Thursday, August 22, 2013

Buzz Chace: The Man in Horseman

--Christina Bossinakis

   Horse racing lost one of it’s most well known and respected figures when bloodstock agent Buzz Chace lost his fight against cancer Sunday morning. However, on a much more personal level, I lost a long-time friend and mentor. I first met Buzz very early on in my tenure at the TDN, circa 2002, at a sale in Kentucky. Honestly, I can’t remember exactly which one, but I do remember with clarity the encounter. After a brief introduction, Buzz happened to notice me running around like a chicken without a head as I was trying to figure who I should be talking to and what were the most salient points I should be focusing on. While it wasn’t as apparent to me then, it was evidently extremely obvious to others that I was as green and inexperienced as the young horses that had brought us together for the occasion. In what I would later learn to be typical of Buzz’s style, he pulled me up and assured me that all was fine and there was no need for panic. From that moment on, he always looked out for me, whether it was leading me to the ‘talking’ horses at a sale, directing me to the right people and making the appropriate introductions or simply clearing the way for me to do what I needed to do.
   Over the years, I helped him consolidate information in his sale’s catalogs, so I was fortunate enough to develop an ongoing relationship with him. Our encounters were increasingly frequent, whether it was a call, hanging out at the sales or races and even stopping by the house. I think those visits to Casa Chace are among the memories I cherish most because it was on those occasions I had the opportunity to see Buzz interact with his family, including Mrs. Chace (Mary Lou), his children and even his grandchildren. The Chaces were always so gracious and welcoming, inviting me to stay for lunch, a drink or even a chat. The funny thing about Buzz is when I would stop by or speak to him on the phone, he would always ask me where I was going next (truth be told, I am a traveling fool) and I really think he got a kick out of hearing what adventure I might be embarking upon. And his favorite parting line to me was always, “Stay out of trouble,” but the twinkle in his eye and his cheshire cat grin belied those words. The implication always seemed to me to be, "Life is for living, go and have a good time." That was Buzz.

Buzz Chace                                                        Horsephotos
    In recent years, I had the opportunity the hang out with Buzz at the racetrack or the sales, and I was always amused by what some people might think about seeing an older gentleman in company with a young woman. But that never concerned me because the reality was he always treated me like his child, informing me or opening my eyes to the ways of the racing and sales world. On several occasions, I had the pleasure of tagging along with Buzz at sales to look at some prospective purchases. Those sessions were worth their weight in gold. As a journalist, I’ve interviewed horsemen and women for years, and I’ve listened to them say that a horse had good balance or bone, a nice walk or a superior top line. Well, I finally learned what all that really meant. And Buzz always patiently explained. “Buzz, what’s a roach back?” He showed me. “Buzz, this yearling looks like he is really toeing out on the left side.” And to that, always validation, rewarding my observation. “Yes, Christina, he definitely is.” I was like a child learning a whole new vocabulary and perspective on things, and he was always patient and willing to fill in the gaps. I truly believe those lessons have made me a better turf writer and paddock reporter.

Freedom Child            A Coglianese
    A scouting session that I will surely never forget was on a bright, sunny morning two years ago at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale in Saratoga. I bumped into Buzz, who had already scoped out all the babies on offer, and he asked me if I had time to go and see a yearling he particularly liked. He informed me that we were going to see a Malibu Moon colt that Kitty Taylor (Warrendale) was selling. As soon as Buzz walked up and asked to see the colt (by the way, it was the third time he went back to see him), Kitty immediately had the horse prepped and brought out for viewing. That was the power of Buzz. I have to admit, the colt was a real beauty, and I’m sure Buzz had seen plenty of them, but he was particularly smitten with this colt. Honestly, that was as giddy as I’ve ever seen him looking at a horse. Everything he had taught me was embodied in the colt. Upon the advice of Buzz, the striking chestnut ended up going for $350,000 to West Point Thoroughbreds (Buzz later said he thought the colt might have brought more with different placement in the catalog). Fast forward two years and that colt, named Freedom Child, was the runaway winner of Belmont’s GII Peter Pan S. It recently occurred to me that the whole experience was the graduation of all the lessons and instruction I had received over the years. I feel blessed that I was privileged enough to see the maestro in action. Harmonious perfection.
   For those who knew Buzz, and most in the industry do, he was a generous, kind and respectful man who had one of the best eyes for horseflesh in the business. Even though the uber-classy Unbridled’s Song put him squarely on the map as a leading bloodstock agent, he plucked out a plethora of other top-class racehorses that would make any horseman or woman worth their salt green with envy. But for me, it is all much more simple. He always treated me like a queen. He calmed or lifted me when he thought I needed it and has played a big part in the professional I am today. In an industry that remains quite male dominated, Buzz--without prejudice--guided me and gave me the chance to expand the breadth of my knowledge, so I could compete with anybody, man or woman, in this tough and often unflinching game. Yes, we lost a master horseman. Personally, I lost a pillar that has propped me up for many years. But Buzz, I think you would be very happy to know the foundation you’ve helped build is solid enough to carry me through any storm. Your legacy lives on, my friend. A heartfelt thank you..and farewell.

Pat Lang

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