It didn’t take Ron Danta more than a few minutes to decide he wanted Lucca in his barn. The 2-year-old Thoroughbred had been bred to race, but Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables in Camden, South Carolina, believed a sport horse career was more his speed.
Danta and his partner Danny Robertshaw also base out of Camden at their Beaver River Farm, so Danta went to Kirkwood to take a look. Danta watched Lucca (Fit To Fight—Fraulino, Alwasmi) pop over his first couple of logs and liked what he saw.
“It’s kind of sad nowadays—you look back, and so many of the great, great hunters we had over the years were Thoroughbreds,” said Danta. “Danny had Protocol, who was undefeated in the 4’ regular working hunter and champion at [the Pennsylvania National], Washington, Madison Square Garden [New York] and the Royal Winter Fair [Toronto] in the same year. So many of those horses were such great show horses, and now the trend is people won’t even look at a Thoroughbred. They all want to go to Europe to look at warmbloods.”
Natural jumping form is important to Danta when looking at an off-track Thoroughbred, as are the usual conformation basics—a nicely-angled shoulder, a hindquarter that isn’t too upright.
Danta and Robertshaw don’t get too hung up on a Thoroughbred’s pedigree. There are some families that carry the same genetic stamp, but Danta has seen people become crazed over a racing pedigree, only to realize that sire’s success rate is as variable in the show ring as it was on the racetrack.
These days, Danta leans toward a horse with a natural lead change. Lucca checked all the boxes, and longtime client Pauline Lampshire agreed to purchase him.
“As we’re getting older, we’re finding with the young horses we buy, if they don’t have a natural lead change in them we don’t really want to look at them because, unfortunately, lead changes affect the jump,” Danta explained. “They land, and then they want to get nervous about the lead change at the end.”
From the beginning, it seemed Lucca had found his calling. He had the “fun,” laidback attitude that made the horse show environment a breeze.
Now 16, the chestnut has shown in the open divisions as well as the Take2 Thoroughbred hunter classes with Hunter Kay, bringing home championships from venues like the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida) and the Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina). Last September Lucca won the hunter final at the inaugural $20,000 Take2 Hunter and Jumper Finals held during the Kentucky National.
Danta said he wishes there were even more opportunities for horses to compete in Take2. He also expects he’ll make the Take2 Finals in Kentucky a part of the stable’s schedule again in 2020. While in Florida for the winter season, Danta expects he and Robertshaw will make the rounds to local training centers to look at Thoroughbreds that may be ready for a career change.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to go home with a few more than we came with,” he said.