Day At The Track

Winky's Gill - - - A babysitter to the Stars

02:36 PM 24 Dec 2012 NZDT
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Winky’s Gill (right) and Ave Ulrica
Winky’s Gill (right) and Ave Ulrica - Take a spin around a paddock at Perretti Farm
USTA/Ellen Harvey photo

According to equine custom, Winky's Gill, whose actual birthday is January 31, turns 33 on January 1. According to her age, one rarely achieved by a harness racing horse, she ought to be doing nothing -- or close to it.

At 32, the trotting broodmare Winky's Gill still holds some impressive records. The multiple stakes winner (Merrie Annabelle, Coaching Club Oaks) is the highest priced broodmare ever sold at auction, having brought $800,000 when she went through the sales ring in 1986.

Her son, Supergill, sold the same year for $500,000, the third-highest price ever for a trotting colt (behind Detour Hanover's $825,000 in 2011 and Experience Victory's $650,000 in 1999). Her daughter, Winky's Goal, won the 1993 Hambletonian Oaks and racked up $844,924 in earnings.

Far from merely eating grass and surveying the vistas at Perretti Farms in Cream Ridge, N.J., Winky's Gill is helping raise a new generation of champions. Each fall, when a new generation of fillies is weaned from their mothers, Winky's Gill takes over as babysitter. Many farms turn out an older mare or gelding with young horses to facilitate catching them for vet or farrier treatment, as well as to keep them calm during storms. As herd animals, young horses look to mature horses as their "alpha" and a source of guidance.

"Winky's been doing this job for at least ten years," says Bob Marks, who handles marketing for the farm.

It's not a job that just any mare can do, either.

"We ordinarily would take retired mares and attempt it with them, but she just fell right into it, did a wonderful job and she enjoys it. It keeps her young and makes her feel relevant.

"We've sold some excellent fillies and believe me, she's babysat most of them. There are only a couple mares that really do what she does, she's really remarkable. The richest pacing filly out there is Rocklamation (p,4,1:49.4s, $1,197,771) and at one point, Rocklamation was one of her babies."

Multiple stakes winners Pretty Katherine (p,2,1:50.3s, $525,653) and Costa Rica (3,1:54.3s, $1,394,757) are also former protégées of Winky's Gill.

"She kind of teaches them the way of the world," says Marks. "When we need to catch them to bring them in, you catch the old mare and the girls just follow her. We've been doing this a long time and she knows precisely what she wants to do and she's spry and in great shape. They're better off because she's there, she's a calming influence. She's almost 33, but she doesn't act it."

Do you know of an older horse we might remember from their younger days? Please drop us a line and we'll recognize them in a story leading up to the universal equine birthday of January 1. E-mail Ellen Harvey at .

For a look at Winky's Gill with one of her newest charges, the Shark Gesture-Ulrica Bromac N weanling filly, Ave Ulrica, click on video below.

by Ellen Harvey, Harness Racing Communications

Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom


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