagles, or at least, a statesman from Artic Storm Cat. Photo by Rhonda Lane
The look of eagles. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Artic Storm Cat (never learn to spell words from racehorse names like, say, “American Pharoah”) is new to the track at 2.

He is a registered white thoroughbred. He’s by Bluegrass Cat out of Princesspatseattle, a flashy bay sabino mare with lots of chrome, including a chrome patch on her belly.

Click through this link to America’s Best Racing to see her with Artic Storm Cat’s “lil bro.”

In all the years of the Jockey Club’s existence, only 170 white thoroughbreds are registered. Only three are in New York. The fourth will be Artic Storm Cat’s yet-to-be-named half brother.

Here’s Arctic Storm Cat’s baby photo taken by Barbara Livingston for the Daily Racing Form in 2014, in an article with sire photos that amount to a family album.

You may have noticed Arctic Storm Cat and his 2016 baby half-brother have “medicine hats,” markings of a different color at the base of the horse’s ears. Native Americans believed “medicine hat” horses held special powers.

Whether he has the power of speed is yet to be determined. He already has the power to leave people with smiles.

Yet, that’s not his job. His job is to run faster than his peers.

Artic Storm Cat, at least for now, loves being loved on. Photo by Rhonda Lane
The look of bliss. Photo by Rhonda Lane

He’s still getting his racetrack chops, so he won’t run until, perhaps, sometime at Belmont this fall. We can watch live racing on the NYRA website.

(To watch races on click on the link above. Then, go over to the red “Watch Live” graphic on the right, click on that, which takes you to the schedule page, then click on the red graphic saying “Race Day Live.” Easy peasy.)

Unless my Spideysense from years of working with TV news and sports fails me, I bet we see a feature about him on TV between the races. Granted, I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing because he makes “great pictures,” aka, looks good on TV.

If you click on his breeding farm’s website and scroll down to see Rockridge Stud’s Facebook feed’s position in the second column, you can watch a video of him breezing.

He is the only white thoroughbred to show up at Saratoga, which was built during the Civil War, hence all the cameras and attention.

He might as well be a unicorn.

That he’s so kind is a bonus.

Artic Storm Cat Posing for photos and accepting lovin' from fans. Photo by Rhonda Lane
Artic Storm Cat Posing for photos and accepting lovin’ from fans. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Artic Storm Cat already has a fan page on Facebook.

Back to the clinic

A quiet moment with Turco Bravo, winner of the 2016 Birdstone Stakes. Photo by Rhonda Lane
A quiet moment with Turco Bravo, winner of the 2016 Birdstone Stakes. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Right! We were talking about the clinic!

See what I mean?

Below is a video of the clinic from the Gary Contessa Television YouTube channel/.

In it, you’ll hear about how he and his team work with horses not on them. Horses are worrywarts, seeing as how they carry the instincts of prey animals.

For more on Gary Contessa Racing, click the link.

Get comfy and watch the video:

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