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Adelita: One Of The Special Ones

by Bob Funkhouser

If you stay in the horse business long enough and if you are very lucky you will have the opportunity to enjoy a “once-in-a-lifetime” horse. Such was the case for David Rudder who recently lost the grand mare Adelita to colic.

Bred by Callaway Hills and originally registered as Callaway’s Miss Marple, Adelita was born to be special as her sire, the world’s champion and highly rated sire of world’s champions Callaway’s Blue Norther, and her dam, the Broodmare Hall Of Fame matron Callaway’s Agatha Christie. In addition to Adelita, Callaway’s Agatha Christie also produced Callaway’s Unsolved Mystery, Callaway’s Blue Agate, Callaway’s Happy Ending and Callaway’s Little Dipper.

Her education began at Callaway Hills under the direction of Bob Brison. Kalarama Farm trainer Larry Hodge had spent a few days shopping at Callaway Hills and the four-year-old liver chestnut mare caught his attention. He called long time friend and customer David Rudder, suggesting he buy the elegant, young mare.

Adelita’s climb to fame was a shorter route than most. She didn’t have the luxury of starting out in the young horse ranks and building a reputation, she jumped right in the frying pan at the age of five.

“Larry [Hodge] brought her out at Shelbyville, winning the 2002 Five-Gaited Championship in their only show before Louisville,” said David Rudder.

Louisville was spectacular for the game youngster and her veteran trainer. They captured Tuesday night’s mare stake, defeating contenders such as Undulata’s Georgie Girl, A Song In My Heart and Tonight Preferred, among others. On Saturday night they came back against a ring full of champions to excite the crowd. Hodge and Adelita were put back on the rail with the gelding champion SS Genuine, ridden by Merrill Murray and the gelding reserve champion Callaway’s Banner Headline with Dena Lopez. Murray, Hodge and Lopez had won the last four Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championships and on this night Murray and SS Genuine wore the roses.

Adelita did what few others have done, finishing as the Five-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Champion in her first year of showing. Following Adelita were several of the day’s greats, Banner Headline, Callaway’s Forecaster, Time Well Spent, Desert’s Supreme Memories, A Song In My Heart and Studcor Donatello.

A month later Hodge rode Adelita to win the Five-Gaited Mare Stake and Five-Gaited Championship at St. Louis National. She started the next year just as she finished 2002, in the winner’s circle. They began at Asheville winning the mare stake and the Five-Gaited Championship and moved on to even deeper water to take those same two classes at Midwest Charity.

The Hodge/Rudder team rolled into Louisville ready to challenge for the roses again. Weaving in and out of traffic, the gutsy mare scored her second consecutive Five-Gaited Mare World’s Championship, setting her up for a Saturday nigh showdown with the stallion winner CH Superior Successor and the gelding winner CH Callaway’s Forecaster. Those three were sent back out for a second workout leaving the crowd in a frenzy.

And for the second consecutive year, Adelita was crowned the reserve world’s grand champion. The nod had gone to the ever-popular amateur team of Nancy Leigh Fisher and CH Callaway’s Forecaster. The remaining ribbons went to CH Superior’s Successor, Swish, Jewel’s Teton, Tigerlee, Molligny Don’t Worry Be Happy and Rinati Cock Robin.

The following year it was decided Rudder would take over. Their debut was Midwest Charity where they won the Five-Gaited Mare Stake over six other challengers. Their next class was the Five-Gaited Championship at the Mercer County Fair in their tune up for Louisville.

Challenging the professionals, Rudder and Adelita were involved in a workout in the Five-Gaited Mare Stake, finishing third behind Spider Red with Mike Spencer and Undulata’s Georgie Girl with Debbie Foley. Back in the big stake they were fifth behind CH Boucheron, CH Callaway’s Forecaster, Walterway’s Remember Me and Lucrative.

Work commitments kept Rudder and Adelita on a light show schedule in 2005. They moved to the amateur division and again chose Midwest as their starting point, winning the amateur gentlemen’s class in their only outing.

This time Rudder and Adelita delivered the goods in Freedom Hall to win the Amateur Gentlemen’s Five-Gaited World’s Championship. They triumphed over some tough teams including Reserve World’s Champions Callaway’s Lil Abner and Chris Nalley. They took their world title to the Amateur Five-Gaited Championship where it was a shoot out among the top teams of the year. Carol Hillenbrand and Swish emerged as the amateur grand champions followed by I’m A Treat and Mary Gaylord McClean with Rudder and Adelita in third.

Adelita took 2006 off as Rudder took a leave of absence from the show ring to take care of business. With Rudder having been out of the show ring for nearly two years and still with a crazy schedule, Adelita was shown by Deborah Visser to start out the 2007 campaign. Visser won the open mare stake with her at Asheville and then the Reserve Ladies Five-Gaited Mare Stake at Lexington Junior League.

Rudder wasn’t able to show at Louisville last year so the mare took the show off as well. Louisville was the place, however, where a change of plans occurred.

“Trimming her was something I had been thinking about for a while and Larry had too,” explained Rudder. “During Louisville, we decided to go ahead and try. I told Larry to start working her like a walk-trot horse and we’ll see what she looks like.

“I month or two later I went to visit. I hadn’t ridden in two years but Larry said, ‘Get on and let’s see what you look like.’ It was a great decision. I knew she was so pretty and should trim well, but it was even more elegant than I thought.”

Rudder and the grand mare marched into Kansas City last year and took the American Royal by storm, winning the Amateur Three-Gaited Under 15.2 Stake and the Amateur Three-Gaited National Championship. It was the fourth time Rudder had won the amateur national championship as he previously won it with Town Dance and twice with her son CH Harlem Town.

Following a nice strong winter’s work in her new division, Adelita was preparing for the 2008 campaign when tragedy struck. Colic has taken so many our horses and the grand mare could not escape the attack.

“I think Kansas City was just the tip of the iceberg last fall,” said Rudder. “She was working so well this spring. In six years she has only shown 24 times. She was so fresh.”

There’s a saying in the horse business that “it only happens to the good ones,” and with the unexpected death of Adelita it only gives more credence to that saying. Rudder has been blessed to own and breed several nice horses throughout his career but this mare topped the list.

“The greatest things about her were her attitude and expression,” recalled Rudder. “She always gave 110 percent. It was something internal, however, that made her as great as she was. It’s not something you can breed or train, it was something she was born with. She would look you right in the eye like a person would. She was a beautiful mare but even more beautiful on the inside.

“I’ve been showing for about 36 years but I’ve never been around one like her. I’ve never been around one with that kind of attitude. I now understand the term, ‘once-in-a-lifetime horse.’”

While we will never get another chance to see her wild-eyed performances, Adelita’s legacy will continue through her two yearlings. Rudder has a chestnut colt by World’s Champion Harlem Globetrotter and a black filly by World’s Champion CH Harlem Town.

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