Patrick McBurney and John Forbes--a training team that has been a prominent force on the New Jersey racing scene for over three decades--so rarely have horses cranked up at first asking that just two of their previous 68 runners (3%) had taken the prize in their first go. So on Saturday, when the 3-year-old filly Addie's Surprise (War Front) was backed into favoritism in the early wagering for the seventh race at Monmouth, a $45,000 maiden special weight, handicappers took note. She ultimately went off as the race's second choice at 2-1, but the smart money was right. Addie's Surprise circled the field with a five-wide move, switched leads on cue in upper stretch and strode clear to a professional 2 1/2-length decision (video). The final time for the six-furlong, main-track event was 1:11 2/5; she earned a solid 94 BRIS figure.
Just as noteworthy was the scene in the winner's circle, where the filly and the person she was named after, one Ms. Adelene "Addie" Lynch, came face to face. Ms. Lynch is 101 years old, and is the aunt of Dennis Lynch, who co-owns Addie's Surprise. The plucky centenarian--hair done up, gold earrings on, and wearing a glass beaded necklace--beamed as she pet her well-mannered namesake on the nose, then stood proudly with jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr. as they posed for pictures.
"Dennis told me afterward, and I thought this was pretty neat, was that Addie--Adelene--had a lot of memories at 101. But she didn't have a lot of recent memories that meant a lot to her," said John Forbes. "They were all old memories. But that this would be a recent memory that would mean so much to her." (Disclaimer: John's wife Vicki works at the TDN, ostensibly as director of customer service, more accurately as the straw that stirs the drink.)
|John Forbes (blue blazer), Adelene Lynch & Addie's Surprise|
To give some perspective, when Ms. Lynch was born, William Howard Taft was in the White House, Babe Ruth was still in grade school, Archduke Franz Ferdinand had yet to make his fateful trip to Sarajevo, and Sir Barton was nine years away of becoming racing's first Triple Crown winner.
Ms. Lynch's life has been a story of grace, perseverance and, sometimes, horses. In 1929, the same year of the great market crash, the Jersey City native lost her father at the age of 19. Her mother had passed five years earlier, and as the second-oldest of seven children, she took on the role of caregiver for the family, taking a job as the personal secretary for three-term New Jersey governor A. Harry Moore. It was the Democratic governor who first introduced her to horses.
|Gov. A. Harry Moore|
"There was an Army camp down on the shore at Sea Girt, and her and the governor would go out riding together," explained Robert Lynch, Addie's son and Dennis's cousin. "They would ride the trails from the beaches all the way down to where Allaire State Park is now--it was several miles. So she's been around horses now for more than 80 years, I guess."
Ms. Lynch's ties to horses didn't end there. During World War II, her husband, Robert's father, was a Naval physician stationed in Northern California, and the family became friendly with 'Silent' Tom Smith, the trainer of Seabiscuit. "I don't know how that came about, but we still have several handwritten notes from him on the letterhead of [Ridgewood Ranch], which said, 'Home of Seabiscuit,'" said Robert.
Ms. Lynch, a mother of three, grandmother of seven and great-grandmother of 13, began taking her family to nearby Monmouth Park in the 1960s, and still makes two or three trips a year to the Oceanport oval.
"My brother passed away eight years ago, and we have a memorial race for him every year," said Robert Lynch. "We'll get 60 or 80 friends and family down, including my mother. She still reads the program and does her handicapping, and she's surprisingly good at it. Her typical bet is $2 across the board--that's what she prefers. She cashes tickets more often than not."
In fact, after Saturday's race, Ms. Lynch didn't want to leave. "She wanted to stay and bet the rest of the card," laughed Forbes.
With 102 in her sites, Ms. Lynch is still going strong. "Her eyesight's is a little tough now, but we just got her some new glasses," said Robert. "But she's still very sharp. She keeps up on current events. She loves watching the Yankees and loves Derek Jeter, and can discuss political events around the world--what's happening in Libya--or what's happening in Joplin or Japan. And she knows all of her 13 grandchildren by name and their birthdays. She's really a phenomenal woman."
Saturday clearly meant a lot to his mother, he added. "We had about 15 family members at the track, and others watching on TVG from around the country," he said. "And it was so cute in the winner's circle, Addie's Surprise was so well-behaved that she was able to pet her on the nose a few times. She was so grateful for John's graciousness and hospitality, and felt it was a really special event. She was very pleased."
Addie's Surprise, meanwhile, looks poised for bigger and better things. From the first crop of the red-hot sophomore sire War Front, by Danzig, she was hammered down to Forbes for $27,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September sale. The filly is owned by Forbes's Phantom House Farm, Dan Keegan, and BDL Stables--comprised of Bob Jones, Dennis Lynch and Lee Carr.
|Addie & jockey Carlos Marquez, Jr.|
Despite the modest tag, she proved a standout from the beginning. "I really hate to use the word freak, but when we were getting her ready for her 2-year-old year, right away we knew she was special," said Forbes, who shares training duties with longtime assistant and friend Pat McBurney, in whose name Addie's Surprise ran. "But she had some 2-year-old stuff, so we turned her out. We weren't going to Florida and didn't want to get her cranked up for the winter here, and we just got a little behind on her. But the reason she won is because she's so fast naturally. We're not good with firsters. We didn't crank her up, and she's much better than she ran. That's what's scary about her."
That good news for the stable, which has been represented by the likes of Tale of the Cat (Storm Cat), Mary's Follies (More Than Ready) and recent Monmouth standout Get Serious (City Zip). "And I think she'll go long," said Forbes. "The first time Marquez worked her, he was trying to slow her down, and came back and said that she wasn't just super fast, but that she'd run all day, too. She's a stretchy-looking type."
Not surprisingly, Forbes's phone began ringing shortly after the race, and thus far has had five inquiries about purchasing the filly privately. For the time being, however, Addie's Surprise will stay in the barn. "She's just learning right now," he said. "We'll probably look for an allowance race for her, and go from there."
Regardless of when she starts next, Adelene 'Addie' Lynch will be on hand to root her on. "Definitely," said her son.