By Emily Shields
From working at the track out of high school to owning her own veterinary practice and breeding operation, Dr. Tori Polzin has built her own success from the ground up. She is quick to eschew any praise, however, and turns it back to her horses and the team of people who have helped her reached her goals.
At first the allure of the Sport of Kings made Polzin want to be a racetrack veterinarian. In time, however, the California native became more interested in mares and foals. After graduating from veterinary school at the University of California, Davis, Polzin began her work as an equine-only practitioner.
It was only natural that Polzin would begin breeding her own mares, which led to an even greater venue.
“I decided to try the sales,” she said. “The very first one I tried was the CTBA select sale when it was at Del Mar.”
Now Polzin is a regular at the sales, breeding horses out of her Stony Creek Farm in Orland. At the 2013 Northern California Yearling Sale, Polzin sold a filly named Deb’s Wildcard for $17,500 to Robomar Racing Stable. That filly has since brought Polzin’s name to prominence.
Deb’s Wildcard (Desert Code—Deb’s Royal Flush, by Demons Begone) was foaled April 15, 2012, the product of Polzin’s mare and help from Harris Farms. The team at Harris, including farm manager
Dave McGlothlin, was hunting for a home for the stakes-placed mare Deb’s Royal Flush, and Polzin couldn’t resist.
“John Harris has been really good to me,” Polzin said. “They gave me a breeding to Desert Code in exchange for being co-breeders on this filly.”
Desert Code, winner of the $1,094,620 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint in 2008, earned $1,088,939 on the track while winning seven of 24 starts. The son of E Dubai—Chatta Code, by Lost Code, stands at
Harris Farms for $2,000.
“Deb’s Wildcard is a typical Desert Code,” Polzin said. “A nice big butt, very muscular,
and almost colt-looking in some ways. She has a great attitude; like all the Desert Codes she is easy to work with. Just a friendly, easygoing horse.”
Another helping hand in the Deb’s Wildcard story is Dr. Jeanne Bowers-Lepore, a veterinarian who works closely with Harris and also is Polzin’s former colleague. “She was instrumental in helping me
not only learn pedigrees but develop this foal,” Polzin said.
Deb’s Royal Flush had already produced the winners Acekingqueenjacten, Nina’s Benchmark, Super Salesman, and Tigermania before Deb’s Wildcard came along.
Trainer Lloyd Mason had Deb’s Wildcard ready to go for her debut, which took place at Golden Gate Fields Aug. 30, 2014. The filly, who races for Mason and Robert Jones, defeated open company in a
maiden special weight race over 5 ½ furlongs. Her stylish victory came by 2 ¼ lengths.
Deb’s Wildcard has been consistent, racing in allowance optional claiming company through April of this year. She finished first, second, or third in six starts at that level, with her lone off -the-board performance coming in only her second lifetime start. Her prowess was enough that Mason entered her in the $50,000 Seattle Handicap at Emerald Downs.
The race drew nine runners, with Deb’s Wildcard breaking in mid-pack. She was forced to run four wide on the turn but rallied gamely, getting up to score by a nose at the wire. The 61⁄2-furlong contest ran in 1:16.34.
Deb’s Wildcard made her next start in the $59,015 Pleasanton Oaks during the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet June 21. She finished third, well beaten by the runaway winner, Windy Forecast, but
only missed second by a nose. Through the Oaks, Deb’s Wildcard had four wins, two seconds, and three thirds in 10 starts, for earnings of $121,724.
At the CTBA’s Northern California Yearling and Horses of Racing Age Sale, to be held Aug. 11 at Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, Polzin will offer a full sister to Deb’s Wildcard. The filly is registered as Wildcard Deb.
“I was browsing the list of recently released names,” Polzin said, “and that was on there. It was practically asking for use.”
Polzin has only five broodmares, but “too many horses. I keep retirees off the track once they are old and done. I would never just say to heck with them, so I have my own group of retirement
horses. Probably 15 horses in total.”
Deb’s Royal Flush is back in foal to Desert Code, set to produce another California-bred next year.
“I love the Cal-bred program,” Polzin said. “I have to say that almost every horse I’ve had that is a Cal-bred almost always returns the money spent back to me. I never lose when I breed a Cal-bred.
Everyone always talks about a Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup winner, but I would be glad for a Cal Cup winner.”
Deb’s Wildcard isnt the only winner to come out of Polzin’s program. High Desert, Nicolas Cajun, and Royal Alexei have all broken their maidens in the last few seasons, with the last-named winning
his debut by nine lengths.
“They are getting on the track and doing something,” Polzin said. She joked that selling horses doesn’t “support my lifestyle,” so she still works a full schedule with her veterinary practice.
“I’m a general practitioner,” she said. “I do things like vaccines, cuts, and colic on top of regular foaling work. During foaling season, the work really doubles up, but there are horses to be fed.”
Horses such as Deb’s Wildcard make the work worth it.
“She gets all the accolades,” Polzin said. “I’m so happy for her owners, and I’m glad they’re taking care of her and she of them. It’s nice to think big, but I’m taking baby steps. Having a stakes-producing mare is a big deal for a little person like me.”
As Deb’s Royal Flush has now produced five winners from six foals to race, it might be worth checking out Deb’s Wildcard’s sister, Wildcard Deb, at the Northern California sale.