Each week a different expert ranks three off-track thoroughbreds in terms of their suitability for a specific discipline. Presented by the Retired Racehorse Training Project.
This week’s evaluator: Heather Benson, Horse Nation’s racing editor
Chosen Discipline: Trail riding, i.e. bopping down a gravel road with friends and trying not to fall off a 17-hand horse I can’t get back up without the mounting block back at the barn… the barn which is three miles away.
Favorite Thoroughbreds: Sunday Silence, Cigar and Finn McCool
Horse 1: Rock America
2007 Bay Thoroughbred Gelding, 16 hands
Bloodlines: Rock Hard Ten x Girl Scout by Meadowlake.
Listing Location: CANTER Colorado
Horse 2: Monster Mania
2003 Bay Thoroughbred Gelding, 16.1 hands
Bloodlines: Meadow Monster x Just for Nice by Val de l’Orne
Listing Location: CANTER Pennsylvania
Horse 3: Niner Genius
2006 Chestnut Thoroughbred Gelding, 16.0 hands
Bloodlines: Beau Genius x Sassy Synner by Snyastry
Listing Location: CANTER Northern California
How I ranked them: 2-3-1
Why: I should probably lead off my evaluation with the fact that I am a Thoroughbred pedigree junkie. As in this article took me way longer than it should have because I got caught up in looking up everyone’s pedigrees first. As a trail rider, my needs from a conformation standpoint are not as intense as, say, an eventer or barrel racer. I need them relatively sound and able to stay that way, have a decent set of withers (rarely an issue with a thoroughbred!) and good feet. The mind is what really matters and quite often a pedigree look can give me some insight there. So I ranked these boys on what is important to me: Mind, Feet, The Rest of It.
The #2 horse, Monster Mania, may not have had the best photos of the lot, but he has the best background for a trail horse. He has already been off the track a few years and used that time to not only let down physically and mentally but apparently learn a few new skills as well. Horses rarely get the designation as “trainer’s favorite” if they are bad actors (unless that trainer is some sort of sadist… as a person who has a loving regard for the naughty horses in her life, you might not want to ever buy my “favorite”). For me, he is a nice size at 16 hands and comes with a nice set of what look like well grown out, black hooves. But the best part to me is his sire-line: the Meadowlakes.
I love them; one of my all time favorite thoroughbreds, Finn McCool is by him. I owned a Meadowlake grandson, Cyclone Larry, who got to play Secretariat in the movie. Yes, I like my Meadowlakes!
The #3 horse, Niner Genius, is gorgeous, no doubt. He was a classy horse on the track with a stakes placing and earning over $190,000 and I love his sire, Beau Genius. Beau Genius came of age as a racehorse when I was first discovering the sport and since he was the last horse that Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker rode to a win, he holds a special place for me. To top it off, he tended to sire very good looking horses with good minds.
Niner Genius has had plenty of downtime from the track and even some new career training as a pony horse. He is nice size, described as having a great personality and I love his thick build and kind eye, all good trail horse attributes. The only knock I could really give him is that he initially left the track with an ankle issue, otherwise he might be #1 for me. A thorough vetting might vault him to the top.
The #1 horse, Rock America, was really hard for me to not place first, off of pure pedigree love. Not only is his broodmare sire (his mother’s father, for those of you out of the pedigree lingo biz) my Meadowlake, he is by one of my all time favorite racehorses, Rock Hard Ten. But I had to step back and remember why I loved Rock Hard Ten — all 17.2 hands, nearly black beauty of him.
Rock Hard Ten was a horse, who while racing, was smart enough to figure out the game, i.e. he knew nobody could “make” him run and so he only ran when he d*mn well felt like it. When he felt like it, he was unstoppable. When he didn’t, well good luck even getting him in the gate (go to minute 63 of this video the 2004 Preakness Stakes. He wasn’t having it, can you tell?) I really love smart animals… but not always for a quiet, chilled-out trail ride. At any rate, Rock America seems to have his mother’s side chilled-out nature but I decided to hedge on the side of history. But with a few leg issues and less off-track experience than the other two, I put him last. That said, he is the horse on this list that is physically closest to me… so tempting, but aren’t they all?
Check in next week when we have an eventing rider on the Olympic trail give us her inside take on who makes the superstar cut in her barn!
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
If you think an off-track Thoroughbred might be right for you, no matter what the discipline, find out more information on what to look for, how to purchase and get re-training tips at retiredracehorsetraining.org.
The Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER) provides retiring thoroughbred racehorses with opportunities for new careers. View all listings at canterusa.org.
Heather Benson is a former racetrack executive, professional handicapping analyst and owner of a Triple Crown winner (well, at least a horse that played one in a movie). But far more importantly, she is a is still that girl who gets giddy when the starting gate opens and cries every time she watches a replay of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. Heather also operates Back Forty Media and Marketing, a full service marketing firm focusing on telling story of equine ventures around the country. Go to her website for more info and to follow her on Facebook at www.backfortymarketing.com