Washington-bred gelding (b. 2005)
By Polish Gift-Burgundy Jones
Career (2007-2011): 28-9-3-4, $356,507
Margo's Gift (No.2-inside) winning the 2008 Pepsi Cola Handicap.
When purchasing a Thoroughbred, horse owners often must rely on a horse’s measurable traits—pedigree, conformation, etc.—in order to minimize the risk and maximize the potential of their future race horse.
In the 2006 Winter Mixed Sale, however, owner Kenny Alhadeff dismissed the statistics and tabulated bloodlines. What he saw in the eyes of a particular Washington-bred yearling could not be measured but only felt: a winning spirit.
That horse was Margo’s Gift, named after Alhadeff’s honorary daughter Margo Snow, who pushed Alhadeff to attend the sale. The same spirit Alhadeff felt quickly surfaced at Emerald Downs, where race fans watched Margo’s Gift unfold a brilliant career, highlighted by four stakes wins before the halfway point of his 3-year-old season. Incidentally, his only career start away from his home base may have been his most defining.
On October 27, 2007, in the pouring rain and on a sloppy Monmouth Park track, a 2-year-old Margo’s Gift made a miraculous comeback, rallying from eighth to first in the final quarter-mile, to capture the $250,000 Favorite Trick Breeders’ Cup Stakes. Nearly 3,000 miles away, back at home in Auburn, the Emerald Downs grandstand shook at a seismic level while hundreds of race fans cheered throughout Margo’s Gift’s incredible stretch run. To this day, his trainer Doris Harwood has a hard time finding the words to describe her horse’s thrilling victory.
“There is no way to express what it felt like watching him win that Breeders’ Cup race,” Harwood said. “It was an unforgettable moment.”
After an illustrious five-year racing career, Margo’s Gift retired a sound and happy horse on May 28, 2011. But with a heart the size of a racetrack and an affinity for competition, there was no way Margo’s Gift would sit still for long. So that’s when Alhadeff made a phone call to family friend Britt Roden, a trainer and event rider based in Salkum, WA.
“Even after he was done racing, I really believed this horse had more to give, and it was my responsibility as his owner to make that happen,” Alhadeff said. “My grandfather (Longacres founder Joe Gottstein) taught me ‘You take care of your racehorse because your racehorse takes care of you.’”
A natural talent, Margo’s Gift has proved that his skills go beyond the racetrack. Less than two years into his new career as a three-day event horse, Margo’s Gift has posted winning scores in dressage, and is light years ahead of most Thoroughbreds with similar experience in the show jumping and cross-country programs.
Roden said she’s amazed with Margo’s Gift’s progress and that many others have also begun to take notice. “He’s one of the best Thoroughbreds that I’ve ever had,” said Roden, an event rider for nearly 20 years.
“We even changed his barn name to Champ because that’s what he is. He’s got the attitude, the talent, and he’s already starting to turn heads in his new career.”
With a bright future in front of him, Margo’s Gift could land on the event’s biggest stage. Alhadeff and Roden have laid out a few goals for the upcoming year and are optimistic that Margo’s Gift could eventually compete in the Olympics and Pan-American Games.
Harwood, who isn’t the least bit surprised to see Margo’s Gift succeed in a new career, said she couldn’t be prouder of her former track star.
“To see how happy he is now, and knowing how much I loved him and still love him, it’s really a tearjerker for me,” she said.