by Laurie Asseo
If you look up “honest” in the dictionary, the word “Norjac” ought to be next to it—because Norjac the racehorse is as honest as they come. He ran 71 races in the mid-Atlantic region from 2006 until last month and earned $373,985. That 71st race at Penn National was his last because he is now retired at MidAtlantic Horse Rescue, getting ready for his next career as someone’s favorite riding horse.
The Maryland-bred son of Peaks and Valleys-Icee Sara, by Eskimo broke his maiden in his second race in August 2006. His record is 71—18-14-14; he was in the money 46 times. Norjac had a 14-race in-the-money streak from August 2008 to September 2009, including thirds in two stakes races, the Mister Diz at Laurel (with his best Beyer of 94) and the Deputed Testamony at Pimlico. Earlier, he was third in the Oliver’s Twist and the Sonny Hine at Laurel.
He had caught our attention and held it over the years because of his durability and stick-to-it-iveness–he was always there, giving his best. (We are fans of durable horses, like Xtra Heat and Say Florida Sandy.) In fact, he never seemed to be hurt and almost always fired when he raced: two traits in dismayingly short supply these days. Norjac won 25 percent of his races and was in the money 65 percent of the time, with hardly a layoff.
His last win was Jan. 28 in a $5,000 claimer at Penn National . At age 8 the gelding was no longer running in stakes or allowance company, and after spending the first five years of his career with only two owners, Norjac was getting claimed frequently. When we saw him get claimed again last month, we decided to get involved. We arranged for him to be claimed so we could retire him and give him to MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. All I wanted in that race was for him to return safely, and he finished a respectable fourth.
Within days Norjac arrived at MidAtlantic and settled into a paddock with a group of horses waiting for new homes. We visited him less than a week later, and he looked so happy and relaxed, hanging out with the other horses and running back and forth with them. He’s a very sociable, people-oriented horse, and while he liked the apple and carrots we offered him, he really loved the peppermints!
He also knows he’s a good horse. He has the confident attitude of a runner who’s been to the winner’s circle plenty, and I swear he seemed to strike poses for me to take his picture. At MidAtlantic he will be evaluated and trained for the second career for which he seems best suited (jumping, maybe, or dressage?), and then matched with an adopter who will enjoy his skills.
Norjac will move on to his new life, but I kept a memento from his past life. I got the shoes he wore in his last race, and once I have them mounted, I’ll have the world’s only Norjac Hall of Fame!
Norjac seems especially deserving of the help, but then, all horses are especially deserving. The wonderful people who run MidAtlantic Horse Rescue go to auctions, buy horses that otherwise would go to slaughter, and rehabilitate them for new homes. Norjac didn’t get anywhere near that close to tragedy, but I’ve helped MidAtlantic buy some who were. A $500 donation will save a horse. You can reach them at their website. Tell them Norjac sent you!
Laurie Asseo is a journalist in Washington, DC, a fantastic photographer, and, outside of the horse’s owner and trainer, the world’s biggest fan of Xtra Heat.
One for the Good Guys is an occasional feature focusing on some of the people doing good work to help the horses and humans involved in racing in Maryland. Please get in touch if you have a tale to share!