PATRICIA SMITH: In Keeping With Tradition, 'Dynamic Diaz' Joins Hoofbeats
For the first time since the creation of the section, Hoofbeats has a contributor whose last name doesn't start with an "S."
Sue Smithson and I used to joke about the fact that some readers didn't even notice when the byline changed from Smithson to Smith. Before Smithson there was Bill Scanlon.
All the "S" names provide alliteration with the term "Scoop," which I know because I used to precede both Scanlon and Smithson with the term "Scoop," as in Scoop Smithson. (Note that "Scoop" precedes Smith very nicely also).
Now we have broken the mold by welcoming (drumroll please, or the sound of horses' hooves galloping on pavement -- whichever works for you) Stephanie Diaz as a contributing Hoofbeats writer.
Some readers may have already met Stephanie, as she covered a few horse shows over the past weeks. More than likely, you have enjoyed her articles.
She recently moved here from Southern California with more than 20 years experience writing about horse racing and equestrian sports. She started writing about horse racing in 1990 and has won numerous awards, including two Eclipse Awards, one for magazine writing in 1993 and the other for newspaper work in 1996.
Stephanie got her first horse in 1994, a New Jersey-bred stakes winner named Peanut Butter Onit. Her passion for rescuing horses started with an article in the Daily Racing Form about Peanut's retirement.
"I impulsively called his owner to offer him a home," she said. "I had covered a few of his races and loved him. Never mind that I had no farm or barn in mind to board him; we lived in a condo in Connecticut at the time. Or that I had never really handled horses other than trail rentals or riding as a kid."
Stephanie rehabilitated Peanut, who had numerous chips taken out of his ankle. After he died in 2005, she acquired her next horse.
"After Peanut came Minnetothemax, an adorable bay gelding a trainer on the track gave me," Stephanie said. "Minnie has done jumpers and evented. He's 18 now and has been doing third level dressage with Christan Trainor."
"Our Blue Michael came after Minnie. He was given to me by Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden. I had done a story for Sports Illustrated on Johnny and his son, Vance, a trainer. When it was time for Mike to retire, Vance called and asked if I wanted him. This is probably the best thing I've ever done, vis a vis horses. Mike is a nonstop source of entertainment. Mike is easily the smartest of my horses but with a wicked sense of humor. Johnny and Vance came to visit Mike every week after he retired. They both died in 2003, a month apart."
Stephanie was also given a companion for Mike, a quarter horse named Jet. She continued to rescue horses off the track over the years, keeping some for a period of time before finding them new homes.
"One I had to keep was Media Plan, a huge gray gelding who was owned by MC Hammer on the track," she said. "Meeno ran in the 1991 Breeders' Cup Sprint and earned $600,000. His last race was at age 11 in a $3,000 claiming race at the Stockton Fair. I took up a collection from other trainers, and we claimed him to retire. He went out a winner, too. Meeno has evented, and he's by far the easiest horse I've ever had. He can be standing in a field for a year and be exactly the same when I put a saddle on him. He gave lessons to little kids in California. He's 21 now and looks 10.
"Another of my notable rescues was Straight Flush. He was the last living brother of Secretariat out of the same dam (Somethingroyal) and sired by Riva Ridge. I found him in a feedlot in Texarkana in 1998. He was 23 and had been a stallion in Louisiana. I bought him for $200 and had him shipped to California. He died two years ago at 32.
"I also have another OTTB (off the track thoroughbred) named Andy Dufresne. He was previously a jumper in California. His owner was seriously injured on him. She wanted $50,000 for him, but he stood there for a year and didn't sell. I thought he was a sweetheart, so I told the owner I was moving to North Carolina and that he could come with me. She sold him to me for $1. He is currently in training with Christan Trainor."
We're certainly lucky to have Stephanie on board with Hoofbeats.
I find it of paramount importance to keep the alliteration going. Here are a few ideas off the top of my head: "Scooby-do" Diaz; "Scoop-di-do" Diaz; Scoop "De-Brief" Diaz; Scoop "Dynamic" Diaz. Yeah, "Dynamic Diaz," it's a fit.
By any name, I'm sure readers will enjoy reading Stephanie as much as I do.
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