Talk Show Man, Phlash Phelps Compete in Mega-Makeover Event; Talk Show Man Gets His Own Hazy Pale Ale
LAUREL, Md. – Two years after retiring his multiple stakes-winning homebred, veterinarian Dr. Michael J. Harrison continues to find ways to celebrate Talk Show Man.
There are the memories, of course. As a racehorse, the Great Notion gelding won eight races and more than $450,000 in purses from 40 career starts from 2013-19, including stakes victories in the 2014 and 2018 Maryland Million Turf and 2015 Henry S. Clark.
There’s also the pride satisfaction of seeing the now 11-year-old Talk Show Man thriving at his second career as an eventer for trainer Lindy Gutman, a one-time client of Harrison. He was one of 23 Maryland-breds to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Then, there’s the beer.
Right around the time Talk Show Man was being retired in the fall of 2019, Harrison’s son Justin opened Farmacy Brewing on part of the family’s Willowdale Farm in Reisterstown, Md. Many of the craft brews are named for one-time Harrison runners.
Talk Show Man, the beer, is described as a hazy pale ale brewed with fresh ginger and dry-hopped with Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops and a 6% ABV.
“His beer is, I think, one of the better ones so I’m very happy with it,” Harrison said. “I told my son when he was making the beer and was going to name it after Talk Show Man that it better be a good beer. We don’t want Talk Show Man getting anything that’s not a good, popular beer, for sure.”
Talk Show Man, a member of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Mega-Makeover Class of 2020, was one of four former Maryland Million participants at last week’s event along with Legend’s Hope, Parade of Nations and his longtime on-track rival, Phlash Phelps, a fellow two-time winner of the Maryland Million Turf and the state’s 2016 male turf champion.
Laurel Park will host the 36th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ and the second-biggest day on the state’s racing calendar behind the mid-May Preakness Stakes (G1), Saturday, Oct. 23.
Ironically, it was the beer that helped lead Talk Show Man to his new career. Harrison was approached one day by Gutman and her husband, Adam, horsemen and Farmacy Brewing regulars, asking about his plans for the gelding, who stands 16-2 hands.
“They come to the brewery fairly often,” Harrison said. “When the brewery first got opened, Lindy and Adam enjoyed it. She was my client at the time and she knew Talk Show Man had been retired. Lindy approached me and said [she] would really love to get him for the Makeover program. I said let me think about it, and I did, and she’s done a great job.”
In addition to Talk Show Man, the horse, the Gutmans also brought his namesake beverage to Kentucky.
“The beer that my son puts out goes through cycles. There was no Talk Show Man for a couple of months,” Harrison said. “He just brewed another big batch and he sent some down with Adam at Adam’s request to take down to Kentucky with him so that they could have some of this beer with them.”
Talk Show Man competed in the Show Hunter and Field Hunter classes. Harrison is proud of the way his most successful Thoroughbred has continued to thrive beyond racing.
“It’s great. It’s a testament to the care that he got from his trainer, Ham Smith, and the veterinary care [of] Dr. John Sivic,” Harrison said. “Those guys have all done exactly what is best for him to keep him together and keep him so that he’s been able to continue on and have an alternative career.
“From what I’ve heard from Lindy and how he’s behaved, he’s always game for a challenge or competition. He gets excited, and he tries incredibly hard,” he added. “That’s pretty clear to anybody that’s worked with him. The horse has tremendous heart.”
Harrison, who continues to own Talk Show Man, has been impressed with the bond that has developed between the horse and his new trainer.
“She’s discovered some of the warmer side of him and things he likes, where he likes to be scratched and that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s tremendously rewarding to see her go on with this. I know that she has said that the impact that he has made on her, as a person and even moreso as a rider, has been huge. That’s really pretty nice.”
Phlash Phelps winning the Maryland Turf Million on October 22, 2016 with Victor Carrasco up. (MJC)
Sabrina Morris has a similar connection with Phlash Phelps, though it goes back several years to when she galloped horses for trainer Rodney Jenkins at Laurel. Bred in Maryland by Carol Kaye and owned by Ellen Charles’ Hillwood Stable, Phlash Phelps raced 24 times from 2013-19 with seven wins and $434,801 in purse earnings.
Named for Gordon ‘Phlash’ Phelps, the Towson, Md. native and popular host of a Washington, D.C.-based morning drive-time program on SiriusXM satellite radio, the now 10-year-old gelding – also by Great Notion – was retired the month before Talk Show Man and given to Morris.
“It’s been a pretty normal [transition] I would say for any racehorse coming off the track. I’ve been doing this for a long time as far as bringing horses and restarting them into new careers,” Morris said. “He came off the track August  so he just kind of hung out until January of last year. I rode him a couple times. I had surgery on my ankle so I had some of my students ride him and we started teaching him to jump.”
Phlash Phelps competes in the Dressage and Show Jumper classes. As a racehorse, he needed six tries to break his maiden late in his 3-year-old season before going on a four-race win streak including the 2015 Find and Maryland Million Turf.
Morris said Phlash Phelps’ second career is off to a similar start. He is a member of the Mega-Makeover Class of 2020.
“It’s the same way he was as a racehorse. There was definitely a period of time at the beginning of his career where he had a ton of ability, and when the time came for him to be able to push through and have the confidence to know that ability was still going to be there, he would back out,” Morris said. “It doesn’t surprise me that it’s taken him a little bit to start to come around and start to come into his own.
“I’d say he hasn’t finished learning exactly what his job is yet. That doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s very intelligent. He thinks a lot, and some of that is to his detriment. A horse that would not analyze everything so much would be like, ‘Ok, if this is what you want, this is what I’m gonna do,’” she added. “I know him and I’ve been working with him and riding him for so long. I know he just needs the time and to be given the room to understand and then he’s like, ‘Ok, cool. No problem.’”
Morris continues to follow the blueprint of Charles and Jenkins, whose patience when Phlash Phelps was young and still figuring things out allowed him to develop and be successful on the track.
“If you look back at his career as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old [when] he didn’t break his maiden. What would have happened if he had different connections and they stopped on him then?” Morris said. “He would have still had the potential to go on to a second career and do really well because he’s an athlete, and he’s intelligent, but he was able to prove his worth as a racehorse because he had connections that were patient with him.
“He’s a natural athlete and is bred to jump. It’s not that he didn’t want to do it, he needed to really, really understand it in order to feel confident,” she added. “He likes to have a job. He likes to have interaction with people. He likes to feel important. He likes the mental stimulation of learning new stuff and doing new stuff, even if sometimes he doesn’t act like it.”
Knowing the bond they established during his racing days, Morris was the first call Jenkins made when the time came to retire Phlash Phelps, who stands 17-2 hands. The offer was immediately, and enthusiastically, accepted.
“I was very happy to be able to have the opportunity to bring him home,” Morris said. “He knows where I am at all times on our farm. If he’s outside in the field and I’m on another horse where I’m doing something, I’ll look up and he’s stalking me. Some of my girls and other people that are around kind of chuckle and say, ‘You’re his human.’
“We’re just kind of two peas in a pod. We are both kind of ridiculous and over the top sometimes, but his nonsense doesn’t bother me and he and I can interact,” she added. “We’re kind of like an old married couple at this point. That’s how I feel. We kind of bicker at each other but at the end of the day we actually get along very, very well.”
Parade of Nations is a member of the Mega-Makeover Class of 2021 and competes in Dressage and Competitive Trail for owner Beverly Strauss and the MidAtlantic Horse Rescue team. Bred in Maryland by John Williamson III, the 7-year-old Cal Nation gelding won 11 of 40 starts and nearly $280,000 in purse earnings and ran in the Maryland Million in 2019.
Legend’s Hope is a member of the Mega-Makeover Class of 2020 and competes in Eventing and Show Jumpers for owner Barbara Honeffer and trainer Jazz Napravnik. Bred in Maryland by Two Legends Farm and David Wade and also a six-figure earning on the track, the 8-year-old Not For Love gelding ran in the Maryland Million Classic three consecutive years from 2017-19, his best finish a sixth in 2018.
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David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Talk Show Man winning the Maryland Turf Million on October 18, 2014 with Xavier Perez in the irons. (MJC)