By Ben Baugh
A filly who found the winner’s circle not long ago has human familial ties as strong as her own bloodlines.
Lloydly, a 4-year-old daughter of Field Commission broke her maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb, 2, but to owner and trainer Laurine Fuller-Vargas, the filly’s significance takes on far greater Gravitas.
“Her mare was like my grandfather’s pet,” said Fuller-Vargas. “Southoftheborder, she made $320,000 for my grandfather. She was always a pet in his barn. She ran until she was 9-years-old.”
Southoftheborder was a four-time stakes winner in New England, but she broke her maiden at Tampa Bay Downs.
Fuller-Vargas still has Southoftheborder at her Cedar Lock Farm, a facility started by her grandfather New England Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Famer Lloyd Lockhart. The Massachusetts-bred had a long rivalry with another Massachusetts-bred campaigned by Lockhart, Ask Queenie, a daughter of Key Contender, who was a paragon of consistency, finishing in the money 56 times in her 63 starts, with a line of 27 wins, 15 seconds and 14 thirds, retiring as the all-time Mass-bred money earner, with earnings of $780,365. Ask Queenie won 20 races during her celebrated career, was owned by Fuller-Vargas and bred by Lloyd Lockhart. Cedar Lock Farm has two locations, one in Swansea, Mass., the other locale was in Marion County, Florida, purchased by Lloyd Lockhart in 1995, and Fuller-Vargas’ first year coming down to the Florida operation was in 1997.
“It was a lot of fun, all those years,” said Fuller-Vargas. “I would come down here every school break. My grandmother would bring us down here to visit.”
Southoftheborder would have colic surgery, have a year off, and the Lloyd Lockhart charge placed third in stakes races twice, but didn’t seem to be her old self, and the decision was made to retire her in 2013. However, plans didn’t call for her to be a broodmare immediately. Southoftheborder possessed a great deal of athletic ability, and she went to Florida, where Fuller-Vargas turned her into a hunter/jumper. But both Fuller-Vargas and her grandfather wanted to see her as a producer, and she successfully made the transition to becoming a broodmare.
“I always loved Field Commission, and I bred him the first year he was standing at Solera,” said Fuller-Vargas. “I supported him from day one, it nicked well. He was a horse that could go long, go short, on turf and dirt, and I thought he kind of matched well with her. That’s kind of the way she was. She could run on anything. So, we bred her.”
Lloydly’s entry into the frenetic world of Thoroughbred racing, was a harbinger of what was to come, with Fuller-Vargas having a horse entered in at Tampa Bay Downs, another homebred named Secret Media, the day the filly was foaled.
And then a propitious phone call from her father in-law while in route to Tampa at five in the morning, proclaiming that a foal had been born. Fuller-Vargas thought it was the broodmare that she had brought in the previous night. However, it was Southoftheborder, who had been left out in a paddock. The eventful birth would give rise to Lloydly’s distinctive personality.
“She was born in the field, (Southoftheborder was) not prepared because she hadn’t bagged up because it was her first baby,” said Fuller-Vargas. “So, the mare never bagged up leading up to her birth and had her (Lloydly) out in the field. She’s always had a wild heart. From day one she’s been a wild thing. As a baby we’d turn her out, and she’d be double barreling people. She was just fresh, always had that racehorse in her.”
Lloydly had a sense of professionalism about her, instilling confidence in Fuller-Vargas about her promise and potential. The filly’s arrival coincided with changes at Cedar Lock, which she owns in partnership with her brother and mother.
“Even from day one, as a yearling, in trims from the blacksmith, she’s always had the right attitude,” said Fuller-Vargas. “When she turned a yearling, I had actually taken over the farm from my brother who had tuned over the finances to me. The farm had been losing money for so many years. If I wanted to keep it, it was my responsibility at this point. He wasn’t going to help anymore. And then, I had to figure things out.”
The challenges associated with maintaining Cedar Lock, were not only financial but visceral, in that Fuller-Vargas was faced with having to sell the five foals her broodmares produced, something she didn’t necessarily want to do. Her dream had been to breed, raise and race the horses, but she had to be realistic. She aimed for the August OBS 2016 Yearling Sale for all five foals, but with a heavy heart.
“It killed me to think I was selling her, the night before the sale, I cried my eyes out,” said Fuller-Vargas. “I was like, ‘this sucks.’Me and mom stayed up all night. She was upset too. She meant a lot to my mom.”
Life’s vagaries manifest themselves, and when fate intervenes the possibilities are limitless. When Lloydly went into the sales ring, Fuller-Vargas ended up buying her back.
“The sale was terrible that year, and I was probably the only one leaving the sale with a smile on my face,” said Fuller-Vargas. “I really didn’t want to sell her. I wanted to run her. So, then we broke her. We do everything right here, we have a half-mile track right here on the farm.”
Lloydly also worked at Classic Mile before shipping to Tampa, in preparation of making her racing debut.
“You know it was the best day of my life that I had her in the entries and put her back in my name,” said Fuller-Vargas. “She meant something to me, so I wanted to run her in my own name.”
It was the realization of a vision, a dream come true, breeding, raising and now racing, and then a fortuitous event happened that changed the complexion of the day, the unforeseen had transformed a day of happiness into one of bewilderment and disbelief.
“I’m feeling so good, I wanted to take pictures as we were walking over to the paddock because she was so professional that day, she did everything perfect,” said Fuller-Vargas. “She looked great. She gave me chills. I was like man, ‘this is it! The day I’ve been waiting for!’ And then it turned into my biggest nightmare.”
The rider didn’t think it was the same horse because Fuller-Vargas had Lloydly body clipped.
“I don’t know what happened, but she wouldn’t go with the pony, and then the next thing you knew she was loose in the post parade,” said Fuller-Vargas. “I was hysterical thinking, she was my pet, I raised her. So, I thought the worst possible scenario ever. And then I got to the track, I was at the winner’s circle, I saw her and I screamed. I got there, and was the first one to her. My heart just sank when I saw her in between the two rails. I was just like, ‘Man this sucks; she’s got blood coming out. They had no vet up there, and it was probably only a total of 30 minutes. It was a mess. I thought I was going to lose her.”
However, divine fate would intervene, and Lloydly would recover, with Fuller-Vargas pointing toward a more powerful source.
“I think my grandparents and my dad up there had something to do with it,” said Fuller-Vargas. “It was a miracle that she didn’t get hurt more seriously. The wounds were all superficial. She needed the chiropractor, but for the most part, we got really lucky.”
Lloydly would take a brief respite from training, and would lay-up at Cedar Lock having two full months off, before Fuller-Vargas began round penning her. The biggest challenge was the length of time it took for the cut above her knee to close because of its depth.
“We got her back, and I kept her here until the middle of May, and then I sent her down to one of my best friends at Palm Meadows, to Miranda Downing,” said Fuller-Vargas.
Fuller-Vargas has known Downing since she was seven-years-old, growing up on the backside and causing a ruckus wherever they went, something that seems to still be prevalent when the two women get together.
“We grew up in the industry, we love horses and I trust her 100 percent,” said Fuller-Vargas, who’s a mother of three. “Miranda had her for the summer, and got her back into the races in June. She ran nine times at Gulfstream, and had two seconds and two thirds.”
Lloydly returned to Tampa, training and racing twice, but didn’t seem to be herself. She performed much better when shipping from Palm Meadows, so she returned to Cedar Lock, where she could get turned out, said Fuller-Vargas.
“We had the half-mile track, and she was already fit enough where we could just maintain her fitness and get her ready for the next race,” said Fuller-Vargas. “We gave her a little time. Down in Miami, she was sharp. She was a different horse. We thought maybe it was the farm atmosphere. So, we brought her home. It was probably better that way. Four weeks later Miranda said, ‘Why don’t you put her in your name, she’s going home.’ It was probably better that way, and I wasn’t going to complain because it was a year ago, and that’s how it was supposed to be in my head, and then it all changed.”
The changes led to an incredibly propitious transformation, after putting Lloydly in her own name, the filly won.
“It was awesome, it was the best day ever and to finally have it pay off,” said Fuller-Vargas. “Financially, I’m still probably thousands behind. It’s the satisfaction of knowing that I brought her from a little baby to that point. She just gets it now. She came out of the race feeling good. She thinks she’s all that right now.”
Lloydly won her last start at Tampa Bay Downs on April 6th, and is being pointed toward a race at Gulfstream Park.
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