Breeders’ Cup runners, just like any other racehorses, need second careers when their racing days are over — while some will go on to be breeding horses, others find their new life in the show ring and beyond!
The Breeders’ Cup is the crown jewel for North American racing (with increasing participation from Europe as well). Many owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys dream of their horses capturing the elusive title of Breeders’ Cup Champion, and every year another crop of potential stars enters the starting gate hoping to get their piece of the glory.
Champion or not, however, the Breeders’ Cup graduates are all in need of a second career when their racing days are over: some go on to be breeding horses, but plenty of others find their second career in the show ring and beyond. We caught up with five former Breeders’ Cup runners to get the scoop on their post-racing careers!
2014 gelding by Gemologist
Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and Ronald K. Kirk
Formerly owned by WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd., SF Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC
Formerly trained by Todd Pletcher
Breeders’ Cup history: 10th in the 2016 Juvenile
Theory won his maiden start at Saratoga and followed up that victory with another in the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes at Belmont. He finished tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind winner Classic Empire. He never saw the top three again on the track, and after one start early in 2018, his connections made the decision to retire him and seek a second career. Restarted by Carleigh Fedorka as agent for Carolyn Walsh, Theory caught the eye of Clare Walker of Walnut Farm in Kansas.
Walker purchased Theory in July. “We are currently working on instilling good solid dressage basics and relaxing in this phase,” describes Walker. “He is a forward thinking and smart horse but is naturally a bit of a worrier so I’m mindful not to rush him. He is brave and clever about the jumps, but I have focused more on pole work to make sure he gets the footwork basics he needs along with the rideability on the flat.”
As an upper-level eventer herself, Walker allows herself to dream about long-term goals: “Well, we’d all like another upper level horse, wouldn’t we? I have run horses through 2*, so it would be super if he was the one that went on to surpass that, but who knows, really?”
“Theory is a very sweet horse, has some wisdom for his age and is quite affectionate. However, his favorite thing in the whole world is to eat and he gets quite excited at meals times. He had tieback surgery as a two year old so he doesn’t really have a voice, but if he did he would shout at me for his breakfast!”
2007 gelding by Johannesburg
Bred by Redmyre Bloodstock and S. Hillen
Formerly owned by Antonacci Racing and Gerald Antonacci
Formerly trained by Danny Gargan
Breeders’ Cup history: seventh in the 2009 Juvenile
Bred in Great Britain, Radiohead showed early promise as a juvenile, winning the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes at Ascot and placing in several other Grade 1 and 2 stakes in England. He placed seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, which was won that year by Vale of York. After his Breeders’ Cup attempt, Radiohead stayed in the States and never quite captured his early potential. Moving down the ranks of racing through the later years of his career, Radiohead retired from the track and was placed through ReRun Thoroughbred Adoption with Tristan Francar in February of 2015.
Originally, Francar intended to show Radiohead at the 2015 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in dressage but closer to the deadline felt that the horse was not mentally ready and made the horseman’s decision to scratch. Since then, Radiohead’s training has progressed through Francar’s individualized program; he has schooled work through second level. A few physical setbacks forced some time off, but he’s been cleared to work again and Francar is slowly rebuilding his fitness, with the goal to return to the show ring in the spring.
2009 gelding by Smarty Jones
Bred by Darley
Formerly owned by JBL Thoroughbreds LLC and Walsh Racing LLC
Formerly trained by Brendan Walsh
Breeders’ Cup history: winner of the 2014 Las Vegas Marathon, the first year it was dropped from the Breeders’ Cup card
While from 2014 onwards the Marathon was dropped from the Breeders’ Cup card, the graded stakes is still considered by many to be an “unofficial” Breeders’ Cup race — and Cary Street was the first post-Breeders’ Cup winner. Winner of multiple graded stakes, Cary Street was considered the horse that helped launch Brendan Walsh’s training career, and when the horse incurred a minor injury to his suspensory ligament in 2016, Walsh sought a great home.
Enter Steph Butler, an associate veterinarian at the time at a racetrack practice in Lexington, horseless and preparing to start shopping. “One of my friends who at the time was an exercise rider for Brendan with his string stabled at Keeneland for the summer found out that he was looking to find Cary a home since he needed a job. I brought Cary home in the summer of 2016 after talking with a lot of people who worked for Brendan, and what really struck me was how much everyone loved the horse.”
Butler took the rest of 2016 to rehab the ligament injury and let down Cary from racing life; Butler carefully and slowly strengthened the injured ligament and Cary has no limitations now. Over the following summer, Butler introduced jumping, and she and Cary Street competed at the 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover to great success, finishing fifth place and top amateur trainer in competitive trail and 11th in the field hunters (tied for tenth, dropped to 11th in the tie-breaker).
Post-Makeover, Butler and Cary won a Masterson Station hunter pace with a friend, and competed at some schooling shows over the winter. Cary also enjoys trail riding in both English and western tack. Butler hopes to take him to some recognized events in 2019.
Not only is the horse versatile and athletic in all of his careers, he’s just fun have in the barn. As described by Butler: “Cary, in a nutshell, is a 9-year-old-yearling. He is the barn clown, the obnoxious little brother in the pasture who loves to pester the other geldings to play with him (even though he’s 17 hands) and has a huge, goofy personality and is such a fun horse to be around.”
2008 gelding by Artie Schiller
Bred by St. George Farm LLC
Owned St. George Farm Racing LLC (Banwell)
Formerly trained by John Shirreffs
Breeders’ Cup history: fifth in both the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile
Mr. Commons is still owned by his breeders, the Banwell family of St. George Farm. They raced him to earnings of over $900,000 in a career that spanned six years and 29 starts, including two graded stakes wins. Mr. Commons ran eighth in the 2011 Preakness Stakes, plus finishing fifth two years in a row in the 2011 and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile on the turf.
“The Banwells opted to see what Mr. Commons could do in a second career,” shares trainer Emily Brollier Curtis. “They reached out to me to see if I would work with him as a dressage horse. Mr. Commons and I have competed through first level so far, most recently attending regional championships. He is schooling all of the third level and should be showing third next season.”
Brollier Curtis believes that Mr. Commons can be a Thoroughbred stereotype-breaker: “I hope to get him to the FEI levels and really see what an OTTB can do in that setting. He is a very sensitive horse, very particular. He likes what he likes and tells you what he doesn’t like. He is super fun to train because he is quick off the leg and hot to the aids. A very ambitious horse!”
2004 gelding by Incurable Optimist
Bred by John T. Behrendt
Formerly owned by Sisters in Racing Stable and Jeff Siskin
Formerly trained by Kristin Mulhall
Breeders’ Cup history: ninth in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, eighth in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon
Romp accomplished a long racing career with his last start in 2013 at the Jockey Club age of nine. He didn’t break his maiden until well until his three-year-old year, but seemed to get better with age with his first graded stakes placing as a six-year-old. With 55 career starts, Romp was well into warhorse status when he retired through New Vocations, where Leah Alessandroni became his next owner.
Romp showed talent over fences and enjoyed a brief stint as a show horse, but truly enjoys the quieter retired life, getting to simply be a horse out in the pasture!
Go Breeders’ Cup. And go riding.