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Racing fans remember their favorites for different reasons, but for my wife Irene, a trio horses stand out from her first two trips to Keeneland: champion Housebuster galloping out of the morning mist, champion Unbridled finishing second in the 1990 Blue Grass (to my choice Summer Squall), and champion Bayakoa, in town for the 1990 Spinster.

Although a horse lover from her youth, Irene never had been to a racetrack until we went there together, and having grown up in Georgia, she didn’t have a lot of options for a chance encounter with racing.

But in her first outings to the home of “racing as it was meant to be,” she was suitably impressed by the sport and by the grand horses she had the pleasure of watching. Among the trio, Bayakoa was a special favorite.

The Argentine-bred champion was a daughter of Consultant’s Bid (by Bold Bidder) out of the Argentine-bred Arlucea, by the Nashua stallion Good Manners. Bayakoa won a G1 in her homeland (was twice second in G1 company), then racked up 12 more G1 victories here in the States.

The big bay was a hell of a mare.

Sent to the paddocks here in Kentucky under the watchful eye of Frank Penn, Bayakoa “was a typical hard race mare, who never let down to be a mother, never let down the way you’d expect with a broodmare. She’d run herself fit in the paddock,” Penn said.

Clearly, the dominating attitude and high-energy disposition that made her such an extraordinary racemare posed some hurdles when the mare was supposed to be directing her energies into producing little Bayakoas.

The mare’s independence extended to pretty much every aspect of her life. Penn said that Bayakoa “would trust one person on the farm and didn’t much want anyone else to fool with her. She wasn’t mean or anything, but she had a mind of her own, and we adjusted to her, rather than trying to make her fit our way of doing things.”

Bayakoa was clearly accustomed to being large and in charge, and Penn took the practical horseman’s approach by working with the horse, rather than fighting her. He also learned a lot about what made the mare tick and perhaps some of the things that made her such a successful racer.

He said that “Bayakoa had a tremendous pain threshold, went through colic surgery, and after [Bayakoa’s daughter] Arlucea (by Broad Brush) was born, the mare developed laminitis. After fighting it six weeks, we had to put Bayakoa down because she had too much rotation. She’s buried on the farm here, and people come by a few times a year to see the grave.”

As a racemare, Bayakoa was a real powerhouse, with a tremendous hindquarter that gave her the speed to lead or the kick to finish, depending on the circumstances of the race. The passion to compete that allowed her to be such a success on the track played some role in limiting her success as a broodmare.

None of her four foals showed form remotely in keeping with their great mother. Her two producing daughters are unraced Trinity Place, dam of multiple G1 winner Affluent (by Affirmed), and winner Arlucea, dam of multiple G1-placed Izarra (by Distorted Humor). Penn said that “Trinity Place is parrot-mouthed like Bayakoa but looks more like [her sire] Strawberry Road. Arlucea is more like Bayakoa,” in substance and frame.

Perhaps her daughters and granddaughters will produce more top horses, but even if they do not, the memories of Bayakoa in the saddling paddock at Keeneland have staying power. Who will forget her, with her neck bowed, her eyes virtually blazing, her muscles rippling as she pranced with grace and power?