Serendipity For Retired Racehorse Soap Bubble

By Margaret Ransom

When it comes to retiring racehorses, it really isn’t hard or expensive. Increased awareness, industry funding, and non-profit organizations devoted to transitioning horses from racing to riding have opened the avenue for many racehorses to have second careers.

Donna Keen, who founded Remember Me Rescue [RMR] in Burleson, Texas, in 2008, has rehomed hundreds of horses all over the country. And many are retired straight from the track to RMR.

Enter Soap Bubble

Soap Bubble

Soap Bubble – Dustin Orana/Remington Park.

“A few weeks ago I got a call from Jeff Hooper at Highlander Training Center [in Sulphur Springs, Texas],” Keen said. “He told me one of his clients, Larry Hirsch, wanted to claim one of his former horses back and retire him. The horse was entered on opening day at Sam Houston and we have a barn there, so we said we’d do it, no problem.”

Soap Bubble, a Kentucky-bred son of Twirling Candy and the Empire Maker mare Bayou Tortuga, was purchased by Hirsch and his partner, Wayne R. Sanders, for $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2017. Soap Bubble raced 18 times for Hirsch and Sanders with mixed results, winning once, and picking up several placings. In December, he was dropped into $7,500 claiming company at Remington Park in an attempt to get him a win and restore confidence, he was haltered by Karl Broberg, who entered him back for $5,000 at Sam Houston a month later.

“He is certainly a well-bred horse,” Hooper said. “And he’s an exceptionally kind horse and easy to be around. So, when [Hirsch] saw he had turned up back in the entries at Sam Houston he said he’d like to claim him back and donate him to Remember Me Rescue so he’d have a good life after racing.”

The responsible owner

Hirsch, a New Yorker – from Queens — now based in Texas, is a longtime owner and breeder and owns the Highlander Training Center. Through January, horses wearing the silks of Hirsch and Sanders have won more than 350 of the nearly 1,900 races they’ve run in, including several graded stakes, for earnings of $12.5 million. Hirsh estimates he owns about 50 horses between his partnership with Sanders and his own Highlander shingle.

“We’ve had a couple of Grade 3 winners and some good horses, but none really big [yet],” Hirsch said. “But we are committed [to the thoroughbred industry]. At Highlander, we have about 180 acres and between outside client horses and our own there are about 100 horses there. It’s really a special place.”

Soap Bubble

Soap Bubble – Dustin Orana/Remington Park

Soap Bubble meant a lot to Hirsch for a lot of reasons, specifically because was named by his grandson, Jacob.

“After we bought him, I was at my son’s house and we were sitting around thinking of names,” Hirsch explained. “And as my grandson passed by we said, ‘Jacob, do you want to name a horse?’ And he said, ‘Soap Bubble,’ and kept on walking, didn’t stop. Just said the words and kept going. So, we said, ‘I guess we have a Soap Bubble.’”

As a seasoned veteran of the game, Hirsch knew that if the time came that they’d need to drop Soap Bubble in for a claiming price, he could lose him. But the reality of it happening was tough to take.

“We really just wanted to give him some class relief,” Hirsch explained. “So, when he [was back in for $5,000] it was an opportunity for me to do right by this horse.”

Keeping the dialogue open between owners and trainers of horses like Soap Bubble so they don’t wind up being taken across the Canadian or Mexican border [to a slaughterhouse] is something Hirsch is committed to.

“[Despite the industry’s proper retirement resources] this is a continuing issue for all participants in the game,” Hirsch said. “I don’t think there’s any question that there still needs to be broader industry support and more structure [from within]. Most of the participants are serious businessmen and I think it’s OK to bring integrity into the conversation.

“Most [owners] pay good prices for these horses and accept the costs required to care for them. It makes sense for us to also accept the costs related to retiring them.”

A bright future for Soap Bubble

After he was claimed, Keen reached out to trainer Bret Calhoun to find out more about Soap Bubble.

“He told me he was meant to be a nice horse,” Keen said. “He told me he bled once and after that didn’t really want any part of racing, so they dropped him into a claiming race hoping he’d gain some confidence, hoping he’d not get claimed.

Soap Bubble

Soap Bubble – Donna Keen

“He really is a beautiful horse and he was in good shape when we claimed him, so [Broberg] took good care of him. Lately life has been kind of a whirlwind for Soap Bubble. We claimed him on a Friday, he arrived at Remember Me Rescue on Saturday and was gelded on Tuesday.”

Soap Bubble has been under RMR care for about a month, and he’s nearly ready to be ridden regularly to assess his post-race capabilities.

Keen remains hopeful that horses like Soap Bubble and his connections provide an example of how easy and inexpensive it can be to do the right thing. For $5,000, plus tax and some basic expenses, Soap Bubble is safe. He will go on to his next chapter on Remember Me Rescue’s adoption contract and forever monitored by Keen and her team. Whoever adopts him will be able to transfer ownership, but his adoption contract will follow him for the rest of his life.

“I’m beyond happy and flattered his former connections reached out to us to let us help Soap Bubble before anything could have happened,” Keen said. “Not that the people who had him when we claimed him would have harmed him, but this way his former owners can be sure he’ll always be safe. And it’s just an example that by Dallas and I being at the track everyday people can easily reach out to us for things like this. I wish they’d do it more, but hopefully horses like Soap Bubble will show them how easy it is.”

Now five years old, Soap Bubble retired sound with a record of 19-2-3-5 with earnings of $96,338. He will be available for adoption in a few weeks at Remember Me Rescue.

“Horses don’t get to make their own fairytale endings, but I’m honored to be able to help do it for them,’’ she said.

For more information, or to donate and become a regular sponsor, reach out to Keen through the website or on the Remember Me Rescue Facebook Page.