17-year-old California-bred gelding (born, 1997)
by Bertrando-Acquired Merit
Career (1999-2003): 20-7-1-2, $91,348

As a young horse Misconception won at Santa Anita and Golden Gate and ran in stakes. Later in his career, he was a claiming star at Emerald Downs. Now living in Port Angeles, life couldn't be much better for this large-sized and kind-hearted retired Thoroughbred known as "Starbuck."

Misconception, purchased by owner Frank Gaunt, came to the Aubrey Villyard barn at Emerald Downs early in the 2003 season. He'd been away from racing for close to two years but Villyard and wife Sue got him ready to run.

"He trained hard and just loved to run," said Sue Villyard. "He was a great big horse (17.3 hands) but so gentle … I called him the gentle giant."

Distance races were what Misconception wanted to do. After his first start back, he eventually tied for most wins at the 2003 meeting, rattling off five victories in his last seven starts.

After his final race, a win in September '03, the Gaunts and Villyards knew he'd be a great addition to a horse-loving family and waited for the proper match.

"He was a sweetheart and very smart," said Villyard. "Show him something to do and he'd do it. We were sure he'd make a good companion to any family."

The Gaunts and Villyards chose 13-year old Ciana O'Connor, knowing Misconception could grow with her in new directions. O'Connor wasn't from a horse family, so she learned on the fly.

"I nicknamed him Starbuck because he was the color of coffee," said O'Connor. "I was overwhelmed with how big he was. I had a lot to learn and I think he knew it. But, to this day, he's never bucked with me on him, bit or kicked."

O'Connor read books and scoured the internet for horse knowledge but in the end claims "everything I know about horses comes from him!"

"Early on, all he could do was go straight," said O'Connor. "He spooked at everything, hated water and wouldn't go in the trailer. It took about two years but now he's bombproof! He accepts almost anything. Except for donkeys and mules - he's still afraid of them."

He's done some barrel and pole racing but mostly trail riding where O'Connor reports none of the other horses can keep up with him.

O'Connor graduates this weekend from Port Angeles High School. Starbuck is going with her when she attends the University of Idaho in Moscow.

"I feel proud of for everything he's accomplished. I love him more than anything and feel lucky to call him mine. I couldn't imagine life without my horse!"

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