Every race track has a horse that fans adopt as their own. For many years, that horse at Golden Gate Fields has been Bold Chieftain. While still an icon every time he takes to the track, a new local favorite took to the track on Sunday. His name is easier to pronounce than it is to read.
He is Shudacudawudya (Shoulda Coulda Would ya) and his story is growing with every trip to the post.
Winner of three of his first six races, including the Golden Nugget Stakes back in 2009, Shuda ran in the 2010 California Derby and finished fourth. After the race, it was determined that he suffered a fracture in his hind leg.
His owner and breeder Brett Mason thinks the injury may have happened during his victory in the Nugget, when he stumbled mid race before running down Saratoga invader Tiny Woods for a ¾ of a length victory.
The injury sent Shuda to surgery and to the sidelines with his future in doubt. It took a year for him to recover and made his return to the track just 13 months later. He won an allowance race over a tough four horse field.
His next outing came a month later against Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King, who was prepping for a return to Dubai. Shuda made a race of it but finished a close second. Again, he went back to the sidelines. After a seven month break, he came back Sunday in yet another small, but tough, allowance field. Sent off as the second choice behind multiple stakes winner Tribesman, Shuda moved from third on the far turn and eased away from Tribesman for a four-length win.
If you don’t think the fans have taken to him, you should have seen the way the cheers went up as he came back to the winners circle.
“ Anyone who has ever been hurt, knows how hard it is to get back into competition. Injuries tend to make you back off a bit,” said Mason “For this horse to get hurt twice, and come back and run like he did at that level and win, is something that every sports fan, athlete and animal lover can appreciate and admire.”
Shuda’s record speak for itself. He has run 10 times, (9 at Golden Gate Fields) and has 5 wins, three seconds and one third. His only time off the board was the California Derby and his only race away from home was a third place finish in the 2009 Stuka Stakes at Hollywood Park. But more than a race horse, Shuda is part of the Mason family. Brett’s father Lloyd trains the horse and regular jockey Francisco Duran has been aboard in all 10 of his races.
“He is special to so many people,” Brett said when explaining what the horse means to the barn. “From Rancho San Miguel that raised him, Faith Taylor and Dianne Lambert that broke him, Dr. Kim Kuhlman and Dr. Steve Matuzak that have put him back together, to our gallop boy Carlos and especially his groom Ubentino that spends so much time working on him. He is Joe Cool around the barn and our hero on the track.”
I asked Brett if he ever wondered what would have happened, had Shuda not been injured. His response summed up what owning and training is all about.
“Fate is a funny thing. I actually had his full brother in training, who was a year older than Shudacuda. His brothers name was Talk Derby Baby. He was outworking older horses as a two year old. He was one work away from his first race and he came down with Colic one afternoon. We fought all night to save him but lost him the next morning. I was so distraught by it all that, i gave their mare, Sunny Miss, away to a little girl. I honestly believe Shudacuda runs for his brother that we lost.”
It’s not known when we will see Shuda next, but you can be sure of one thing. He will not be alone when he enters the gate. He never is.