News & Barn notes

91-Year-Old Gotwals To See The First Two Horses He Ever Bought Go In Colleen and Monmouth Oaks On Saturday

July 27, 2023

It wasn’t until he was 89 years old that Bill “Poppy Gotwals, the co-founder and patriarch of Brook Ledge Horse Transportation, decided to buy his first horse. Unaccompanied by a bloodstock agent or vet, and acting entirely on his own, he went to the Keeneland 2021 November Sale and picked out a weanling for $55,000.

Five months later, again acting alone and approaching 90, he picked out another filly, this time for $20,000, at the Ocala Breeders’ Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Saturday, the now 91-year-old Gotwals will be in attendance at Monmouth Park to watch both fillies go in separate stakes races on the 10-race card.

First Joke, a 2-year-old daughter of Practical Joke and the first horse that Gotwals ever purchased, will try to parlay a win her debut in Maiden Special Weight company at Delaware on June 3 into stakes success in the $100,000 Colleen Stakes.

That five-furlong turf dash for 2-year-old fillies serves as the supporting feature to the $250,000, Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks, where Foggy Night – coming off a win in the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks – faces nine other 3-year-old fillies.

Both horses are trained by Butch Reid and run under Gotwals’ Pine Brook Farm colors.

“They look like they were both tremendous buys,” said Reid. “He went to those sales without a trainer or a vet and picked out both horses himself. You’re talking about a guy who was almost 90 doing that by himself. I’m very happy to say he will be there Saturday to watch both fillies run.”

Foggy Night, a daughter of Khozan-Settling Seas by Stormy Atlantic, heads into the mile and a sixteenth Monmouth Oaks with three wins and four seconds from eight career starts. The $20,000 purchase price has proven to be a bargain, with the filly earning $278,550 so far.

“She’s a very nice filly,” said Reid. “She has ended up being a godsend.”

Foggy Night made her seasonal debut at Parx on April 24, overcoming a troubled trip to get second, missing by just a neck. She won her next start by six lengths and then won by 1¾ lengths at odds of 14-1 in Delaware Oaks on July 1.

Paco Lopez, Monmouth Park’s leading rider, has the mount again Saturday.

“I don’t know if her last race was by far her best but it was certainly her best so far,” said Reid. “The race before that she was pretty good. And the race before that she had a terrible trip at the start. She was a quality 2-year-old for us so we gave her some time off and sent her to Ocala for the winter and she came back a much more mature horse, a fresher and sharper horse.

“All of her races this year have been good.”

With Grade 3 winner Promiseher America, Grade 2 winner Vegas Magic and Grade 1 placed Occult in the Monmouth Oaks field, Reid concedes “this is the toughest group she has faced so far.”

“But she won her last pretty easily and she seemed to have something left,” he said.

First Joke, meanwhile, will take on eight other freshman distaffers in the Colleen. Frankie Pennington has the call on that one.