A party for Harlequin!

Cheers to Harlequin! Photo by Peggy Maness. Click to enlarge!

FRIDAY evening had a golden sunset–what a fitting display for the sunset of Harlequin’s hunting career and the start of his golden years!

Harlequin, nicknamed “The Boomerang” by the hunt staff, is one of our most remarkable hounds. To read his story, click here. But we’ll give you a taste of the kind of foxhound this rebel-turned-leader was with this excerpt:

“I can tell you he was a good leader,” Lilla says. And I’ll turn the mike over to Lilla to tell you how, because she tells the tale better than anyone, having seen it first hand:

“One time hounds were in a covert in Possum Hollow, and it had been a blank day up to that point, dry and hot, one of those days in the drought. It seemed hopeless. But we got in Possum Hollow, and one hound spoke, then two hounds spoke, and then they just erupted. At the very west end of Possum Hollow, out popped a coyote. There just happened to be a medium-sized cow standing there eating by itself. It had obviously gotten out of the field where it belonged. When the coyote came out of the covert, the cow took off and ran down the fenceline. The coyote got right underneath it and ran along with it for about 200 or 300 yards. Then the coyote turned right under the cow and went straight west while the cow continued on north.

Harlequin enjoyed hearing huntsman Lilla Mason tell his story. Photo by Peggy Maness.

“That particular day, we had a few older hounds and a lot of younger hounds, because the fixture was a good place to bring younger hounds. One of older hounds was Harlequin. The hounds came spilling out of covert in full cry, but when they got out they quickly had a check, I suppose because they could smell that cow. We’d all seen the coyote come out, but the cow had foiled his scent. So the hounds swirled around and around, and it was Harlequin that left the group and went up and down that fence line, up and down, again and again. You could see he smelled smething but wasn’t sure. But then he struck off on the line right where the coyote had split off from the cow, like he was saying, ‘Here it is! Here it is!’

“He was that kind of hound: he would rely on himself to help. He puzzled it out, and he was the one who went back on his own to do that. And that does a lot for the puppies coming along, when you have a seasoned hound like that to lead your puppies. That what makes your puppies.”

Harlequin arrives for his retirement party with escorts Michael Edwards (kennel manager) and Amy Dillon. Photo by Peggy Maness.

We auctioned tickets to Harlequin’s retirement party at the Hound Welfare Fund’s 2010 fundraising dinner and auction in March, and what a perfect evening it was. The location was a lovely refurbished log cabin, owned by Iroquois president Derek Vaughan and his wife Neal, that sits on the palisades above Boone Creek and the old Grimes Mill that serves as the Iroquois Hunt’s headquarters. Tucked away in the woods and surrounded by gardens, the cabin provided a perfect setting for Harlequin to receive his guests. Foremost among those was Betsy van Nagell, wife of joint-Master Dr. Jack van Nagell, and a special friend to this special hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason explained why when she took the floor to honor Harlequin: at hunt meets, when she and kennel manager Michael Edwards would count hounds, they often would turn up one hound–or a half-couple, as foxhunters say–short in the count. They’d count again, maybe even debate how many they’d brought, and then one of them would spot the “missing” hound. That would be Harlequin, who, upon being let out of the hound trailer would head straight off for Betsy and sit down next to her horse. Every. single. time. He would gaze adoringly up at her, and nothing would divert his attention from the object of his affection.

Harlequin (Shamrock Xray '96-Bicester Harmony '97), by Peggy Maness

Betsy loves Harlequin as much as he loves her, and his retirement party was made possible in large part by her generous donation, including the Moet & Chandon Champagne whose corks popped cheerfully before the big toast to the evening’s star.

Harlequin with his closest friend, Betsy van Nagell (right). Photo by Peggy Maness.

The Hound Welfare Fund thanks Betsy not only for her contributions to Harlequin’s party, but also for her years of support for the fund. We also thank Derek and Neal Vaughan for opening their cabin for this special occasion, caterer Cooper Vaughan of Dupree Catering for a splendid repast, and photographer and frequent Hound Welfare Fund volunteer Peggy Maness for capturing it all in pictures.

Thanks are also due to the many hound lovers, Iroquois members and non-members alike, who have helped to make wonderful retirements like Harlequin’s possible. Thanks to your support, the Iroquois Hunt retires all of its hounds, allowing them to live out their days in comfort at the kennel and to pass away peacefully and with dignity when the times comes.

The Iroquois Hunt has been around for more than 125 years. It was founded in 1881 in a very different era, and it has endured in large measure because its members and Masters have been responsible stewards who maintained the hunt’s good name and honorable reputation among landowners and in the larger community. It’s in this spirit that the Hound Welfare Fund continues the tradition of responsible breeding, care, and retirement for every member of the hunt’s working pack–a tradition that also burnishes the good name of the Iroquois Hunt Club, and, by extension, that of its members, both hunting and social.

An elegant setting for Harlequin's party.

All of our hounds are valuable to us, and, frankly, it’s not easy to come up with just one as our annual Retiree of the Year!

So, please, wherever you are, please raise a glass to Harlequin, and to all the other hounds you know. They deserve it!

How ’bout that Box!

HE didn’t win, but, man oh man, Ice Box overcame significant traffic trouble and was closing fastest of all with a furious, blazing run on the far outside! If you had him across the board in the Kentucky Derby yesterday, you got a nice payoff anyway for place and show. Ice Box paid $11.20 to place and $8 to show. Not to mention you got a thrilling run for your money!

He’s a mudder, and his mother musta been a mudder. Which is interesting, because our Icebox actually isn’t a mudder at all.

Oh, right, yes, Super Saver won by 2 1/2 lengths.

If you don’t remember why the hound blog cares so much about the 2010 Kentucky Derby’s second-place finisher, click here for a refresher.

Ice Box wasn't the only mudder at the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Trust me, we saw worse than this!

When we returned home from Churchill Downs last night, we asked Mr. Box how he managed to pull it off.

“I think I probably was running to  get out of the mud,” he said.

Will he go to the Preakness?

“Oh, I don’t know,” he demurred. “Are there biscuits? I hear the Belmont has great big biscuits.”

At least Mr. Box didn’t lose a shoe. Judging by the number of flip-flops (more like flip-slops after the heavy rains on Derby Day), tennis shoes, and hiking boots we found abandoned in the parking lot and on the sidewalks around Churchill Downs, a fair number of the patrons did. Here are a couple of especially compelling examples in a department we’ll call …

Lost Soles of the Kentucky Derby

Some of the numerous shoes we saw left behind in the parking lot near Churchill Downs after the Derby, their owners apparently having been Raptured .... but they were nice enough to leave their drinks behind for the rest of us!

... but it was nice of them to leave their drinks behind!

The evidence tells the tale: this guy was handicapping the second race when he simply vanished, leaving muddy shoes, damp socks, and the all-important Daily Racing Form Derby Edition behind.

The Derby is really one big party, and there’s a lot of debris in the aftermath. Amazingly, by dawn on Sunday, the track’s all-night cleaning crew sweeps everything up. But before then … it looks like an impossibly large job.

This morning, our Derby runner-up slept in (“It was raining,” he explained), stretched his legs with a little run around the bottom of the staircase with Harry and Bingo, and declined to go outside, even for Important Business (“It’s still raining,” he explained.). Asked how his life had changed, Mr. Box said, “Well, it seems like it’s rained a whole lot more.”

Paging Noah …

Icebox is right. We’re in the middle of the worst full-day downpour we’ve seen in months. This prompted the houndbloggers to take a drive back down to Boone Creek and the Iroquois Hunt Club to see how things were looking. The creek was rising fast, and we estimated that the rapids were only about 18 inches under the bridge by the time we left at about 3:30 p.m. Luckily, the intrepid Debbie Young had already been in to bring things up from the basement, and while we were there IHC president Derek Vaughan and neighboring landowner Chas Martin also were on the scene, so Grimes Mill was in good hands.

This flood already looked larger than the one we saw last fall.

The ground was thoroughly waterlogged, but we hope things will start to dry out soon so that we can get back to riding. In the meantime, we hope you’re all staying warm and dry–and that you cashed a ticket on Mr. Box!

A houndblogger at the mutuel window. Hooray for Ice Box!

Happy Sunday, everyone!