LongRun graduate Florida Won: “He makes every day a good one”

April 7, 2023

Amy Bostock and Florida Won (Woodbine Photo)

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications 

TORONTO, On. – Amy Bostock is always in a sunshine state of mind when she speaks of Florida Won.

Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway, the handsome son of Birdstone was consigned by his breeder to the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale where he sold for $385,000.

Over a 45-race career, Florida Won went hoof-to-hoof with top-notch competition, coming out on top 10 times and earning status as a multiple graded stakes winner. 

After his final race, Florida Won was donated to LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society by owner Domenic DiLalla of Centennial Farms (Niagara) and trainer Ross Armata Jr., and then took up residence at the horse retirement and adoption organization’s sprawling 100-acre Ontario property, home to over 50 retired Thoroughbreds. 

The woman who now calls him her own laughs at how the eye-catching chestnut lifetime earner of $585,071 came into her life. 

“It was a total fluke, really,” recalled Bostock. “I don’t think he was even on the LongRun website when I first went out to their farm. I was originally helping a friend of mine look for a horse for her riding school. Then I started thinking, ‘If I’m out there looking anyway, I might as well look for one too.’”

Bostock, a journalist by trade, has two other horses, including a senior dressage horse who is turning 30 this summer. 

Amy in a gator costume schooling Florida Won (Woodbine Photo)

“I’ve had him since he was a baby. I also have my little Quarter Horse mare who, at the beginning of Covid, tore her ICL. So, we spent the pandemic on stall rest and hand walking.

Just as she was getting ready to start under saddle again, she tore it again and Bostock realized that the horse was going to be sound enough to walk and jog around, but not a lot more. 

“So, my goals changed a bit. I decided I wanted to do more with my riding and adopting through LongRun seemed like a really good way to give a horse another chance while also giving me a chance as well.”

Florida Won (now known as Felix) didn’t exactly go out of his way to wow Bostock the first time they met.

“It sounds super corny, but it really was love at first sight,” she recalled. “I didn’t even ride him before we brought him home. He was nursing an abscess when I went to see him, and he just free lunged around the arena, looking like he didn’t care about impressing me that much.”

Still, there was something that drew Bostock to the horse. 

So much so, in fact, she decided to file adoption papers, even if Florida Won wasn’t exactly what she was originally looking for. ​ 

“I decided that I wanted him, so I called Lauren Millet [LongRun’s farm manager]. I didn’t ride him, only met him once, but I kind of knew. All my horses came to me that way. That just seems to be the way things work, where you just have that feeling. He really wasn’t what I was looking for. He’s bigger than I wanted, the wrong colour – I already have a red-head and wanted something different – but there was just something about him.”

Florida Won at Amy’s in a beautiful Ontario day. (Woodbine Photo)

That said, Bostock, at least for a moment, was second-guessing her decision to adopt the now 12-year-old former racehorse whose victories include a pair of Grade 3 triumphs, namely, the Ontario Derby and Seagram Cup.

But when he strode off the trailer at his new home at Wake Robin Farm, any worrisome thoughts Bostock had dissipated immediately. 

“When I went to meet the trailer, he stepped off, looked around, and it was almost as if he said, ‘Okay, this will do.’ Then he just walked into the barn and that was it. Meanwhile I was having conniptions, thinking, ‘What have I done? Do I really need another horse? I’ve made a terrible life choice.’

“He spent two weeks in quarantine, because we have very stringent quarantine measures, so he was turned out by himself and came into a stall at night. He cared not. He hung out in his paddock, never put a foot wrong and was easy to handle. We have a riding school at our barn, and he was so good with all the hustle and bustle. I gave him a couple of weeks to just hang out and then I wondered if he lunges. And he did, at least one way. After two days, he did it both ways. He’s wicked smart, learns fast and he wants to work.”

Florida Won is also chock full of personality.

All business on the racetrack, a different side to his character eventually emerged once he got settled into his new surroundings.

The poker face was now gone.

Florida Won hitting the trails.(Woodbine Photo)

“He was kind of deadpan when he first got here and as he settled in, put on weight, and felt good about himself, you could see his personality come out. He’s a giant toddler some days. He chews everything. He carries his own lead shank coming in from the paddock and he’s chewed through a set of reins.”

Florida Won also has an appetite for sporting mischievous, expressive looks.

“He’s kind of goofy, but he doesn’t like to admit it. He pretends he’s much too dignified to be goofy, but when he thinks no one is looking, that’s exactly what he is. He’s the master of the look of disdain, but as soon as you turn your back, he’s reaching for you, his ears are forward, and the lips are flipping. He’s a funny guy.”

And as Bostock and others found out, Florida Won is also a fast learner.

Although she had no particular set plans for him when he arrived at the farm located in Mount Albert, about an hour’s drive north of downtown Toronto, Bostock slowly entertained the notion of trying out some new things. 

The more rider and horse did together, the more they trusted one another.

For Bostock, who sustained a serious horse-related injury a few years ago, their bond is especially meaningful. 

“He spent a lot of his time outdoors in the summer with his friends,” said Bostock, who underwent surgery for a crushed foot when a horse fell on her a few years ago. “We have a massive pasture. He’d come in to eat and we’d go on hand walks around the property. After a couple of weeks, I got on him and we rode up and down the driveway, in the indoor arena and the outdoor ring. Nothing phased him. He’s the best behaved of all my horses. The fact he was so high off the ground and my other horses are little was a bit nerve wracking for me in the beginning. But it’s like he knows, and he takes really good care of me.”

Rain or shine, summer or winter, Bostock and Florida Won are inseparable.

It’s hard to determine who takes away more from the leisurely strolls around the expansive property.

Bostock is happy to call it a dead-heat. 

“He doesn’t work particularly hard. Our training sessions are half an hour. We go hacking. We have 94 acres in the back. The farm used to be an eventing facility and the owner keeps everything mowed for us. There are hay fields, little patches of forest and a stream. He really likes to be out there. He led the pack his first time out and doesn’t care about what the horses are doing behind him out there. It’s just him living in the moment.”

As for what the next path is for the pair, Bostock has her eye on a particular date this fall.

There is a possibility the two will take part in a special event in October. 

“We actually just set our goal of going to the LongRun fundraising horse show in October and do their flat division. He’s sound and his legs are clean, but there’s no jumping in our future. I plan to keep all four feet on the ground. We’re taking it slow. We still only walk-trot under saddle while we build the canter on the lunge. I had no goals for him when I brought him home. I wanted a pleasure horse to ride around the farm, maybe putter around in the ring, and if I was really brave, maybe we’d go to a horse show.”

Florida Won has already become a crowd-pleasing sort.

Last Halloween, he and Bostock put on a well-received show at the farm for an appreciative group of kids.

“I wore a dinosaur onesie to ride him while the kids did pony club games. He was just like, ‘Okay, whatever, mom.’ He’s so tolerant of my nonsense.”

It’s a big reason why Bostock brought her friend and Wake Robin Farm owner, Kelly Maxwell, back to LongRun, when Maxwell was looking for another horse to bring into her world.

The end result was the addition of the aforementioned Cat’s Whisper, an 8-year-old son of Silent Name (JPN), who made 25 starts and won twice for trainer, co-owner and co-breeder Shelley Fitzgerald.

He’s already become a popular draw at Wake Robin Farm.

“I found LongRun to be a really great experience. I’ve been around horses a long time and had a lot of them in my life. I loved the whole experience of no pressure. They didn’t make me feel like I had to take the horse. If I didn’t, they’d find someone else. I never felt like I was being pushed into it or they were feeding me a line. You get to the farm, and you see these horses who are just chilling in their paddocks. It made the decision so much easier for me. It removed any little apprehension I might have had about getting a racehorse. They let you do everything. You go get the horse you are there to see. You tack the horse up, you brush it, you connect with them.”

And Bostock certainly has done that with her LongRun graduate.

“I would recommend them to anyone. The people who come and do the inspections do a great job. I really feel they have the best interest of these horses at heart.”

So too does the journalist who has nothing but warm thoughts for Florida Won. 

“Being a journalist, I’m an obsessive researcher. I combed the internet, looking at his old races, his information, his connections. He’s led an impressive life and worked hard for his people. Even if he would have just stood in a field for the rest of his life, he would have earned it. He makes every day a good one.” 

Great article and you are absolutely right. However your piece is sensible and logical- something that doesn't register with the opposition (who rely on emotion and "siege tactics")

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