It turns out that five weeks is a pretty long time in the life of a green horse.
The Retired Racehorse Training Project’s 100-Day Thoroughbred Challenge was just past the 80-day mark at their demonstration during the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo in Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 23. A packed house of spectators around the main arena saw four horses that, while still quite green, worked competently in a scary venue and had started to develop their own talents.
The horses’ last public appearance was at the Maryland Horse World Expo in mid-January—their debut in front of a non-racing audience, about halfway through their 100 days of retraining. There, they were able to walk, trot and canter, and pop over some small jumps, showing how quickly Thoroughbreds can adapt to new careers and giving a hint of what was to come. But they still looked very green and were obviously still learning the ropes of doing something other than running fast in a circle.
Five weeks later, the expo at Harrisburg was a chance to see how these greenies were progressing, and where these very different horses’ paths would diverge. Who had the most talent for dressage? Who had the scope and bravery to event? Who had the steady temperament to foxhunt?
Helping to answer those questions were three judges: Beverly Strauss (director of MidAtlantic Horse Rescue and an eventer and racehorse trainer), Donnan Jones (a member of the U.S. dressage team at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and dressage coach to international eventers) and Nick Karazissis (a leading hunter/jumper trainer in California who grew up riding Thoroughbreds). Their votes were added to those cast by the public, who have been following the progress of these horses through YouTube videos and blog postings. RTTP president Steuart Pittman emceed the demo; all four horses are in training at his Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Md.
The four horses participating in the challenge came from four major Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred farms, but their point of origin is really their only similarity. All have vastly different résumés—they range in age from 4 to 11; there’s a stakes winner and a horse who was “retired” after finishing last in her only start; one horse sat in a field for five years and another raced as recently as September 2012.
This performance marked the live debut for Gunport, who sat out the Maryland Expo because of a slightly injured hock. A 2009 gun-metal gray filly (Mizzen Mast—Directive, Deputy Minister), she was bred and raced by Sagamore Racing in Reisterstown, Md., owned by Kevin Plank of the Baltimore-based sporting apparel company Under Armour. Her racing career included only one start at Colonial Downs—she finished last in her only race and obviously did not care to become a racehorse. Pittman noted that she’d been somewhat injury-prone during the challenge, and had missed several weeks of training, so was a bit greener than the other three.
See Gunport jump...
Alluring Punch is a flashy chestnut-with-chrome 2009 gelding (Two Punch—Alluring Elixir, Cure The Blues) who earned $12,000 in 10 starts. He is owned and bred by Barbara Ryan, and was entered in the challenge on behalf of Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md., where his sire, Two Punch, stood. Two Punch is a noted producer of sport horses, including Vaunted, who competed at the 2009 Rolex Kentucky CCI**** with Ashley Adams.
Suave Jazz (Suave Prospect—Cavite Starlet, Jazzing Around) is a 2003 bay gelding who won $651,000 in 70 races. He was a favorite of racehorse trainer Tony Dutrow, who trained the horse earlier in his career, and took him back when he was ready to retire in August 2012. Dutrow and partner Mark Reid entered this seasoned campaigner on behalf of their Walnut Green Farm in Kennett Square, Pa.
And finally, rounding out the quartet is 11-year-old Declan’s Moon (Malibu Moon—Vee Vee Star, Norquestor), owned by Samantha Siegel and an entry of Country Life Farm in Fallston, Md., where he had been retired in a field. Declan won an Eclipse Award in 2004 after going undefeated in his 2-year-old year, but was sidelined by an injury in 2005 and was unable to contest any of the Triple Crown races. He recovered and raced 13 more times before being retired. He finished his career with six wins in 18 starts, and earnings totaling over $705,000.
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