Proceeds from the sale of Emily Strong — a horse named for Emily Beazley — will be given to Emily Beazley's Kures for Kids. The 12-year-old girl from Mount Greenwood died on May 18, 2015, after a four-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Her parents, Nadia and Ed Beazley, started the charity three months after Emily died. The non-profit organization raises funds for pediatric cancer research and is inspired by the little girl who captivated the neighborhood with her battle against the deadly disease.
"I wish [Emily Strong] would have brought in what she was worth," said Dennis Pietranduono, a part-time farmer at the school at 3857 W. 111th St.
Pietranduono, a resident of suburban Evergreen Park, brought the trotter breeding program to the school about three years ago. He and Principal William Hook hoped the horse named by Emily's sister Olivia would sell for closer to $5,000.
The pair also expected the price to increase after another harness-racing horse born at the Ag School won her first stakes race Aug. 3 at the Coles County Fair in Downstate Charleston. Send For Me won the seventh race at the fair, defeating four other horses.
Emily Strong "was a steal," said Pietranduono, who blamed the decline of harness racing throughout Illinois for the rock-bottom price.
Both Send For Me and Emily Strong share the same mother, Basic Brown. The broodmare is expecting another foal in April. Going forward, the school will likely target other states to sell its horses where the animals will fetch a better price, Pietranduono said.
The Ag School has just three horses in its barn, which doubles as a classroom. It sits on 72 acres and teaches agriculture to urban students using livestock along with crops, a greenhouse and even a three-hole golf course.
But with the decline in harness racing, the school will likely put more focus on its therapeutic riding program, said Pietranduono, who believes this shift will come when the new riding barn is complete.
As for Emily Strong, the yearling was sold to Pat Gammage of Bay Springs, Miss., on Sunday. He plans to race the horse and could re-name her as well. In fact, Send For Me was named Brite Star Aggie when she was born in April 2013 at the Ag School.
Emily Strong was also first given the name Ag's ByeBye Birdie to honor teacher Maria Byrd, who died suddenly in 2014, Pietranduono said. She was renamed four months after Emily Beazley's death.
Should Emily Strong win any races in Illinois, the Ag School would get a portion of the proceeds. The "breeders stake" is usually around 12½ percent, and the school would receives half of that take. Pietranduono promised to donate any winnings back to Emily Beazley's charity.
"She's a beautiful animal," he said.
And while the farmers might have been disappointed by the price of their horse, Nadia Beazley remained overwhelmed by the school's generosity. On Tuesday, she remembered crying on the phone upon receiving news that the horse would be named for her late daughter.
"It was more personal for me," said Beazley, who hopes the new owner sticks with the name Emily Strong.
Nadia Beazley was also pleased that the Ag School pledged the horses' future winnings to the charity. And she remembered being awestruck by the beauty of the horse whom she first met as a foal.
"A $1,000 is a lot of money to us," she said.
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