Arizona Welcomes Chelokee

Chelokee wins the Barbaro Stakes in 2007.
Chelokee wins the Barbaro Stakes in 2007.

Following a single season in central Kentucky Centennial Farms has donated its Grade 3 winner, Chelokee, to the University of Arizona Equine Center in Tucson where he will stand as part of the University’s Thoroughbred breeding program.

The six-year-old son of Cherokee Run is out of Dixie Ghost, by Silver Ghost and was bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms Bloodstock. He is a half brother to Grade 2 winner and sire Salute the Sarge and stakes winner Mymich.  Chelokee won five of ten starts, including the 2007 Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and the Northern Dancer Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs and earned $385,785 before he suffered a career-ending injury during the Alysheba Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on May 2, 2008.

The Michael Matz trained horse, who went off as the second choice in the Alysheba at odds of 2-1, was running fourth in the race before he took a bad step and fell at the top of the stretch. Initially, it was believed that Chelokee had suffered a condylar fracture similar to that sustained by another Matz-trained horse, Barbaro, in the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).  Chelokee was transported to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital where upon further examination it was determined that the then 4 year-old, had actually dislocated the sesamoid bones in his right front leg.  The dislocation caused destruction of all of the supporting ligaments to the back of the fetlock and pastern joint making the ankle unstable and requiring surgery.

Three days after the catastrophic injury Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of Rood and Riddle performed a fetlock anthrodesis, fusing the bones to eliminate the fetlock joint.  The fusion took a plate 14 inches long and 18 screws to lock it into place with approximately two feet of wire laced into the back of the ankle to replace the ligaments.  Dr. Bramlage also put in 12 inches of high-density polyethylene to replace the ligaments in the pastern joint.

After a successful surgery and extensive rehabilitation, Chelokee entered stud in 2009 at Vinery in Lexington, where he covered 24 mares. He stood for $7,500.  Despite his pedigree and existing race record breeders were turned off by the look of the healed leg.  The owners decided not to continue investing in a stallion with perhaps limited capabilities due to his leg.  They thought he would do better being a big fish in a smaller pond than a small fish in a big pond (Kentucky).  The partners knew he would require extensive care and wanted to find the perfect situation for him.  According to Laura Walker, U of A Equine Center Manager, “One of the ladies at the Vinery where Chelokee was standing knew Ron Allen (U of A Animal Sciences Department Head) and called him to see if we would like to have Chelokee for our program.”  When the U of A program came up, all of the Centennial partners were excited.  They knew the University would provide a great home and that the students would fall in love with him.

Chelokee arrived in Arizona on November 12, 2009.  It is anticipated that he will cover about 15 mares this year.  He will be available to mare owners for a fee of $2,000 with a reduced fee of $1,500 for black-type runners or producers.  His 2010 book will include seven mares owned by the University of Arizona as part of its equine studies program.  The foals will be trained in equine center classes and sold by students as yearlings at the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders sales in Scottsdale as race horse prospects.  The equine program earns a percentage of race earnings from the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Association if the prospects then go on and win races.  Monies raised through sales of yearlings and earnings percentages help to fund the equine science program.

As far as special care Chelokee requires a special shoe for his right front hoof that the Equine Center’s farrier makes by hand.  Walker explains “His shoe is a special glue-on that supports his leg since his bone column is no longer in alignment.  He needs the extension out the back to support his weight.”  Dr. Vernon Dryden, an equine podiatry specialist at Lexington’s Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and University of Arizona alum who had been caring for Chelokee since his injury, donated his time to come to Tucson and teach the Equine Center’s farrier how to continue Chelokee’s care.

Along with the special shoe Chelokee also needs movement.  “When he stands for long periods it puts more stress on his good foot which can lead to problems with that foot so he needs to move around” says Walker.  The equine center staff encourages this by providing toys to entertain him and keep him moving around his pen as well as hand walking when needed.

Since Chelokee’s arrival the Equine Center has been contacted by many of his passionate and adoring fans checking to see how he is doing. Along with calls and emails he frequently receives care packages of peppermints and treats.  The equine program staff and students have begun providing periodical updates and candid photos of Chelokee on the U of A Equine Program facebook page to keep his many fans up-to-date.

Walker is pleased to say “Chelokee seems to be enjoying his new home and life here in Arizona.  His 2010 breeding season in Arizona is going well and we have already checked his first mares pregnant so Chelokee babies are on the way for 2011.  He is a very sweet and intelligent horse that we are thrilled to have in our program.”  The U of A Equine Program would like to thank Centennial Farms for entrusting them with the care of such a special horse.

Contact name: 
Laura Walker
Contact email:
Released date: 
Jun 10 2010