Kristen Kovatch takes a look at the bloodlines and race record of her new OTTB to get a full picture of his career up to the moment.
As the off-track Thoroughbred is once again recognized as our very own homegrown versatile athlete, wise horsemen are recognizing more and more which bloodlines are known for certain disciplines, trainability, temperament and character. Much like how equestrians in various disciplines seek out certain lines for their aptitude in dressage, eventing or cutting, we are starting to learn which racing lines could be sought after for particular applications.
Some horsemen also look at the horse’s specific race record — not seeking a lot of wins, perhaps, but looking at the number of starts, the track conditions or distances. A horse with a large number of starts — say, 40 or more — is considered a “warhorse,” and while there are mixed reviews on warhorse status the general consensus seems to be that if these horses stayed sound and healthy through a long racing career, they’re likely to stay sound and healthy through a sporthorse career as well. (Of course, horses will be horses and there are no guarantees, but I tend to agree with this line of thought.) The wise OTTB trainers take all of this into consideration when selecting a horse off the track.
Naturally, I did absolutely none of these things when I acquired Jobber Bill. Mine was a classic case of “horse available? Yes please.” But that doesn’t mean it’s ever too late to take a look.
Jobber Bill (visit his Equibase profile) is a 2009 Ontario-bred by Saffir out of Healing Touch, by Dr. Carter, bred by Jennifer Brooker and Robert Dabdoub.
Saffir was a Kentucky-bred by the legendary Unbridled out of a Storm Cat mare. He won twice in six starts and retired to stud in Ontario, where his career was cut short by an apparent heart attack in the pasture at the age of 12. Saffir sired 33 starters, 16 of which were winners — and only 5 were repeat winners, including Jobber.
The Retired Racehorse Project has done some great research and surveys about some of the best-known sire lines, and I delved into their articles about both Unbridled and Storm Cat.
Unbridled was a champion racehorse and remembered as a sire of sires, a rare distinction. He appears in the direct sireline of many champions and his daughters and granddaughters are also leaving their mark; to list all of Unbridled’s champion descendants would take way more space than I’d like to use in this column.
The RRP Bloodline Bragging profile for Unbridled states that “many have noted about the Unbridled bloodline is their height (often 17 hands or more), their beauty (always the “prettiest” ones on the track or in the ring) and their general trainability.”
I’ll just leave this little 15-something-hand donkey right here.
Okay, maybe that’s not entirely fair. Under the winter hair and undermuscled topline, Jobber does have an attractive, honest face, and while I joke that he wound up with four totally different feet from the horse factory, he does have a frame that brought him home safely in over 30 starts. Somehow his legs seem too long for his body when it comes to grazing, but he figures it out; something strikes me as being a little weird about his croup but I’ve been looking at nothing but thick round Quarter horse rumps for years now.
Either way, he makes it work.
Storm Cat was such a prolific sire — over 1400 offspring on the ground — that’s it no shock that his name pops up in plenty of OTTB pedigrees. While Storm Cats have acquired a reputation for strong personalities, there are literally so many of them out there that basically every gamut of the equine experience is represented. I’m not concerning myself too much one way or another, though I’m encouraged slightly by a photo of Dale Simanton roping off an OTTB out of a Storm Cat mare.
I couldn’t find as much information about the sporthorse expectations in Jobber’s dam family. His dam Healing Touch was a prolific broodmare, producing thirteen foals over her breeding career — including a full sibling, Prebill, who last raced in July of 2017. Several of his half-siblings were fairly successful on tracks all over the East Coast, with some noted longevity.
Shortly after Jobber Bill came home in November, I — like many other excited OTTB owners — posted the news in the large OTTB Connect Facebook group, a great networking group and resource for OTTB owners and enthusiasts. Shortly after, I was contacted by a woman who had owned Healing Touch for the last few years of her life; she commented that “Mary” was one of the sweetest horses she had ever known. The owner had followed Jobber Bill’s racing career as she had all of Healing Touch’s offspring, and was pleased to discover that he was settling into a happy post-track life. I was touched to have this individual reach out to me — and pleased that Jobber does appear to have inherited his dam’s personality!
Jobber raced 34 times, starting with a lone race in December of his three-year-old season. He raced on through his seven-year-old season, racking up a grand total of two wins, as well as 12 places and two shows. He retired with total earnings of $78,415.
He didn’t break his maiden until he was five, finally winning his 14th career start. He did have a race in which he tired along the rail and did not finish, but reportedly was uninjured. Jobber poked around in the claiming ranks at Fort Erie and Woodbine, both in Ontario; his previous owner informed me that she was aware he had shipped to Florida to train at least for one winter while she was still an active rider but wasn’t sure about the rest of his travels.
I don’t have an Equibase Premium account to watch all of his races, but fortunately Fort Erie maintains an archive of past starts so I can snoop on some of Jobber’s career highlights (or, more realistically, his lowlights — he wasn’t really a big-time winner, to be sure). Click here to access the Fort Erie replay page — my personal favorites are his second and last career win, which he won going away on a truly sloppy track (September 13, 2015, race 6) and his final start of his career (October 4, 2016) — you’ll know pretty quickly which one was destined to become my steed.
In my limited OTTB experience, I appreciate the fact that Jobber started racing later, presumably giving him time to physically and mentally mature. It’s interesting to me to watch his win in the slop, having ridden him in some muddy conditions and marveling at his ability to keep his footing — that might be a bit of a quantum leap in my thinking but I’m happy to convince myself it’s not coincidental.
Working for the winter
With my primary horse around the farm a plucky little Quarter horse cow pony who makes it very clear every winter that he must be in a program or I should expect to spend a good amount of time lunging the sillies out of him (sorry folks, I’m not the cowgirl I was at age 21 who would just ride ’em out). Red the Cow Pony has taught me so much in the four years I’ve worked with him, with plenty of challenges along the way and lots of baggage to deal with from past chapters in his life… which makes working with Jobber such a breath of fresh air.
Having been basically turned out for the past year or so, Jobber is pretty undermuscled, and I realize that a fighting-fit Thoroughbred is likely not going to be quite the same creature as I have right now — but we’ve been enjoying some mellow walking rides, working our way up and down the farm’s big hills, learning more about each other and learning the basics of starting, stopping, standing and steering off the leg.
We’ve been slowly pushing some cattle around and tracking individual slow-moving cows — this is a great time of year to start, because no one is particularly zippy. When Jobber gets to “apply” the leg aids to tracking a cow, it’s remarkable to feel how much more he responds, perhaps understanding now all the turns and circles I’m asking him to do out in the open field.
Thanks to the weather, riding has been fairly sporadic, and any time I get to spend in the saddle is a bonus. I’m not planning to start much serious “training” until April, or whenever our snow melts and our days grow warm.
Follow Jobber Bill’s progress into the western world right here on Horse Nation with plenty of updates to come! Go OTTBs, and go riding.