BY JIM WELLS
It was past seven o’clock Saturday evening when a horse entered the winner’s circle with a blanket of 99 roses on its back. He was still glistening with perspiration, having just run a mile and three-eighths on a warm day.
There was symbolism; there was irony, and there was the end of an era as the 10-year-old Aroney took a quick turn in and out of the area, and headed back onto the main track and then to the barn.
On the last race of the 2018 season, Aroney ran the last race of his career, the 99th start for a true veteran of the racetrack, a game racehorse.
Last race of his career, and the last race of a storied stable credited with establishing racing on a competitive, stakes caliber level in Florida, although the home of its owners had long been in Minnesota.
A storied stable that bred and campaigned great racehorses, a family tree that began with My Dear Girl, the dam of a dynasty, who was champion juvenile filly of 1959. Her fame as a broodmare followed: Her second foal, In Reality who later sired sprint champion Smile was the start.
And, of course, My Dear Girl, bred to Caro, produced the inimitable Dr. Carter, among the great sprinters of all time.
There were countless others, but Genter Stables became synonymous with racing in Florida and respected well beyond, a stable at the top of the list after Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named three-year-old of the year in 1990.
And Aroney’s place in this long story? He was the last racehorse owned by the late Bentley Smith, son-in-law to Frances Genter, the Grand Dame of American racing and a resident of Bloomington, Minnesota in her final years. She was the sweet grandmother cradled by trainer Carl Nafzger on national television as he informed her of Unbridled’s stretch run to the wire in the Kentucky Derby.
Smith ran Genter Stables, was the man at the top before and during
Unbridled’s glorious three-year-old season and beyond. Aroney was his last racehorse
Racing commissioner Jim Lane was the attorney who handled the Genter Stable dispersal sale upon Frances Genter’s death and also handled the later sale of Aroney to Dave Astar.
He was claimed from Astar by Tom Amoss at the Fair Grounds and sold via the claiming box another five times before he was purchased by Sampson Family members who campaigned him through his final race on Saturday.
“He was a very sound horse,” said Lane. “He was trained by Carl Nafzger, so he had a very good upbringing.”
Strong and still game, Aroney finished his career with a record of 13-14-16 and earnings in excess of $260,000. He was 6-5-4 from 26 starts in Shakopee, where he earned more than $93,000 of his career bankroll.
The Sampsons, his last owners, turned him over to Teresa Falconbridge, who will stable him at her Minnesota farm.
Aroney, a son of Aptitude from the Chester House mare Ambling, was bred by Smith in Kentucky. He finished fifth in his final race, a consequence partially of a gate quirk that was sometimes beneficial.
“He would try to time the opening of the gate with the movement of the other horses,” said Russ Sampson. “He would take a step forward just before the gate opened.”
This time, he ran smack dab into the closed gate and was taking a step backwards when it opened.
So, who knows…..
A brief ceremony awaited him in the winner’s circle nonetheless.
Randy and Paul Sampson joined their brother Russ and father, Curt, who had informed the pressbox and all other interested parties of Aroney’s imminent retirement.
And on the last day, in the last race of 2018, Aroney, the last horse from a once grand stable, ran his final race.