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William F. Gerry '78 has always known that his mother owned horses. Now a lot of other people do too. Martha F. Gerry's six-year-old gelding Forego is the first equine superstar since Secretariat.
Forego was Horse of the Year in both 1974 and 1975. He is 11th in all-time earnings, with $1,163,516 in three years, making money at the same pace as did the legendary gelding Kelso, the all-timeleader.
The huge, 17-hand thoroughbred transcends the typical sprinter and stayer classifications, having beaten sprinters at seven-eighths of a mile and distance horses at two miles.
Forego has won at all times of the year and has consistently carried near-record weights in doing so. He beat chief rival Wajima in the September 1975 Wood-ward Stakes by almost two lengths, finishing a strong season marred only by a late injury. The injury is a recurring swelling of the ankle called sesamoidisis which the horse has had since birth.
The Big Apple
Gerry has followed Forego's development closely, driving to New York once or twice a week to see him race and train.
"I've probably picked up the most about racing from my mother, who started out practically from scratch 25 years ago," Gerry says. He also credits now-retired trainer Sherrill Ward, Trainer of the Year in 1974, with teaching him about the sport.
Although horse racing is his strongest outside interest and a possible career, Gerry says, "I don't live it when I'm not around it. Very few people around here known about racing so it's hard to carry on conversations about it, except one-sided ones."
Both the Gerrys are traditionalists of the country's oldest spectator sport. Bill objects to the influx into the sport of people who approach it primarily as a business. "It can be a very personal thing. When you treat it as a business there is no heart in it."
He questions particularly the "quantity instead of quality" approach that the financial emphasis usually produces, citing the massive incursions into the sport by the English and Japanese in the last few years. "My mother doesn't follow that school at all and she's not all that keen on people who do," Gerry says.
No Stud Fees
Gerry is justifiably proud that his mother did not get her champion by paying huge stud fees for super-sires like Bold Ruler or by spending exorbitant amounts for untested horses, like the then-record $600,000 paid for Wajima as a yearling.
Martha Gerry bred Forego, as she does 95 per cent of her horses. The only real notable in Forego's bloodline is Whirlaway, who won the Triple Crown in 1941.
"She started with only a few mares, so it's been a very creative process which she has worked hard at," Gerry says. "When it comes through that way you know you've bred a champion from the very beginning."
Gerry stresses the uncertainty involved in breeding. "Penny Tweedy was about ready to leave the business if she didn't get a winner. She was lucky and got two, Secretariat and Riva Ridge."
Both Gerrys firmly oppose match races, races between only two horses for a hefty purse. Ruffian, the brilliant filly, died after an injury in a match with Foolish Pleasure in the mid-summer of 1975.
No Match Races
"At the time of that race my mother said she would never enter Forego in a match race, no matter what the purse, distance, or opponent, unless she could scratch Forego the day of the race," Gerry says. Gerry explains that scratching at the last minute in a big race is out of the question because, "you can't let the public down."
Gerry has other objections to match racing beyond the danger to the horses. "If you look at the history of match races you see that very few have been good contests. Chris Evert won by 50 lengths in a match race with Miss Musket," he says.
Gerry concedes that match races do arouse the interest of the non-racing public, but feels they distort a horse's earnings. "A quarter of Foolish Pleasure's career earnings are from the one race with Ruffian," he mentions.
Martha Gerry stresses consistency over other qualities in Forego's performance. According to her son, she feels that steady excellence is essential to promoting greater public interest in the sport. Bill says he feels that this emphasis is in contrast to that of Penny Tweedy, breeder of Secretariat and Riva Ridge, who Gerry feels had a tendency to overextend the horses to get them before the public.
Forego's record bears out Martha Gerry's success at achieving her aim. Out of 40 career starts, Forego has finished first in 23, second in six, third in six, and out of the money in only five.
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