What Is Meant To Be Will Be

Dalarna wins the English Channel Stakes at Belmont Park in 2017; he is now retired and under the care of Samantha Cripps. (Adam Coglianese/NYRA)

After Entangle and her colt left, I started a new job and decided that it was time to try working with yearlings. I did not mind working with teenage horses, but I did not get the same buzz as teaching babies the ABCs of being a good horse.

A young Dalarna. (Samantha Cripps photo)

As time went on, I started a job as a vet tech at one of the local vet clinics. We mostly did reproductive vet work which was perfect as it allowed me to spend time with lots of mares and foals at many different farms. One day we were asked to pull "Coggins" (a test required before a horse can travel) on some 2-year-olds that were ready to go to the racetrack. As I started labeling blood tubes and organizing the paperwork for the vet, I saw a familiar name and got very excited! Dalarna (Entangle-K One King) was written on one of the papers!  He had been named and I tried to keep my cool until we got to his stall. He had gotten much bigger since the last time I had seen him and I followed the vet into the stall and gave him a pat on the neck and my heart fluttered, that feeling of happiness and excitement you get when you have not seen a good friend in a long time. I wished him luck and exited his stall. I wanted to feel sad, but I could not help but have that same feeling I did the night he was born. “He is going to be a champion, and I will always be his biggest fan.”

After the breeding season ended it was time for me to move on, so I followed my love for mares and foals to Australia. I hopped on a plane and arrived just in time for the first few foals to arrive. Working with young horses can be challenging. I have always thought about this way: I am a teacher and the foals are my students. There are shy students, pushy students, kind students, troublemaker students and smart students, and I have always felt it is my responsibility to teach in a way that allows them to reach their highest potential.

On April 21, 2017, Dalarna was ready to make his first start! I had moved to Ireland by now and watched his first race at Keenland where he ran a very good second. I was not worried as a lot of good horses do not win their first start. After five tries, over four different racetracks, he was a winner. I had decided to move to New Zealand to continue foaling mares and I set an alarm for the middle of the night as I had gotten an alert that Dalarna was going to run in a stakes race at Belmont Park. He broke well but ran last most of the race until he showed just how much heart he had and ended up winning. I felt a great amount of pride. Even though he would not run in the Kentucky Derby (he was going to be a turf horse), he was still showing he was going to be good.

I moved back to Lexington, Ky., and continued to watch his racing career unfold. In the back of my mind, I knew he wasn't going to race forever and might need a new home someday… so on May 21, 2018, I sent a message to his owners saying that I would love to be considered for a second career option whenever that time came for him to retire. I never got a response, but I always just believed that what is meant to be will always find its way.

I was trying to decide what my next job was going to be as I was still young and loved being able to travel and learn from the best in the horse breeding and racing business. I applied and successfully got into the Godolphin Flying Start program which was going to allow me to travel to five countries over two years and continue to learn the Thoroughbred industry as well as learn more about leadership and management. I packed my bags in August of 2018 for a two-year adventure. Little did I know at that time, I would have yet another chance meeting with Dalarna.

Samantha Cripps grew up in Michigan and attended Michigan State University.  In 2014, she made the move to Lexington, Ky. to follow her dreams of helping to raise racehorses. She has completed both sessions of the Kentucky Equine Management Internship and the Hagyard Ambulatory Veterinary Assistant Internship. Cripps has been lucky enough to work at some of the best Thoroughbred farms in the world in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and America. She is currently nearing graduation of the Godolphin Flying Start program. This series takes readers along for the ride on Cripps' journey with her OTTB Dalarna.

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