Highland Ice Inducted Into Oklahoma Hall Of Fame
By Dale Day
A true horse for the course, Highland Ice achieved all but one of his career victories at Remington Park as he dominated the sprint ranks here during his prime. The speedy gray rarely tasted defeat when he was on top of his game in the late 1990s in Oklahoma City.
Bred by legendary horsemen Walter Merrick of Sayre, Okla., Highland Ice was purchased as a 2-year-old at a sale by Gerald Dixon of Guymon, Okla. for $5,500. Dixon eventually placed him in the care of trainer Chuck Turco, with conditions that he be able to personally hot walk his horse in the mornings of a race week. The gelding by Highland Blade from the Icecapade mare Ice Magic received plenty of extra care and along with the talent he already possessed, found his niche by rolling to 15 of his 16 career wins at Remington Park.
A sprinter throughout his career, Highland Ice was versatile enough to win at distances from five to seven furlongs. An Oklahoma-bred, he burst on the scene to break his maiden at first-asking in September of 1995, winning a state-bred race at Remington Park. After a second in a follow-up allowance race, Highland Ice was set for his first stakes appearance on a stage he would own for the next five years.
The fledgling Oklahoma Classics series of stakes races for eligible state-breds was in just its third year at Remington Park and in need of a star. Brother Brown, a popular homebred won the first Classics Cup but was retired the following year. The connections of Highland Ice may not have realized it after his victory by a head in the 1995 Oklahoma Classics Juvenile but that was the first of his five straight Classics Day scores. He became ‘The Horse’ for the Oklahoma Classics.
As a 3-year-old, Highland Ice would win his only race away from Remington Park, scoring an allowance at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. in the spring of 1996. He attempted his only graded stakes race after that in Oaklawn’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at one mile. A last-place effort answered some questions and led Turco to focus Highland Ice on a steady diet of properly spotted sprints for the remainder of his racing days.
Returning to Remington Park in the fall of 1996, Highland Ice romped in his first of four Oklahoma Classics Sprint victories. He pulled away to win by 7-1/2 lengths in the six-furlong race after blistering fractions including a half-mile in :43 3/5. The superb quarter-mile and half-mile split times would become another Highland Ice trademark at Remington Park, he simply wore his rivals out early and still have plenty left for his stretch run.
While showing plenty of ability in his first two years of racing, Highland Ice stepped up his game as a 4-year-old in 1997. Shaking the stamp of just being an Oklahoma-bred stakes runner, the gray won both the $50,000 Remington Park Spring Championship and the $75,000 Silver Bullet Centennial Handicap, a pair of open company races. After winning another Oklahoma Classics Sprint, Highland Ice was voted by media and track management as the 1997 Remington Park Horse of the Meeting.
Highland Ice repeated the pattern at Remington Park in 1998, winning the same three stakes races. In the Oklahoma Classics Sprint, he was the super-favorite at 1-20 in the wagering while winning by five lengths. He crossed the finish for six furlongs in 1:08.20, believed by many to be the true track record for the measure.
The 1999 Oklahoma Classics Sprint would be the final win in the series for Highland Ice as he posted one more five-length triumph. As a 7-year-old in the new millennium, Highland Ice won his final career race during the 2000 Winter Season at Remington Park. His bid for a sixth Classics Sprint victory, ended with a disheartening fourth in what would be his final stakes event.
Highland Ice posted stakes victories locally in both open and state-bred company, winning the Remington Park Sprint Championship (twice), the Silver Bullet Centennial Handicap (twice) and five consecutive Oklahoma Classics stakes events from 1995-1999 including four straight Sprints. Through his eight years of racing, Highland Ice competed at six different racetracks and won races with five different jockeys.
Upon retirement in 2001, Highland Ice shared records for Remington Park career victories (15, with Elegant Exxactsy) and stakes victories (9, shared with Darrell Darrell), earning $474,090 overall while finishing in the top three in 33 of 48 attempts. At Remington Park, he won 15 of 24 career starts with five second-place runs and two more thirds while earning $390,810.