If you followed steeplechase racing back in 2010 and 2011, you might recall an up-and-comer named Good Request, who raced in the colors of Coppertree Farm. Bred by Juddmonte Farms, Good Request was a son of Dynaformer, the magnificent stallion and sire of champion jumper McDynamo.
After a 13-race career on the flat — winning twice for owner-trainer Bobby Frankel — competing at tracks including Belmont Park, Saratoga, Keeneland, and Santa Anita, Good Request made the transition to hurdle racing under the care of trainer Tom Voss, where he quickly impressed. He won twice, finished second three times, and third once in seven starts with Paddy Young in the saddle for all but one of those races. Overall, Good Request had a solid racing career, with 15 of 20 in-the-money finishes and $214,000 in earnings.
Time, of course, has a way of passing swiftly. Horses come and go, and we, sadly, sometimes lose track of their whereabouts.
Flash forward to late August 2013. Krysta Kelly was working as a waitress at a diner in Upstate New York, when she heard from a customer about a horse who needed a home. Krysta, who had worked on a farm for years, reached out to the horse’s owner, who described the gelding as a “diamond in the rough who needs some love.”
Sight-unseen Krysta scrambled to pull together $500 to purchase the horse, named Hercules, and a month later traveled to Afton, N.Y., a small village about 30 miles northeast of Binghamton in Chenango County to pick him up. What she encountered next, however, was unsettling.
“When I opened the door to his stall, I was horrified at what I saw,” Krysta recalled. “He was at least 300 to 400 pounds underweight. I had never cared for a horse who was so underweight.
“When we first got home, I put him in his stall and let him settle down. Once I closed the gate, I put the lead line on him and let him graze and walk around a bit. His coat was dusty, dull, and dirty. His ribs, spine and hip bones were exposed. The look in his eye was of defeat and unsureness. I watched as he grazed for a while as we walked. I’d talk to him and reassure him that he was OK and I wouldn’t let anything happen to him. After we grazed and walked, I put him in his stall for the night with a handful of grain. I watched him eat his dinner and told him I’d be back in the morning.”
The next morning Krysta repeated the routine. “I fed him his handful of breakfast and then we’d go walk and he’d graze as we’d go. The sequence played out again for lunch and dinner. Each time I’d go to the barn to feed him, he’d start to nicker very softly and the defeated look in his eye began to lift.”
After about two weeks of hand walking around the field, Krysta sectioned off a part of it and started turning him out, and continued to feed him breakfast, lunch, and dinner, slowly increasing his intake.
Curious about his breed as well as his past, Krysta enlisted the help of a family friend, who thought Hercules might be a standardbred, but they soon discovered he was a thoroughbred by his lip tattoo. But what particular thoroughbred? Krysta posted photos of the tattoo on several equine web sites to identify the horse. It wasn’t long before she found out his name was Good Request.
“He truly was a diamond in the ruff and just needed a little polish,” said Krysta, adding that her plans quickly changed from restoring him to good health and reselling him, to providing him with a forever home.
Today, at age 17, Good Request, aka Hercules, is the picture of health, and enjoys trail rides, giving pony rides to Krysta’s little sister, Leah, and “just chilling in my father’s back yard in Bethel with the dogs.”
“On the rare occasion that Hercules gets loose, as long as someone is home he’ll hang out in the yard. If not, he’ll trot up and down the road until he gets to the neighbor’s house, where he will graze until he’s caught. He is very loved and spoiled now. He is a very special boy to me.”
At one point, Krysta thought about a new name, but eventually dismissed the idea. “He knows his name very well, and Hercules seemed to fit. So it stuck.”