Primal Humor had sunk to the nethermost rung on the claiming ladder at Suffolk Downs by 2010, and his owner, convinced he was worthless, was giving him away.
Jockey Tammi Campbell Piermarini implored her niece to adopt the Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor, who had sold three years before for $200,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
“My aunt rode him in races, liked him and was worried about him,” said retired jockey Janelle Campbell, who at the time aspired to be like Piermarini, the third all-time leading woman rider by wins.
Campbell, who worked her way up on the backside of the New England tracks, took the horse, nicknamed him “Homie,” and brought him into trainer Billy Lagorio’s barn.
“In just two days, he was our pony,” Campbell said. “Billy had a horse who needed a gate card so we said, ‘What the heck, the pony knows what he’s doing’. With me up, Homie blew the doors off the other horse, and everyone looked at me and said, ‘You’re learning how to ride.’ ”
Homie was an excellent teacher.
“I think I rode 20 races in 2012, learning the whole time on him, and I won my first race on him at Suffolk on June 8, 2013,’’ said Campbell, who retired last year with 50 wins from 826 mounts and $914,211 in purse earnings. She is now an assistant trainer, pony girl and exercise rider for David Hinsley.
Once Primal Humor, who earned $54,695 in his career from 62 starts, finished seventh as a $5,000 claimer on Sept. 15, 2015 at Suffolk with her aboard, that was it.
“I promised him he was never going to race again and he was staying with me for the rest of his life,” she said.
While working for Hinsley at Tampa Bay Downs one recent winter, she took Homie, the stable pony, to the Run for the Ribbons Thoroughbred Horse Show on a whim.
“We had no idea what we were doing, but he started jumping and thought it was the greatest thing. We did the walk-trot-canter, and then we started off with 18-inch cross rails and neither one of us had done it before, but we pretended we did. Now he can jump 2 feet 6 inches. He really likes the speed rounds,” Campbell said.
Homie, now 11, competes in off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) shows against more experienced horses and is a champion in three divisions: in-hand class, green horse jumping and flats, and open Thoroughbred hunter/jumper and flats.
“We don’t practice, we just go straight from the track and he has won over 50 ribbons, plus a bunch of reserve ribbons,” said Campbell, who watched YouTube videos to learn some of the required moves for horse and rider. “Neither of us knew how to do any of this, so we taught each other. He’ll do anything I ask him to. Then, the next day he goes back to ponying and is as happy as a clam.”
Campbell said that when stabled at Monmouth Park last summer she turned down a $10,000 offer for him.
“No way. Never,” she said. “He’s my boy.”
Even better, Homie is her miracle horse.
“He was born 10 days after my grandmother, Suzanne Campbell, died. She and I were big into showing Morgans and Saddlebreds, but after she passed I never showed again until Homie came along. I believe she sent him to me, especially since Tammi is the one who begged me to take him when she didn’t even know that part about him and her mom,” she said. “I love him more than anything and I believe he’s supposed to be mine. Homie is my angel.”