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A Labor Of Love From Phoenix


John Johnson keeps looking for the right spot for a four-year-old filly in his barn, but you get the feeling that Brig Tacos has special place in this stable, race or no race, win or lose.
How else do you explain the special treatment, the extra care and attention this trainer has given this particular daughter of Full Mandate since an accident in March of 2008 nearly took her life.

The incident took place at Turf Paradise in Phoenix.

There is a drainage ditch alongside the backside that carries rain runoff from the stable area
The ditch is about two feet wide and five feet deep and was protected by an old rusted fence..
Brig Tacos never saw it coming.

“She’s a horse that never does anything wrong,” Johnson said.

“It wasn’t her fault.”

Brig Tacos got loose, ran down the road on the backside and got hung up on the fence. When Johnson and those assisting him tried to free the filly, the fence collapsed and she fell into the ditch.

Imagine a skittish thoroughbred trapped in a cement culvert, two feet by five feet.
In her panic, Brig Tacos nearly tore the hide off her legs. That was only the beginning.
After tranquilizing the filly, Brig’s rescuers wedged chains around her body in the tight quarters and then moved a forklift machine to hoist her from the ditch.

In the process of lifting her from the culvert, Brig Tacos slipped off the folklift and wound up hanging upside down.

“It took eight hours to get her back into her stall,” Johnson recalled.

Veterinarians advised Johnson to put her down. Johnson stalled. “I wanted to try to save her,” he said. Meadow Brook Farm in Ocala, the horse’s owner, told Johnson he could have the horse if he wanted her. “I sort of inherited her,” he said.

The next two months became a time-consuming labor of love.
Johnson had to clean the horse’s legs and re-bandage her head to toe every day. Brig Tacos was confined to her stall the entire time.

Brig Tacos is 2-for-21 after running on the Memorial Day card at Canterbury, a race in which she finished fourth. “She needed a little more ground and maybe another race under her belt,” Johnson said.

Johnson was eyeing another out for her last week but that race didn’t fill. He hopes a race that fits her next Thursday will draw enough horses and plans to enter her on Saturday.
Johnson is certain that Brig’s temperament is what saved her. “She’s a real sweetheart, like a puppy dog around the barn,” he said. “That’s probably the only reason she lasted.”

Brig Tacos will be taken care of even if her trainer can’t get a race for her. You just know it.
“She’s one of those horses that grows on you,” he said. “She’s probably more of a pet than a racehorse.”


The HBPA has finished its most recent classes with the Groom Elite Program, a six-day session that was taught by Dr. Reid McClellan of Lexington, Ky.

“We started with 19 students and 17 of them completed the program,” said HBPA executive director Patrice Underwood. The course was Thoroughbred Care 201, a follow-up to 101 which some of the students had already taken.

Seven students had already taken 101 and now have certificates from the advanced Groom Elite class. The others were given certificates of eligibility and will need to take the 101 class at some time to earn the same status.
Among those who finished the course this week were owners, trainers and a Minnesota Racing Commissioner.

Char Reuer, an owner/trainer, owner Mary Malkerson, trainer Jeremiah Johnson, Denise Bloomquist, an owner with a trainer’s license, and commissioner Jesse Overton took the course.
The course included instruction in touch and hot and cold therapy, advanced bandage techniques, skin disease and horse behavior.