In early 2002, R. Peter Heffering made one of his legendary gambles on an Illinois-bred trotting colt named after a Pokemon character. “I did tell him I thought he was nuts,” Heffering’s son, David, recalled. “And when a friend of mine, Danny Phillips, heard about the deal he called me and said,‘Has your dad lost his marbles?’”
Ten years later, Kadabra is being honoured for his prowess on the track and in the breeding shed.
His induction comes five months after Peter Heffering died at age 80 and just two years after Heffering was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as a builder.
A decade earlier, Heffering ignored the skeptics and forged ahead with the purchase, gathering Irving Storfer’s Banjo Farms, Lee and Linda DeVisser’s L and L DeVisser LLC, Irving Liverman and David McDuffee under the Abra Kadabra Stable umbrella.
The group was convinced of the merits of the deal based on Kadabra’s freshman record — 12 wins and two seconds in 14 starts with a record of 1:56.2 — and his outstanding conformation. Although his sire Primrose Lane(Meadow Road – Barbs Pride) and dam Quillo (Trottin Happy – Arsenals Dynasty) were not household names, they were from solid families and Quillo had already produced two Illinois stakes winners, Money Minded and Lifes A Holiday.
Although Connie and Homer Hochstetler were reluctant to part with their gifted homebred, Connie’s father, Doug Ackerman, offered some advice that helped them make the decision to accept Heffering’s $800,000 offer — then the highest price ever paid for an Illinois-bred.
“We talked to my dad when we got the offer and he said, ‘You’ve got the factory, sell the product,’” recalls Connie Hochstetler. “But my son (Jay) was not very happy when we sold him.” Named after a favourite Pokemon character of then nine-year-old Jay’s, Kadabra kicked off his sophomore career in June 2002 and quickly turned any remaining doubters into ardent fans as he reeled off wins in the elimination and final of the Stanley Dancer at the Meadowlands. Forced to sit on the sidelines while Chip Chip Hooray took home the Hambletonian trophy — the Hochstetlers had not kept their trotter eligible —Kadabra returned to action with wins in the Review Stake and the American-National, missed out on the World Trotting Derby title, but then swept the class in his last six starts, capturing eliminations and finals of the Canadian Trotting Classic, Breeders Crown and Matron Stake.
Kadabra added four more wins at four and a speed tab of 1:51.3 to his resume before a suspensory ligament injury in his right hind leg brought his racing career to a halt in August 2003. Subsequently, the decision was made to stand the horse at the Hefferings’ Tara Hills Stud.
Kadabra has produced 660 foals, seen 380 of his offspring step in behind the starting gate, and watched those youngsters earn over $30 million. Eighty-seven horses sired by Kadabra have earned over $100,000, including nine with over $500,000 to their credit and two millionaires.