Descendant of Secretariat turns up at rescue shelter
PALM CITY, FL (NBC) - This weekend horse racing fans will be watching the Breeders' Cup and "Zenyatta", the mare looking for a perfect season. There's a horse in Florida who isn't nearly as well-known, but might deserve the Hollywood treatment.
Heather is a beautiful mare who came to the Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation in Palm City a year ago. She was underweight and suffering from a fungal infection on her belly.
"It was all through here and you can see she's still quite sensitive of it," says Kirsten Nelsen as Heather winces when she's touched.
Volunteers found her to be a handful. Her ailment meant she wasn't nearly as cooperative as the other abandoned and neglected horses around the stables.
"She got more and more defensive and would be a little tough to handle," said Nelsen.
One groomer found something unique about Heather and decided to do a little research. What she discovered surprised everyone.
"We said 'Wow' because she's a bit of a princess," said Nelsen.
First, Heather wasn't her real name, it was Empire Lady. Plus, she was no ordinary lady; this princess was a direct descendent of racing royalty. Her great-great grandsire was Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner from 1973 whose life now plays out on movie screens across the country.
"No wonder she feels so misunderstood. Here she is at a rescue with this regal bloodline," Nelsen said.
So how did they trace Heather's lineage? From a tattoo inside her upper lip. The code A03802 was entered into a horse racing jockey registry database and the connection was made.
Heather actually never raced competitively, but after a few more months of work at the foundation, they hope to get her back in the saddle.
"She's got a lot of good years left in her. She's starting to put muscle back on. We've overcome some major health obstacles. She just needs to start getting ridden again and she'll be a really nice horse for someone," said Nelsen.
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