Quick Call to earn a rare tribute at Saratoga Race Course
by Jim Reisler
The late Quick Call was more than a gritty horse with a knack for coming up big at Saratoga Race Course.
After winning nine of his 17 starts from 1986 to 1991 at the Spa, Quick Call transitioned in his post-racing career to another starring role in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's (TRF) pioneering “Second Chances” vocational training program, working with inmates at Wallkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
That blend of excellence earned Quick Call rock star status at both the Spa and at Wallkill – and now, a rare honor on the Saratoga backstretch. This week, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) will bury the ashes of the two-time Grade 2 Forego champion at Clare Court, the bucolic, half-mile jogging track.
An unveiling of the memorial will be scheduled in July, along with a TRF event to celebrate his life in coordination with the running of the Grade 3 Quick Call on Opening Day, July 15.
“Few thoroughbreds ever had that kind of dual career and did it so well for so long,” said TRF Director of Major Gifts & Planned Giving Kim Weir of Quick Call, who died in October 2019 from the infirmities of old age, at 35. “He had an aura about him. Quick Call was a legendary horse who earned respect from the other horses and from the men at Wallkill. To know he’ll be at rest at Saratoga Race Course, which he loved so much, is a great ending.”
Quick Call will be put to rest at Clare Court, a serene and magical spot on the backstretch named after former Saratoga track superintendent Anne Clare. He will share the hallowed ground with a select group of Thoroughbred racehorses who were beloved stars at Saratoga Race Course.
He joins Fourstardave, another fan favorite from Quick Call’s era who won at least one race for eight straight years at the Spa, as well as two other mid-1980s legends, the Irish-bred turf runner Mounjare, and A Phenomenon, a top sprinter. Like the others, Quick Call will have a headstone commemorating his accomplishments.
Over the course of his 86-start career for owner Lynda Stokes, the gelding won $807,817 on the track and established a 16-15-12 record. Putting his affinity for Saratoga to good use, Quick Call and Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day won the 1988 and ‘89 editions of the Grade 2 Forego Handicap. They narrowly missed a third straight win at the Forego in 1990, losing by a nose to Lay Down.
Prior to retirement, Quick Call, under Jorge Chavez, upset Sewickley in the 1990 Grade 2 Tom Fool at Belmont Park. The son of Quack was trained by Hall of Famers Sid Watters and Warren A. “Jimmy” Croll, Jr. The Quick Call Stakes, now in its 14th year at Saratoga Race Course, is named in his honor.
“He always showed up, he was always prepared, and my goodness, he loved Saratoga, where he had a knack and always stepped it up,” said Day. “Some horses have the talent, but no heart. Quick Call had both talent and heart.”
Just why Quick Call took so well to Saratoga is anyone’s guess. “Whether it was the air, the cool mornings, the racing surface, or all of the above, we’ll never really know,” said Day. “Quick Call was a good horse downstate, but took it to another level at Saratoga. It was a joy to ride him.”
Retired from the track in 1990, Quick Call became a riding horse, before joining the TRF herd in 2001, and spending the next 18 years at Wallkill, where he worked with inmates on the TRF “Second Chances” accredited equine care and stable management program. At Wallkill, Weir said, Quick Call quickly established himself as the most accomplished and respected horse at the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) accredited program.
NYRA and its horsemen are committed supporters of the TAA, which accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retrain, retire, and rehome thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding.
Quick Call wasn’t the first member of the TRF herd at Wallkill; the first to arrive was Promised Road. But at his passing, Quick Call was the senior resident among the approximately 50 horses at Wallkill as well as TRF's 500-member herd at farms across the country.
“Whenever his name is mentioned at a New York track, someone will tell a story about him,” said Pat Stickney, Executive Director of the TRF. “We were honored to have had him in the TRF herd for so many years. People would visit the farm to just see him and to have their picture taken with him. Until the end he was dignified and all class; he knew he was special.”
Bred by Warner Jones, Jr. and David Greathouse, Jr., Quick Call made five starts as a 2-year-old in 1986, winning a Belmont Park maiden race and finishing fifth in the Saratoga Special Stakes. In 1987, he broke through at Saratoga, winning three of four races to help Watters claim the meet championship for trainers with 12 wins. Quick Call was even better in 1988 when he won five of 15 starts including all three Saratoga starts and the first of those two consecutive Grade 2 Foregos.
NYRA TV’s Ernie Munick, who was a handicapper with the New York Daily News when Quick Call reigned at Saratoga, vividly remembered him as a handicapper’s dream – “a fast, classy and reliable horse who first and foremost, liked the wet track, and gave it his best every single time out.”
“He was an honest horse, one you knew would always give you 110 percent,” says Munick. “As a handicapper, I always looked forward to seeing him, and at Saratoga in particular. You knew he’d be there. God bless that horse.”
Day couldn’t be happier that Quick Call’s ashes will soon be at Clare Court.
“He loved Saratoga and I’m delighted he’s getting that honor,” he said. “He really deserves it.”