Vivi Serena has bred, raised, and raced a number of successful racehorses over the years. 

But sometimes, it takes just one mare to set off a chain reaction for a life-long love and ownership of racehorses.

“The love of horses has been in my heart since I was six years old and my parents took me to a pony ride,” says Vivi Serena.

At nine years old, Serena’s parents gave in and bought her first horse named Red Boy. “He was the love of my life!” says Serena.

Years later in 2010, Serena’s husband stumbled on a classified ad that was offering a pregnant registered Thoroughbred mare for sale for only $300. 

“My husband responded to that ad and we bought the mare, whose name is Love That Touch, and brought her home to our five-acre farm in Ocklawaha, Florida. From there, our journey began!” said Serena. 

When Love That Touch had her foal, the Serena’s named him Balino. However, they quickly noticed something was not quite right. 

“Balino’s legs were a little crooked and he was on the small side for future racehorse. Little did we know that none of these limitations were going to hold Balino back!”

Serena said that when Balino was a foal, he was so little that he almost fit in her lap. “He was so friendly and curious! When he was older, almost on a whim, despite everything, I decided to put him in race training.”

Unfortunately, Balino’s first two races did not go well.

“He cried like a baby in the paddock, and in the first race he lost a shoe and came in tenth out of 12. I remember thinking this could either be the beginning or the end of Balino’s racing career,” said Serena.

Fortunately, Balino did much better in his second race and even won his third race. “He was 61 to 1,” adds Serena. 

On August 3, 2010, Balino raced in The Naked Greed Stakes at Calder Racetrack. “It was his perfect race – seven-and-a-half on the turf. He ran with the win by six lengths! Oh, what a feeling to be in the winner’s circle! We officially caught the bug after that. The racing fever was on.”

Serena says Balino’s racing style is straightforward and uncomplicated. “He basically just runs as fast as he can from start to finish!”

Balino continued to show up at several black type races, placing third in The Journeyman Stud Sophomore Turf States, second in the Mambo Meister Stakes and third in the Armed Forces Stakes. 

“The journey with Balino has been an amazing ride,” adds Serena. 

The Racing itch continued with Love That Touch after she was bred and foaled several other stunning Florida-bred foals. 

“We also bought several other broodmares and continued to have more foals, raising them then racing them. The love of these horses that we’ve raised on our little farm is a time in our lives we will never forget. We still miss all those little babies!” says Serena. 

Six of the horses they raised and raced are now retired on the Serena’s farm where they grew up.

“We get to love on them every day and Love That Touch is still here with her now grown foals, Balino and Love to Salsa.”

“We’ve bred and raced many horses, but every single one of them is special,” adds Serena.

Return to the April 22 issue of Wire to Wire