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Oh What A Charm! - Santana's Charm Remembered

by Bob Funkhouser

The American Saddlebred breed has had several stars throughout its history. Each of those stars had qualities that made them special to the ones who were a part of their lives. Santana’s Charm was one of those horses and he truly had a profound affect on everyone from his breeders to his final owner. The great stallion recently passed away at the age of 28 surrounded by his family: Bridget Parker, Kim Newell, longtime caretaker Javier Hernandez and stallion manager Elheneo Trinadad. Charm is buried at Parker View Farm next to My Bugatti Royale and Pretty Ribbons.

Sired by the great producer Sultan’s Santana and out of the good show mare Vanity’s Belle (by Vanity’s Sensation Of Crebilly), Santana’s Charm was the first stallion to win the Amateur Five-Gaited World’s Champion Of Champions title and he remains one of only two to do so. Top Spool was the second.

Bred by Tom Galbreath and the Kurz family, Charm was foaled at Castle Hills Farm and sold to Dewey Henderson and Don Brockman as a yearling.

"He was a magnificent yearling," recalled Tom Galbreath. "We sold him and then bought him back as a two-year-old. He won the Two-Year-Old In Hand Sweepstakes at Lexington Junior League and I remember Frank Bradshaw yelling down to me, ‘It’s the mother.’ He had shown Vanity’s Belle with great success. At the end of Charm’s two-year-old year he really started to look special.

"Then I sold him to the [Jim] Lancaster family who owned him for a few years and then we bought him back again for the Kurz family for Craig to show. After Craig showed him, I bought him for a breeding horse and eventually sold him to Laura Cunningham."

"I was down at Tom’s to look at the Oceanfront stallion to purchase and overhead Tom talking about Charm being available and that’s how I bought him for Laura Cunningham," added Bridget Parker, the grand stallion’s final owner. "His death has been very hard on me; he was like a part of my family."

At Parker View, Charm lived a royal life. He was out in his paddock at 8 a.m. and brought back in at 3 p.m. If the routine varied, Charm would paw at his stall door as a reminder or nicker at the gate if Javier was late bringing him in. Of course Charm expected and received an apology from Javier on the way back to his stall.

Charm’s training began with Steve Joyce who showed him to the ASHA Four-Year-Old Sweepstakes Fine Harness Grand Championship under the Lancaster’s ownership. He then began his career as a gaited horse.

"The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Charm is beauty," said Joyce. "I’m a big fan of a pretty horse with lots of quality. He was born there on the farm and was always beautiful, extremely athletic and extremely game in a positive way. As a show horse and as a sire he did a lot for me. I went to Castle Hills as a relatively young and unknown trainer and he and his get enhanced my career and I’ll always be very appreciative of that. He is one of the special ones.

"What made it so easy for Charm was that he was good mannered about everything. We hauled him to the horse shows right beside a mare. When we first started showing him we took him to the county fairs around Kentucky. We would breed him in the morning and show him at night. In fact, he always showed better when he did breed in the morning. If we were going to a show we would say, ‘Isn’t there a mare that needs bred this morning?’ He always amazed us."

Charm’s manners stood out in everything he did. Galbreath also recalled the time that the Breeder’s Cup was held at Churchill Downs and Saddlebreds were invited to perform on the track in between races.

"We were there and in the holding area he and Santana’s Lass were sharing a hay bag. He never even nickered," said Galbreath. "He was a kind, gentle horse, very pleasant."

In 1987, Charm began to mature as a gaited horse winning at Asheville and Rock Creek with Joyce riding. The following year Craig Kurz took over and captured the amateur gentlemen’s class and Amateur Five-Gaited Championship at Rock Creek before taking the amateur gentlemen’s stake at Lexington Junior League. On to Louisville and the magnificent stallion made the victory pass with Kurz in the amateur gentlemen’s class setting up a showdown in the Amateur Five-Gaited Grand Championship where he was involved in a four-horse workout with Lady Luck and Barbara Goodman, A Touch Of Champagne and Karen Waldron and Courtney Allen aboard Night To Prowl. Known to get stronger the longer he went, Charm wore the roses as the Amateur Five-Gaited Grand Champion.

"That was the pinnacle of my career," said Craig Kurz. "He had such a good year and following the amateur gentlemen’s class we knew the championship was going to be tough. Steve [Joyce] thought there would be a workout so we were prepared for it.

"I had been fortunate to show some really nice gaited horses, but none of them felt like him. He was a natural. With my size and stature he was like getting into a Porsche. It truly felt like a sports car and every class we showed in when we reversed, he rose to another level. You could set your watch by it. In the workout, the crowd got going and you could feel his power get even stronger. He lit up the ring.

"That was the year Donna Moore, Tom Moore and Bob Gatlin judged and we were unanimous. That was an unbelievable feeling.

"When he left us and started his career at stud, a piece of us stayed with him. We followed his get with a lot of pride."

Not only was that Louisville battle a once in a lifetime moment for Craig Kurz and his family, it was also a heartfelt moment for Joyce and Galbreath.

"I sobbed like a baby," said Galbreath. "I had to walk to the back of the sky box as my emotions just took over. I’ll never forget how the crowd stood and cheered. The effort and work that stud poured into it was evident and Craig rode flawlessly. Steve had masterfully trained them."

"Him being the first stallion to win the amateur stake was really cool," added Joyce. "As you know it’s not always easy for a stallion to make a top show horse so to have that little piece of Saddle Horse history is really cool.

"Craig was an incredibly cool headed rider. He didn’t get caught up in the moment. He kept Charm contained. I’ll never forget his last pass racking to the line up. After an incredibly hard class and workout he was probably better that pass than at any time during the class. Donna [Moore] told me the next week that going into the workout she had him fourth, but that he blew them away on the workout."

Joyce’s joy didn’t end with that class. He explained they were breeding and showing Charm at the time but the Kurz family wasn’t breeding him to any outside mares.

"Julia and I had a mare we wanted to breed to him and during the celebration that followed that night, I asked the Kurz family if we could breed to Charm and they were so excited they gave us a stud fee. The resulting foal was Charmson who won the Three-Year-Old Pleasure National Futurity World’s Championship with Susi (Rambler) Day four years later."

Santana’s Charm would prove to be just as proficient a sire as he was a show horse. Over the past 15 years he has consistently ranked among the top six or seven sires in the country with outstanding show stars in all divisions. In addition to Charmson, a partial list of champions includes Gotta Be Charmed, Sensational Charm, Belleavanti, Pisgah Pike, Delightful Charm, CH Mercer Racaeabout, Tasty Charm, Sass With Class, Olympic Charm, CH Amusing, A Silver Charm, I’m Something Wicked, Sir William Robert, I’m Royalty Too and just this past year Three-Gaited World’s Grand Champion CH Our Charming Lady.

"To have had his sire, Sultan’s Santana, would have been special enough, but to have bred and stood Charm and now his son, Sir William Robert, I feel really blessed," said Galbreath. "Bridget [Parker] gave Santana’s Charm a wonderful life. She took such great care of him. He couldn’t have gone to a better place."

Parker View Farm: The Next Generation

"I feel very lucky to have had three great stallions in my life: Spring Valley’s Deliverance, Arborlane Tango’s Wee Pee and Santana’s Charm," said Bridget Parker. "These studs have meant a lot to me and this farm. Charm, along with Belle’s Bewitched were gifted to me from Laura Cunningham to ensure he had a good home and would never be moved or sold. He was a part of my family."

The thought of being able to replace stallions the magnitude of Santana’s Charm and Arborlane Tango’s Wee Pee has not been a pleasant one for Parker, however, there are a couple of youngsters waiting in the wings ready to prove their worth.

Strikingly beautiful, two-year-old My Royale Charm is a full brother to World’s Grand Champion CH Our Charming Lady and World’s Champion I’m Royalty Too. Owned by Mr. and Mrs. John T. Jones, My Royale Charm is by Santana’s Charm and out of the former Junior Fine Harness World’s Champion Of Champions My Bugatti Royale. With a pedigree of world’s champions and world’s champion producers on both sides of his papers, My Royale Charm is ready to take over where his sire left off.

Another Santana’s Charm son, 2008 Lexington Junior League Two-Year-Old Fine Harness Champion Marc Of Charm, is currently in England being trained by Lionel Ferreira. This top individual, out of Pretty Ribbons and owned by Riverdreams LLC, will carry on the Santana tradition following his show career.

Carrying on the tradition of the extremely popular (SA) Arborlane Tango’s Wee Pee are his two sons, Jon Bugatti and Let’s Tango All Night. According to Parker, Wee Pee was the first South African horse imported to the United States by an American. All those who witnessed his incredibly gifted performances in harness and under saddle were amazed. Much like Santana’s Charm, Wee Pee also had an incredible record as a sire before his death.

"Wee Pee was the most naturally gifted horse I have ever seen," exclaimed Parker.

While in the United States, Wee Pee sired 38 foals that have survived. Of those 38, 23 made it to the show ring and from those 23, five won world’s championships, five won reserve world’s championships and two were South African champions with an astounding 51 percet making world’s, reserve world’s or South African National Champions. Some of Wee Pee’s offspring include Tantalize Me LCC, My Elegance On Parade, Lace’s Last Tango, The Tango Dancer, Tango For Tips, Wee Pee’s Meadows, Wee Pee’s Storm, Last Tango In Paris, Wee Prefer Gold, (SA) Kami Kazi and Powerful Tango.

Parker View has two sons of Wee Pee to carry on his stellar legacy. Out of the world’s grand champion producing My Bugatti Royale, Jon Bugatti has already sired World’s Champion Kent Brockman as well as Bugatti’s Pinata, Boxers ‘N Chaps, Mr. Steinbrenner and WHR’s Whoa Johnny. Owned by John Bulmer of England, Jon Bugatti was the only stallion in the All-American Cup to be represented by two offspring and both placed in the top five.

The other Wee Pee son is Let’s Tango All Night, who is out of the Spring Valley’s Deliverance daughter, Clover Hill’s Diamonds Are Forever. This young Parker View Farm stallion has sired Tango Till Dawn, MBA’s Tango Gal, Starlight Tango and The Man Can Tango, among others.

Owned by Grey Ridge Farm, The Mac Attack also stands at Parker View Farm. The Mac Attack’s pedigree is filled with game show horses as he is by world’s champion CH Caramac out of the former show mare Sea Song P.V. who was by Oman’s Desdemona Denmark. The Mac Attack is represented in the show ring by champions Mac’s Blue Attack, Buckingham Affair, Mis Mheiry Mac, Elegant Song, Big Love, Dixieland Jazz, Stevie Nicks and Hold the Onion.

With rich bloodlines and a great group of farm owned mares, these blue-blooded young stallions are ready to make their mark on the next generation of Parker View Farm bred champions.

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