Story and photo: Jennifer Morrison
Time was running out for Dr. Ruth Barbour to find a young horse to buy at the 2014 Heritage Place Quarter Horse yearling sale in Oklahoma City. There were over 800 yearlings in the sales catalogue, but Barbour was finding it hard to find an affordable prospect and in a couple of hours, it would be time to head back home to Canada.
“Dig that plough a little deeper,” said her husband Doug Jackson as he encouraged her to try and uncover a yearling to take to their Grey Winds Farm.
Barbour, a veterinarian in Hillsburgh, Ontario and a small Thoroughbred breeder with her sister Gail Wood, had only recently started to dabble in Quarter Horses. She spotted a large, flashy gelding named Country Boy 123, hip no. 335 in the sale, and started bidding. In a matter of minutes, the horse was hers for $7,200 (US).
What followed in the two years since that fateful purchase is everything, and anything, a race owner dreams about. Country Boy 123 rose to the top of his crop in 2016, winning the Picov Derby and Adequan Derby Challenge at Ajax Downs. He was named the 2016 Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-old male at the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario Inc. Awards in November.
Barbour, who is the only one who rides ‘CB’ unless he is at the track, is preparing him for his 4-year-old season, taking him out every two days for hacks and canters around her wooded property.
“Last year, at this time, he looked like a big kid,” said Barbour. “He feels so different this year. He’s a man. He is so massive.”
‘CB’ is a carrot-loving, attention-seeking giant fellow who, according to Barbour, has a “good heart but can still get up to trouble” when he is out for exercise. Barbour, who also has an unraced 3-year-old, Furr Shear, for this year’s Ajax Downs meeting, is pointing Country Boy 123 to the trials for the $50,000 Picov Maturity on May 20.
“He will have a couple of workouts [at Ajax] to get ready,” said Barbour, who still finds the success of ‘CB’ ‘surreal.’
“Whatever happens this year, he doesn’t owe us anything.”