July 25, 2024

In memoriam: Champion Turkoman dies at 34

Images of Turkoman from Kellie Reilly's 1986 scrapbook

Turkoman, the champion older male of 1986, was euthanized Wednesday at the grand old age of 34. Pensioned from stud duty at E.A. Ranches in 2008, the son of Alydar spent his final years at the Ramona, California, farm.

The sad news of his passing came via press release from Our Mims Retirement Haven near Paris, Kentucky. Our Mims had been the last home of Turkoman’s dam, Argentinean champion Taba, as well as his half-sister, Taba Dance, and his cremated remains will be laid to rest near them.

A homebred campaigned by Corbin Robertson’s Saron Stable, Turkoman was a big, rangy closer who had “late developer” stamped all over him. The Gary Jones trainee was accordingly knocking on the door throughout 1985, most notably finishing second to Chief’s Crown in the Travers (G1), just missing in the Swaps (G1), and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Aqueduct.

By the time of the one-mile Affirmed (G3) back at Hollywood that December, however, Turkoman was coming into his own, and rolled from far off the hot pace to notch his first stakes win. It was a harbinger of things to come, and the opening act of a four-race winning spree with regular rider Chris McCarron.

Turkoman shortened up to six furlongs for his 1986 debut, the Tallahassee H. at Hialeah, but the turnback was no problem. Erasing a gigantic double-digit deficit to go last to first, the dark bay surged 2 3/4 lengths clear.

That set him up perfectly for the 1 1/4-mile Widener H. (G1) next time out. Once more sweeping from far back in last-to-first fashion, Turkoman got up over Darn That Alarm and Gate Dancer, in a track-record 1:58.60 at historic Hialeah. He defeated Gate Dancer again in their ensuing start in the Oaklawn H. (G2).

Turkoman’s skein was halted in the Metropolitan H. (G1), but he lost no caste with a wide-closing fourth in Belmont’s prestigious one-turn mile. After his summer holiday, he resumed in the seven-furlong Forego (G2), came from the clouds, and nearly caught the brilliant Groovy.

As with the Tallahassee-to-Widener program, the pattern of sprint-to-10 furlongs worked like a charm when Turkoman stepped up to the classic distance for the Marlboro Cup (G1). Biding his time in the rear as Hall of Famer Precisionist controlled the pace, Turkoman cut him down in deep stretch. His rider, for the one and only time, was a youthful Gary Stevens.

Turkoman concluded his career with a pair of honorable seconds. In his only try at 1 1/2 miles, he was just outdueled by the stalwart Crème Fraiche in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). His deep-closing style left him with too much to do in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita, and he had to settle for runner-up to Skywalker.

Retired with $2,146,924 in earnings from his 22-8-8-3 line, Turkoman entered stud at Darby Dan in Kentucky, and ultimately wound up in California. When his breeding days at E.A. Ranches were done, he had to move again, but failed to thrive in his new home. E.A. Ranches manager Marguerite Eliasson swung into action, as the release explains:

“After Turkoman’s pensioning, not all of the stallion’s syndicate shareholders agreed to continue to pay toward his care, and he was moved to a different farm. But E. A. Ranches’ farm manager Marguerite Eliasson soon heard from connections there that Turkoman was not doing well, pacing the fence line and losing weight.

“Knowing that Our Mims Retirement Haven had housed both Turkoman’s ‘aunt’ Our Mims [i.e., half to Alydar] and his dam Taba, Ms. Eliasson contacted Haven owner and manager Jeanne Mirabito. Through discussions between Eliasson, Mirabito, and Haven director of fund raising and promotion Cheryl Bellucci, a solution was reached: If the syndicate would pay the same amount they were paying to board Turkoman elsewhere, then Eliasson, the Haven, and a diehard Turkoman fan named Sandy Smith, who lived in Michigan, would make up the difference.

“Turkoman returned to E. A. Ranches in October 2008.

“There was talk about bringing him to Kentucky, but Turkoman was happiest at E. A. Ranches,” Bellucci recalls. “We were so glad when the syndicate agreed to continue partial payment of his care.”

“Carroll Robertson Ray and Rose Hochner Nelson, the daughter and granddaughter of Corbin and Wilhelmina Robertson, Turkoman’s owners during his racing career, provided a grant to the Haven for the nonprofit’s portion of Turkoman’s board.”

Turkoman sired Grade 1 turf winners Turk Passer and Man from Wicklow, as well as Peruvian classic winner Captain Garfio, but his enduring legacy lives on through his daughters. As a broodmare sire, Turkoman is responsible for such major performers as Hard Spun, Colonel John, and Hall of Famer Point Given.


1 Comment on In memoriam: Champion Turkoman dies at 34

  1. What a beautifully written article. It is logically organized, satisfyingly complete, and eminently readable, with just the right touch of sentiment. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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