Hear The Word wins Championship for Riverdee Stables

Riverdee Racing's Hear The Word dominated the Old Dominion Turf Championship at Great Meadow on Saturday.

Riverdee Stables’ Hear The Word dominated the Old Dominion Turf Championship at Great Meadow on Saturday.

The Old Dominion Turf Championship wrapped up on Saturday, with locally-owned Hear The Word cruising under the wire 3 ¼ lengths to the good.

Hear The Word, a 4-year-old son of Corinthian, is part of Middleburg resident Sean Clancy’s racing partnership, Riverdee Stables. The bay gelding won a point-to-point at Middleburg in the spring of this year, and came into his victory at Great Meadow fresh off a tie-back surgery that Clancy hopes will prove a turning point in the horse’s career.

Clancy purchased the Virginia-bred in summer of 2012, but had been captivated by the horse long before. While roving the backside of Saratoga with his tape recorder in hand – Clancy, with his brother Joe, own and produce the Saratoga Special – he noticed a big bay colt gallop past in a green saddle towel.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, who is that horse?’” Clancy recalled. “I got in my golf cart and chased him down. I followed him, and I always hoped to buy the horse – then hoped they didn’t run him on the grass until I could buy the horse!”

Hear The Word was a 2-year-old at the time, and didn’t come into the Riverdee barn until the next year. Clancy ran him once at Saratoga, a sixth-placed effort in which he saw a lot of promise.

“He got in a lot of trouble,” Clancy said. “Ramon [Dominguez] rode him and he tried to go up the inside, which I think at the time was the only chance he had and he got stopped. Ramon, in typical Ramon fashion, came back and looked at me and said, ‘I owe you one.’”

The colt was beaten less than 2 lengths, but turned in a lackluster performance next out at Kentucky Downs in September. Clancy gelded him, gave the horse some time off and brought him back to win a point-to-point at Middleburg in the spring. Clancy and trainer Todd Wyatt began to perceive that the horse might have some wind issues.

“He ran in a point-to-point and his wind was bothering him some, then he ran poorly at Pimlico – well, not poorly, he only got beat about 4 lengths in an a-other-than – but Gary Stevens came back and said, he’s making a terrible noise. The farther he goes, the faster he goes, the worse it gets.”

The tie-back surgery appears to have done the trick – Hear The Word was never tested on Saturday, galloping easily in the back and closing fluidly – but Clancy is cautious in his optimism.

“You know how those things go, you never know if they work, you never know how long they’ll work,” Clancy said. “After Pimlico, I called Todd Pletcher for advice and I was thinking he was going to give me some positive advice and he said, ‘It’s a bad road you’re going down.’ He said, ‘We’ve all been on it, but it’s a bad road!’

“It was a nice effort, but you really only know if [tie-backs] work until they’re really under pressure and he wasn’t under any pressure.”

It’s tough not to feel optimistic about a horse as nice-looking as Hear The Word, though. He is a bright, rich sort of a bay, with the kind of action that made Clancy, a veteran of nice horses, catch his breath that morning at Saratoga – and more than a few times after.

“When we ran him at the point-to-point at Glenwood Park, when he jogged to the start – and I’ve seen 10,000 horses jog to the start at Glenwood Park – he jogged down the stretch, turned at the wire, went down the little hill, made the left turn around the timber fence, and he broke into a gallop there – just into a canter. The first two strides he takes, it took my breath away. That’s how beautiful of a mover he is. I know the horse, I’ve seen the horse, and I still go –“ Clancy took a quick breath.

“That takes a lot.”

But, Clancy is quick to say, a horse is only as good as his least-sound parts. Hear The Word, Clancy maintains, is only as good as his wind is. Wyatt and Clancy will try the bay on the flat again this fall, perhaps in an a-other-than going 1 3/8 miles at Aqueduct or a non-winners-of-three starter at Laurel. If the horse throws a clunker, Clancy will fall back on Hear The Word’s residual value as a jumper.

“Todd has schooled him [over fences],” Clancy said. “He hasn’t jumped a National Fence, but he’s jumped logs and rolls and baby hurdles, and he’s very good at it. If he doesn’t win impressively [on the flat], then he’s probably a jumper.”

But he hopes not – he hopes the tie-back has done its job and that Hear The Word will evolve into tough competition for the Virginia-bred stakes at Colonial next year.

“I think he’s a nice horse, I always did. I’m hoping he’s that really nice horse that I bought,” Clancy said.

Riverdee Racing flagbearer, GSW and MGSP Eagle Poise.

Riverdee Stables flagbearer, GSW and MGSP Eagle Poise.

Riverdee currently encompasses eight horses, an international stable of both flat horses and jumpers. Clancy, who has left aside other interests to focus on Riverdee, hopes to grow the partnership to 40 horses with no more than four partners per horse.

“I want it to be a small, high-end high racing partnership,” Clancy said. “I don’t want to run a giant syndicate with thousands of members. I would love to have four major partners in each horse, or less than four, and have it as an upscale international syndicate.”

Riverdee is off to the right start. The flagbearer of the stable is graded stakes winner Eagle Poise. The Juddmonte castoff won the Grade III Valedictory Stakes at Woodbine in in 2011 for Riverdee, and most recently ran a game second in the Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland last week.

The stable also includes one chaser and one hurdle horse in England, two jumpers with Richard Valentine, and Hear The Word, one jumper and one other flat horse with Todd Wyatt in Maryland.

“I have one major partner, who is great,” Clancy said. “If I could get four more like him, that’s Utopia.”

Hear The Word was bred by Althea D. Richards and paid $6.60 for the win. Prima Facie, winner of the two previous legs of the Old Dominion Turf Championship, finished third.