Retired Trainer Thad Ackels Celebrates a Win with Homebred Squatty

1st-FGX, $39,000, Msw, (S), 3yo/up, f/m, 6f, 
1:12 3/5, ft. 
Squatty (f, 3, Congrats–Skyward Bound, by Relaunch), a $3,500 RNA yearling from the FTKOCT sale, ran second against $50,000 maiden claimers over the Arlington turf at first asking Sept. 20 and missed by a neck when switched to conventional dirt at Keeneland going six panels Oct. 12. Pounded down to 3-5 from an 8-5 morning line, the favorite bounced out of the gate and sprinted to the lead setting splits of :22.59 for the quarter and :47.28 for the half while scraping the paint into the stretch. A little leg weary late, Squatty’s lead shrank to two lengths at the line. Ben’s Juliette (Half Ours) rallied belatedly to be runner-up. Lifetime Record: 3-1-2-0, $37,280. Click for the chart or VIDEO. 
O/B-Thad D Ackel (LA). T-Michael Stidham. 

     1st Dam: Skyward Bound, by Relaunch 
     2nd Dam: Fixed Cost, by Quack 
     3rd Dam: Order in Court, by Banderilla 
Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree. 

It’s not often that a Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer returns to the winner’s circle wearing an owner’s hat, but such is the case of Squatty’s owner/breeder Thad Ackel, who trained four-time Grade I winner Great Communicator (Key to the Kingdom) to a win in the 1988 GI Breeders’ Cup Turf. Ackel still races a few horses despite retiring from training when his father passed away in 1992 and shifting his focus to real estate. 

“I retired from training and moved back home,” commented Ackel. “My dad had passed away and we had quite a bit of real estate holdings, so it was like weighing up the chicken or the egg. Racing is more or less a hobby for me. I bought a small farm and did a little pinhooking. I collected a few mares and kept a couple in training in Folsom, Louisiana.” 

Ackel purchased Squatty’s dam Skyward Bound privately in 2006 and was already familiar with the family, having acquired her daughter Skyward Exchange (Exchange Rate) for $21,000 at the OBS June sale in 2005. 

“I bought Squatty’s mother because I had purchased Skyward Exchange at the Ocala sale,” Ackel explained. “I really knew she was going to be a runner, so I thought I’d buy the mare. I purchased the mare in foal to Exchange Rate.” 

Skyward Exchange went on to win twice from eight starts and is now the sole mare in Ackel’s broodmare band. 

“Actually I’m not a big breeder,” he admitted. “I used to carry about four to five mares, but now I just have the one, Skyward Exchange. I have a couple of other fillies out of that family. I have a Gio Ponti yearling that’s coming to really nicely.” 

In the words of Ackel, Squatty is “built like a quarter-horse.” The juvenile was not difficult to christen in preparation for her racing days and has turned in three solid performances in three starts. 

“I named her Squatty because she was always short and squatty,” said a laughing Ackel. 

Of the filly’s maiden win, Ackel said, “I thought it was excellent [of her win]. She really has a knack for breaking hard, like she did at Keeneland. I was just happy she could go wire-to-wire without losing interest down the stretch, being such a long stretch. Three races, a win and two seconds, is wonderful. She’s a really nice filly and should be competitive in the future against Louisiana-breds.” 

Winning trainer Michael Stidham added, “She’s been running in open company prior to this race, so we were glad to get down with the Louisiana-breds. I was happy with her efforts. She broke sharp, went to the lead and stayed there. We’ll keep her with Louisiana-breds as long as we can, but you know eventually we will have to run her back in open company.” 

Whereever Squatty runs next, she will have Ackel cheering for her. 

“I love the game. It’s wonderful,” concluded Ackel. “When you get it in your blood, it’s hard to get out, you know?”

–Heather Likins

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