GRIT AND VALOR
THE STORY OF A HORSE NAMED SWALE
Woodford Cefis Stephens, affectionately known as: Woody, was born in Stanton, Kentucky on September 1 1913. Woody was born into very humble circumstances in the Bluegrass country. His father was a sharecropper, and, as a result, the family did not have a great deal of money. Woody developed a great passion for thoroughbreds early on, and began his career breaking yearlings when he was only 13 years old. Secretly, Woody always wanted to be a jockey. It was a desire that he simply could not shake. In 1929, he would begin training as an apprentice up in New York. Two years later, he would win his very first race down in Florida at the Hialeah racetrack aboard a horse named, DIRECTLY. Woody would not be a jockey for long, however, as a sharp growth spurt, coupled with a slight weight gain subsequently ended his career as a jockey. So, Woody changed from riding horses to training them. Woody's initial sucess as a trainer came in 1940, when the horse, BRONZE BULGE, won a seven furlong race at the historic Keeneland Race Course in his native Kentucky. Because he had such an incredible knack for understanding horses, success followed success for Woody. As a result, he ran a public stable throughout the decades of the 1940's and 1950's, training many winning thoroughbreds in the process. In 1952, Woody would achieve the first of many classic victories when BLUE MAN sormed to a decisive victory in the Preakness Stakes. Woody had a knack alright. It was the knack of being able to get more out of a thoroughbred than any other trainer could. This was a special gift he possessed. Perhaps Mr. Seth Hancock, the owner of Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, put it best during a eulogy at Woody's funeral on August 26 1998: "If you knew Woody, he was your friend, and you loved him. Horses knew he loved them, and they ran their hearts out for him." That was such a beautiful tribute to Woody. One individual who saw this rare talent early on was Harry F. Guggenheim. In the late 1950's, he convinced Woody to take over the famous Cain Hoy Stable. It proved to be a great decision on Guggenheim's part. That's because under Woody's direction, the stable would do what had hitherto been considered to be utterly impossible. It would unseat the vaunted Calumet Farm, as the most successful throughbred horse racing and breeding farm in all of North America during the late 1950's and early 1960's. Woody would remain with Cain Hoy until 1966. He would train many great champions for them, including BALD EAGLE, perhaps the farm's best, who won the 1959 Suburban Handicap, as well as back-to-back Washington D.C. Internationals. Late in 1966, Woody would reopen his own public stable, and continue his winning ways, training two more champions. In 1974, Woody would achieve one of his greatest victories, when CANONADE, won the 99th running of, the one and only, Kentucky Derby. Exactly ten years later, Woody would win that glorious race once again with SWALE, one of SEATTLE SLEW'S greatest and most beloved sons.
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