MILLSTADT, Ill. -- Around the sprawling ranch that's now his home, Buck's newfound retirement among the more than 60 other horses comes with daily feedings and far bigger helpings of celebrity treatment.
Considering his odyssey over his four short years, that's perhaps to be expected.
Plucked nearly three years ago as a year-old colt from a trailer bound for a Mexican slaughterhouse, Buck became an unlikely sensation in racing circles after he was transformed into a hard-charging thoroughbred whose half dozen or so races in Chicago were a testament to second chances.
He got national headlines last month when his story was profiled by The Associated Press, giving a spotlight to Margo Sutter and her cash-strapped Mid-America Horse Rescue, the same place that saved his life in 2007.
And now Buck has returned home, brought back to the ranch July 24 from the Chicago-area racing scene where his more than $3,000 in winnings were funneled back into Sutter's operation. Just two days earlier, Buck closed out his racing career -- under the name Letdatrumpetblare -- at Arlington Park, never mind that his saddle slipped during the run.
"We felt he'd given us everything we could," Sutter said Saturday. "It was a tough call (to end his racing), and we would have loved for him to win. But he's 100 percent healthy, and there's a time when you call it."
Fathered by a one-time racehorse, Buck's prospects looked perilous in 2007 when Sutter caught wind that nine horses had been bought for $200 piece at an area paddock sale by a supplier under contract to a slaughterhouse.
Buck -- gimpy from a swollen ankle and punctured shoulder -- was seen as holding more value for his meat. Sutter scrambled to buy the colt with two other horses, then went about getting Buck trained to race with the wide, thick chest and sinewy legs that made him ripe for it.
Buck's coming out party came in the seventh race at Arlington Park last Sept. 24, when the rookie, dark-brown horse with black points wobbled out of the stall. Buck ran dead last until the final turn and rallied down the homestretch to finish fourth for a $1,740 check.
Buck's best showing came in May, when he grabbed third and earned $1,155,
"When he came home (to retire last month), everyone was so excited," Sutter said of the horse, who spent much of Saturday gently using his nose to pat down a reporter for mints. "They wanted to put lights around his stall. Everyone was applauding him, and he was just eating it up."
Now, he awaits retraining starting next month that will make him into a showhorse -- the capper to what Sutter pitches as one animal's miracle story.
"He's got a great life ahead of him," she said. "I'm delighted he's home, and I'm so proud of him."
Mid America Horse Rescue: http://www.midamericahorserescue.org