Safely Kept Dies

Champion and Hall of Famer Safely Kept (Horatius–Safely Home, by Winning Hit) was euthanized Tuesday morning at Burleson Farms near Midway, Kentucky, due to the infirmities of old age. She was 28. The Maryland-bred won 24 of 31 starts and bankrolled $2,194,206 during a career that spanned four years. Second in the 1989 GI Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream Park, the bay went one better the following autumn at Belmont Park, when she famously prevailed over British invader Dayjur in the 1990 renewal of the championship event. 
   “She was the best, even I couldn't screw her up,” trainer Alan Goldberg recalled. “She colicked the day before the Test S. [at Saratoga in 1989] and she still galloped. She was just something very special. Years ago, Walter Kelly told me that 'a good horse is like a gun that can go off in anyone's hand,' and that was her. She was just that good. When she got beat, it wasn't what she did, and it left me wondering what I did wrong.” 
    Safely Kept was bred in Maryland by David and JoAnn Hayden of Dark Hollow Farm, and began her career by carrying their colors. Trained by Carlos Garcia as a 2-year-old, the bay filly graduated by 6 1/2 lengths in her second start at Pimlico and added two additional romps in the Playpen S. and Smart Angle S. at the Baltimore oval. Her final outing as a juvenile came in September, when she finished third in the Maryland Lassie S. at Laurel. In that start, she crossed the line a half-length behind another future champion in Open Mind. 
    “She put us on the map,” David Hayden reflected. “She gave us the thrill of a lifetime. Both when we owned her and then turned her over to Barry and Rich, they always kept us in the loop. We always felt part of her history. For that we are forever thankful. You know, it is a sad day for the farm.” 
    Her exploits that season caught the attention of Jayeff B Stable's Rich Santulli and Barry Weisbord, who purchased her privately and turned her over to trainer Alan Goldberg. After kicking off 1989 with a win in Laurel's Politely S., Safely Kept trumped her elders in the GIII Garden State Park Breeders' Cup H. and the GII Genuine Risk S. She added comprehensive scores over her peers in the GII Prioress S. and GI Test S., then returned to her birthplace to annex the State of Maryland Distaff H. and Columbia S. at Pimlico. Having demonstrated her prowess against females with her eight-race winning streak, Safely Kept took on males in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream, where she led at nearly every call until denied by the rallying Dancing Spree at the wire. She was honored with the Eclipse Award as the nation's top sprinter for 1989. 
    Safely Kept kicked off her 4-year-old season with a Gulfstream allowance win in March, then secured the GIII Thoroughbred Club of America S. at Keeneland in April. She successfully defended her titles in the GIII Garden State Park BC H. and the GII Genuine Risk H. before taking the Finger Lakes BC H., but her five-race skein came to an end when she finished fourth as the 4-5 chalk in the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel in August. Though she rebounded with victories in Pimlico's State of Maryland Distaff H. and the GIII Meadowlands BC H., Safely Kept checked in fourth behind Carson City in the GIII Boojum H., and 13 days later she was dismissed at 12-1 in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont. 
    The 1990 Sprint was just one of four times in her 31-race career that Safely Kept was not the favorite, and her 12.60-1 odds was by far the longest price at which she went postward. Regular rider Craig Perret hustled the 4-year-old to the lead, with British-based Dayjur in hot pursuit. Dayjur collared the filly on the turn, and the two matched strides through the stretch. Dayjur poked his head in front in deep stretch, only to lose a bit of momentum when he jumped the shadow cast by the Belmont grandstand, and Safely Kept seized that opportunity to surge ahead and hit the wire a neck in front of her rival. 
    The 1990 Sprint was just one of four times in her 31-race career that Safely Kept was not the favorite, and her 12.60-1 odds was by far the longest price at which she went postward. Regular rider Craig Perret hustled the 4-year-old to the lead, with British-based Dayjur in hot pursuit. Dayjur collared the filly on the turn, and the two matched strides through the stretch. Dayjur poked his head in front in deep stretch, only to lose a bit of momentum when he jumped the shadow cast by the Belmont grandstand, and Safely Kept seized that opportunity to surge ahead and hit the wire a neck in front of her rival. 
    “That was a great moment,” Goldberg added. “Watching Rich throwing his binoculars in the air, and it was especially sweet after the year before, when I thought she'd won. It was a really good ride.” 
    Kept in training as a 5-year-old in 1991, Safely Kept made it a three-peat in both the GIII Garden State BC H. and GII Genuine Risk H. before taking her act to Arlington, where she posted a 7 1/2-length success in the Chicago BC H. She followed that with a third to champion Housebuster in the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel, and could only manage third when stretched out to a mile and 70 yards in the GIII Monmouth BC H. Cut back to her bread-and-butter distance of six furlongs, Safely Kept tallied her third-straight success in the State of Maryland Distaff H. at Pimlico, and signed off on her stellar career with another victory in the GIII Meadowlands BC H. on Oct. 4, 1991. 
    As a broodmare, Safely Kept produced eight winners from 10 live foals, headed by stakes winners Contrast (Unbridled) and Peace Chant (War Chant). Her winning son Safely's Mark (Danzig) sired the millionaire sprinter Weigelia. Safely Kept was pensioned after producing the Empire Maker filly Here to Stay in 2010, and she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. 
    Safely Kept's two Breeders' Cup appearances still resonate with Hayden. 
    “That day at Belmont Park, we kind of levitated down to the winners' circle,” he offered. “It was surreal, no question about it. Actually, [from] where we were sitting at Gulfstream the year [before], we thought she'd won the race, but unfortunately she was second that year. Nipped at the wire, [but] she won the following year, it was the thrill of a lifetime. That's what we all live for.” 
    TDN Publisher Barry Weisbord had a chance to bid farewell to the champion a few days ago. 
    “Yes, it's sad, but we had a wonderful experience [saying goodbye] last Friday,” Weisbord said. “It's hard to say goodbye to a great mare who really changed my life. I had an amazing gift in my life. Fifteen years into my career, I was privileged to have owned with Rich Santulli, one of the great people I've ever met, Safely Kept. Alan Goldberg did a masterful job training her from her 3-year-old season on up, and she brought us innumerable moments, any one of which would have been great, but there were so many of them. She got to train close to where we lived, we got to enjoy her regularly, we got to watch her run and win regularly. Most importantly, as I referenced at the Hall of Fame, she brought Rich and I together and Al and Rich and together, and 25 years later, we're all still together. I guess, besides all the thrills, that she caused us to come together and I think that's her greatest gift. 
    “Last Friday, we got to say goodbye to her as a family and that was an incredibly special moment. I have to give massive credit to Lyn Burleson and his team at Burleson Farm for treating her like the queen that she is and giving her a great home for 20 years and picking out a special place for her to rest, a beautiful spot along Elkorn Creek, befitting a mare of her stature.”

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