Bee A Magician Retired
Trot Insider has learned that Bee A Magician, one of the best Canadian-sired horses to ever set foot on the racetrack, has been retired at the age of seven and will start a broodmare career.
A daughter of Kadabra and the first foal from the Balanced Image mare Beehive, Bee A Magician was trained throughout her stellar career by Richard 'Nifty' Norman for owners Mel Hartman of Ottawa, Ont., Canadian expat Herb Liverman of Miami Beach, Fl., and David Mc Duffee of Delray Beach, Fl. Her lifetime summary reads 45-14-3 from 72 starts with more than $4.1 million in earnings. That total ranks only behind Arch Madness ($4.3 million) among Canadian-sired Standardbred racehorses, making her the highest earning Canadian-sired female racehorse in history.
A divisional winner three times in Canada and twice in the U.S., Bee A Magician won Horse of the Year honours in both Canada and the U.S. in 2013.
Bee A Magician was in training for her return when she incurred a soft tissue injury to her right front leg. Last May, Bee A Magician sustained a similar issue with her left front leg and that injury knocked her out of action for four months. Norman wouldn't speculate as to whether the 2016 setback has any bearing on the tear that has essentially ended her racing career.
"I don't know, it just seems a little coincidental. And I don't know why it happens because she's been such a sound horse her whole life," Norman told Trot Insider. "The best I can say is, like any athlete that performs at a high level for many years, as soon as things start going wrong they compensate, things change."
The injury came as quite a surprise to Norman, who was impressed and pleased with Bee A Magician's progress toward her 2017 campaign up until that point.
"It's a shame because she was really training back great. And everybody that saw her and that's around her, we all thought she was going to have a really big year," said the trainer. "It was just the timing more than anything...last year this didn't happen until May so it was too late to breed her and we said 'we'll get her back and we'll race her.' She came back good, but with this timing I said to the guys, 'you're going to miss four months: that's the guts of the season.' And they all agreed maybe it's just time to breed her. She's been good to us, she doesn't owe anybody anything."
Co-owner Herb Liverman (L) accepts the 2013 O'Brien Award from Kent Oakes as Bee A Magician
is named Canada's Horse of the Year
Of her 72 lifetime starts, each one came in a stakes event or in an Open race. Not only did she win more than she lost, she also tackled the best of the best for six straight years and also faced off against male counterparts (successfully) on multiple occasions. Like all good things, however, Bee A Magician's racing days had to come to an end.
"She was a good two-year-old and a great three-year-old, and now she's raced at four, five and six as well. You can't expect them to go on forever at that level," admitted Norman, who credits the mare with helping him purchase his house. "She's something else, and that's why you're going to miss her so much."
When it comes to ranking other horses he's trained, the response from Norman came quickly and decisively: the best, by far, Bee A Magician. He figures she has essentially paid for his house.
"She's by far the best horse I've ever had and probably will ever have. They just don't come along, horses that make four million dollars. It's unbelievable. And there's a lot to be proud of, you know...we picked her out as a yearling, we broke her, we've had her her whole career, and the same guys have owned her and they're going to keep her and breed her. It's a great story, really.
"And she was bred at White Birch Farm where we train. She's basically been at the same farm her entire life, where she was born."
It's a story he's told many people, and Norman is quick to recall once more the first and lasting impression Bee A Magician made on him nearly seven years ago.
The connections of Bee A Magician (including Mel Hartman, third from R) in the winner's circle
after Bee A Magician wins the 2013 OSS Super Final
"I went up to White Birch to the yearling end to look at her, I had an appointment to go look at her and somebody else already had her out on the blacktop, running her up and down the road," recounted Norman. "I pulled up and I didn't even get out of the car. I said, 'I've seen enough' and drove off. I called David Mc Duffee that day and said 'I've found a Kadabra for us' and the rest is history."
Selling on the fourth and final day of the 2011 Harrisburg yearling portion, Norman thought when Bee A Magician hit the sales ring they would have to go higher than the $90,000 she eventually sold for.
"I knew a lot of people liked her and I thought on the day she was a good buy at that...we bought some other Kadabras that year and paid more for them."
The $90,000 investment made in Bee A Magician would pay off handsomely with a list of stakes wins that many Hall of Fame horses can't match. Among her major victories: the Maple Leaf Trot, Hambletonian Oaks, two Breeders Crown Finals, two Ontario Sires Stakes Super Finals, the Peaceful Way, Elegantimage, Armbro Flight, Moni Maker and Centaur Trot. With a list of 45 wins to choose from, Norman couldn't point to one that sticks out the most but admitted he was impressed with her 2016 return race this past October at Yonkers Raceway.
"I couldn't isolate any one particular race or effort, I think she gave her best effort all the time," noted Norman. "She's just amazing. That she came back last year from five months off and [won] a $250,000 race right off the bat off a qualifier, and beat a really good field, to me that showed a lot of guts and class. That was her."
Norman gave credit to his staff, especially groom Stephanie Petherick, for the amazing job they did in keeping Bee A Magician in such outstanding shape for the entire duration of her racing career. But now, Bee A Magician's career becomes that of a broodmare. Norman notes that while not every super-successful distaffer can duplicate that success as a producer, he feels Bee A Magician possesses qualities that will serve her well.
"There are lots of theories about that, mares that race a lot and for a lot of years. I guess the theory is that a lot of those horses try so hard and give such an effort that they leave a lot of it on the track. I'm not so sure about that. I've seen great mares like her leave a good horse, and she's always been in such good physical shape...she's never really been sick or lame. She's been pretty problem-free physically so I think there's a very good chance she'll be a great broodmare as well.
"We were talking about her yesterday at the breeding farm there, this mare has done everything so good she'll probably go out and leave a champion as well because that's just the way she is."
Aside from her personal attributes, Norman spoke highly of the mare's bloodlines -- especially those of her Hall of Fame father.
"I've always said that Kadabra is the most underrated sire in North America. He doesn't get a hell of a lot of credit and he's been a great sire. And anytime I see Balanced Image on the dam's side, that's something you look for. She's not the only one the cross has worked for, that's for sure."
While he didn't want to speak for them, Norman leaned toward the first foal of Bee A Magician being retained by Hartman, Liverman & Mc Duffee.
Connections of two great Ontario-sired trotters as Team San Pail presents the 2015 Maple Leaf Trot trophy
to Bee A Magician's connections
"Those guys are racers, really. They have a good band of broodmares but they like to race. I think if it's a good individual, especially if it's a filly because they love racing fillies, I think they'll keep it for sure."
And when asked if he'd be the one to train that future foal, Norman replied with a smile that he'd "have to start twisting some arms there but I've already started working on that."
Norman said the decision to retire Bee A Magician came on Thursday but, surprisingly, she has already been bred. And the sire? Just the hottest sire in harness racing, Muscle Hill.
"It was kind of cool because we just decided yesterday and I said 'you know what, I have to get her out to the breeding farm.' A lot of the staff wanted to keep her around for a little while, a lot of tears were shed. But I thought I better get her out to the breeding farm and get her ready to get bred.
"We got kind of lucky, the vet was there at the farm when I dropped her off and I said 'you better check that mare while you're here.' He checked her and said 'you know what, she's good to go, we can breed her tomorrow. So that's what happened: we dropped her off yesterday and she got bred today. A little bit of fate there, maybe."
So for the first time in quite some time, Bee A Magician is not at White Birch and she's not in training.
"She's out at a little place called Yorktowne Farm in York, PA. That's where the owners keep quite a few of their mares," stated Norman. "Deb James looks after them, she's a wonderful lady and does a great job. That's going to be her new home for now."
Can that Kadabra magic strike twice for Norman? He's hoping that with Bee A Magician retired, O'Brien finalist Magic Presto can take the baton (wand?) for his stable.
"An old guy told me years ago, 'you take care of the horse, the horse will take care of you.' And it works pretty good, that method."