JC / Railbird

Ask Queenie

Farewell, Queenie

Next Saturday, at a racetrack hundreds of miles away and before a crowd many times larger, another beloved record-setting distaffer known as the Queen may be brought into the winner’s circle for the last time and cheered by fans who have adored her for years.

But stars can be found at every track, and this Saturday, it was Ask Queenie’s time to be celebrated at Suffolk Downs in front of the hometown fans who have followed the 9-year-old mare through an eight-year career in which she won 27 races, finished in the money in 56 of 63 starts, and earned $780,365 — more than any Massachusetts-bred in history.

A winner of 20 state-bred stakes, seven of those against males, and a five-time winner of the Isadorable Stakes, Ask Queenie won races short and long, over turf and dirt. In 2005, she was voted New England’s Horse of the Year by the New England Turf Writers’ Association, picking up additional championship honors that year and in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

In recognition of her accomplishments, Suffolk held a winner’s circle ceremony for the recently retired “Queen of the Mass-Breds” before the day’s fifth race.

“I’ve been around her all her life,” said groom Cindy Thorpe as she rubbed Queenie’s dappled coat in preparation for her final photo. “It’s been an honor.”

Outside Queenie’s stall before the ceremony, balloons — a traditional reward for the mare after a stakes win — twirled on their ribbons in the breeze. “It started when she was a 3-year-old,” said owner Laurine Barreira. “We wanted to get her carrots, but they [the neighborhood grocery] were out, so we got her a balloon and a flower. She was so excited! She tried to break through her webbing.” Barreira kissed Ask Queenie on her nose. “She’s spoiled.”

Ask Queenie

By 1995 Suburban winner Key Contender out of the stakes-placed Time to Ask, Queenie was bred by Barreira’s grandfather, Lloyd Lockhart, and trained by her mother, Lori Lockhart. Her success at Suffolk has been especially meaningful to the Lockhart family, which has deep roots in Massachusetts racing. “She has meant everything to us — financially, emotionally,” said Barreira. “You can’t say enough about her.”

Decked out in Mardi Gras beads and a pink and purple racing bridle, the colors of the family stable, Ask Queenie walked to the paddock, where she paraded before the audience gathered along the fence and posed for photos, gamely wearing an “Officially Retired” tiara. She lost her composure only when the gate opened for the fourth — the one-mile John Kirby Stakes for state-breds, a race she won in 2004 — in front of the grandstand. Tossing her head at the bell, she watched intently as the field ran into the clubhouse turn.

“She thinks she should be running,” laughed an observer.

Ask Queenie
Laurine Barreira (left), Ask Queenie, and Lori Lockhart (right).

Following the Kirby Stakes, Ask Queenie was brought into the winner’s circle, where Barreira and family were presented with a framed photo collage honoring Queenie as “The All-Time Richest Mass-Bred.”

Ask Queenie

Her racing days over, Ask Queenie will begin her new career as a broodmare at one of the Lockhart farms in Massachusetts or Florida. The mare may be bred to Smarty Jones in 2011, and while her first foals may be sold, the family plans to keep at least one of her later foals for racing. “That’ll be fun,” said Barreira.

2/4/11 Update: From Ask Queenie’s Facebook page: “Excited to announce that I will be bred to Awesome Again, who stands at Adena Springs in Kentucky!