Challenge: Sweet Daphne

Adequan Derby contender Zoomin Daphne and her owner are making a difference.

Q-Racing Journal

Bruce Ironshirt and Zoomin Daphne are making an impact on and off the racetrack. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

It is a fact that horses can help heal people, as most horsepeople can attest. Bruce Ironshirt of Standoff, Alberta, has been blessed with horses, and is in the business of helping heal people.

For 28 years, Ironshirt has served in the administration of his Native American tribe, the Blood Tribe, and currently serves as the administration director of community support. The Blood Tribe is the largest reservation in Canada, with approximately 12,000 members, and a member of the greater Blackfoot Confederacy.

“They are all my family,” Ironshirt says of his tribe. “The best part of my job is working with the elders, working with the families. Those that need our services.”

He oversees programs such as a food bank and assisted living program to help those in need have a better life.

“That’s the best part of my job, every day working with my people in the program,” he says. “And that goes right back to being blessed with the horses. One elder told me horses are very holistic. They’re there to help you, and if you take care of them they will take care of you.”

Ironshirt was raised with horses around. He bought his first racehorse in 1992, a yearling bred by E.J. Keller named Flynfirstclassangel. The Flying Effort mare did extremely well for herself, winning the 1993 QHRBSA of Alberta Breeders’ Futurity (RG3) and finishing second in the Canadian Bred Futurity (R) in her racing career.

Ironshirt has come to Prairie Meadows with his Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3) contender Zoomin Daphne, whom he bought at the 2012 Heritage Place Yearling Sale, paying $7,500 for her.

Bred in Oklahoma by Henry Brown, she is by Azoom, a 12-year-old son of Shazoom. Azoom won 11 of 14 of his career starts, including the Texas Classic Futurity (G1), Sam Houston Futurity (G1) and TQHA Sale Futurity (RG1). He earned $738,136. The stallion has sired 219 winners from 353 starters, with earnings exceeding $6.5 million.

Dam La Reina De La Noche is an unraced daughter of First Down Dash, and a full sister to Grade 1 winner Valors Gold ($319,071), stakes-placed runner Remarkably Ritzy ($200,138), Grade 1-placed runner and champion sire Brookstone Bay ($184,769) and Grade 1-producer Le Mishka. La Reina De La Noche also produced stakes-placed runner GBH Big Henry ($19,456).

“I liked her bloodlines and conformation,” Ironshirt says of why he chose Zoomin Daphne. “I liked Azoom, and of course her mother, she is from a black type family. With the yearlings you never know. I took a gamble on that one.”

His gamble has paid off.

Zoomin Daphne won once in seven starts as a 2-year-old, but she bloomed as a 3-year-old, crossing the wire first in all but one of her seven starts this year (she was disqualified from one of those wins). She has appeared to be getting stronger as time goes on. Three starts ago, she prevailed in the $28,574 Adequan Evergreen Derby Challenge, qualifying for the $200,000 Adequan Derby Challenge Championship (G3). She returned in September to dominate her Canadian Cup Derby (R) trial by nearly two lengths. Two weeks later she came back in the $21,403 Canadian Cup Derby to dominate again by 1 ½ lengths.

“I was thrilled,” Ironshirt says. “She just started to run very well. She earned her berth here. That’s why we came here to Prairie Meadows.”

Zoomin Daphne has earned $32,983 in her racing career, and a career-high speed index of 106.

But Ironshirt and Zoomin Daphne have made an impact off the track as well as on it. For about five years, he has worked with small groups of disadvantaged children, bringing them out to work with the horses, including Zoomin Daphne.

“These kids like working with horses, they connect very well with them,” he says. “They start working with them, start riding and just connect so well they got better and better.”

The kids are assigned a horse to take care of, and Ironshirt shows them how to work with the horses. There are rules: the kids must attend school if they want to work with the horses, and also must do chores such as clean stalls and groom before they’re allowed to ride. They ride three days a week, and love to barrel race and do pole bending.

Ironshirt has the support of his family, including three grown children and five grandchildren. He made the 24 hour trip to bring Zoomin Daphne to one of the biggest stages in American Quarter Horse racing, and says he has the full support of his family, who are cheering him on.

“It’s a big event for us,” he says. “But (Zoomin Daphne) has earned her right to be here.”

Zoomin Daphne and her people are taking care of each other.

The Bank of America Challenge Championships are October 18 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. Stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at www.aqharacing.com