What happens to a race horse when the racing is over?
I want to share a story about two Thoroughbred horses born in Lexington, KY in 2006. There were two foals born on the small breeder’s farm that year – a very dark grey colt and a chestnut colt. The dark colored colt was from a beautiful grey mare and he was destined to become a gorgeous dappled grey –the kind of horse that everyone wants to own. The chestnut had four white socks and a big blaze down his face– the kind of chrome that is flashy in the show ring. But, these two foals were bred to become race horses.
When Thoroughbred foals are born, they are not given their final registered racing names for several years, so they usually get nicknamed by their handlers at the farm. There were only two foals born on this farm in 2006 and they were the best of buddies. Their breeder nicknamed the chestnut Amos and the grey Andy.
The Training Begins
Amos and Andy played in the bluegrass of their old Kentucky home until it was time to begin training for careers as race horses when they were late yearlings. A well respected trainer came by to check out Amos and Andy. Although the trainer was partial to greys, he chose to partner with the breeder on Amos to train for racing. Soon Amos was at Churchill Downs learning to become a race horse under the watchful eyes of the experienced trainer. The breeder knew the trainer also liked the grey horse, Andy, and so he was sent to Turfway Park track to train with the trainer’s assistant.
Amos’ first race was as two year old at Churchill Downs. It took four races before he won a race. Seventeen more races added one second and one third to his race records. With records like this, it was decided that Amos should be retired. He retired sound with total earnings of just $12,210. He was just four years old.
For Amos, that meant it was on to a second career as a pony horse for the same trainer. Amos became the best pony horse ever at Churchill Downs. Each day he led the trainer’s more famous Thoroughbreds–Brass Hat and Groupie Doll–to races that were worth a lot more per race than Amos had won in all of his eighteen races. He enjoyed his life as a pony horse for several more years until the pounding of the young horses on his stout frame made Amos wish for another career. His owner recognized that Amos was not happy with his job and started looking for a third career for this, still sound, now seven year-old Thoroughbred gelding.
Andy, the dark grey colt, also went into training but at Turfway Park instead of Churchill Downs – kind of like a baseball player dropping down to the minors before proving himself and moving up to the majors. He finished seventh out of nine horses in his first race with a comment of “failed to respond”. Andy had not yet figured out how to be a race horse. In his next race he finished sixth out of eight so he still only beat two. A change of race track and trainer took Andy to Florida where he moved up in class from $11,000 maiden claiming races to a $16,000 maiden claiming on the turf.
Andy liked the warm weather and the turf and he finished third with better comments of, “some late interest”. He raced a couple more times in Florida before returning to Keeneland in Kentucky. He raced on the Polytrack and did not like the surface and beat just one horse. Andy raced once in Indiana Downs before traveling east to the turf of Colonial Downs in Virginia. He finally won his first race, as a four year-old.
He raced several more times in Virginia and moved onto Maryland where he finished his racing career sound and in good health. He retired to his breeder’s farm in Lexington, KY with winnings of $13,923 – one win, one second and four thirds in fifteen races. Not a real impressive racing career.
So what happens to race horses when they are retired?
Amos and Andy are two of the lucky ones. They retired to their owners’ farms instead of filtering down to the bottom tier tracks to race –until they couldn’t. They were retired while still young and sound for other careers.
Good owners and trainers take care to place their horses when they are done racing. They do not want to see them end up at an auction or with an unskilled rider so they work with people who know how to retrain and place off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs). Fortunately, both of their owners were familiar with the program at Bits & Bytes Farm where we find homes for sound race horses that still have the mind and the body to become sport horses. They are offered for sale on our Web site, even before they are done racing, so that when their last race is finished, they have a place and a new job to go to.
Andy’s breeder called us when Andy retired and asked us to come to his farm in Lexington to take photos of Andy and several other horses to place for sale on the Bits & Bytes Farm Web site. Boarder, Suellen Slockbower came along for the ride and instantly fell totally in love with Andy whose registered name is Detroit Iron.
Suellen purchased her first OTTB, Monarch’s Reign, from Bits & Bytes Farm after seeing him on our Web site. Monarch’s Reign is the son of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Monarch’s Reign also had a less than stellar racing career – two races and both times he finished without his jockey! But Monarch ‘reigns’ in his second career as a sport horse. His laid back personality stole Suellen’s heart and opened it to getting another ex-race horse.
Thoroughbreds are like potato chips – you can’t just have one! The next thing you know, we were putting Andy on the trailer to bring him home to Bits & Bytes Farm as Suellen’s second off-the-track Thoroughbred.
Suellen is training Andy for his second career as a dressage horse and he is doing very well. He won the Championship for his beginning level dressage series! We all love this ex-race horse’s personality and athleticism. Andy is living and training at Bits & Bytes Farm with Suellen and Monarch’s Reign.
So what happened to Amos after retiring to the farm?
Well, it just so happened that Bits & Bytes Farm was on the road to Kentucky again to pick up a beautiful grey filly we sold for a respected trainer. The grey filly’s new owner Susan Goodman, DVM was with us as were Suellen and Cindy Oliver – all owners of Bits & Bytes Farm horses. Between the three women they had purchase seven OTTBs from Bits & Bytes Farm.
While at the trainer’s farm, we took photos of a beautiful chestnut gelding that needs to find a new career. We then we loaded the grey filly for the ride home to Bits & Bytes Farm in Atlanta, Georgia.
The trainer mentioned that there was another even prettier retired race horse on the other side of the farm owned by his assistant that we should take a look at. He was not sure that we could get to that barn because the creek between the two barns was rising rapidly due to the torrential rains that had been coming down all night. The trainer went ahead and checked the depth and it was determined that our truck and trailer could get across safely. We were able to meet, Souperman Himself, and his barn buddy, the famous race horse Brass Hat — who retired in 2011 after racing for seven seasons and earning $2.1 million!
As we were looking at Souperman Himself, his owner told us how special he was and how he really needed to find a forever home. His owner never wanted to worry that he was being starved or sent off to auction. She knew that we follow the horses we sell and we only sell to people with the experience to train and handle an off-the-track Thoroughbred. She offered to let us bring Souperman home so that Bits & Bytes Farm’s other owner could try him with the hope that he would live at our farm forever.
Susan, Suellen and Cindy all said to, “Put Souperman Himself in the trailer”. They all wanted him to come back with us. After a few text messages and photos to the husband (potential owner for Souperman) it was determined that doing so would not result in divorce. Souperman Himself was loaded in the trailer and we headed home in a hurry to beat the tornados that were rapidly approaching Kentucky.
It was only after getting home and pulling up Souperman Himself’s records in Equibase that I saw his breeder’s name, and realized we now had the team of Amos and Andy back together at Bits & Bytes Farm! Souperman Himself was Amos of the ‘Amos and Andy’ Kentucky buddies. William Buff Bradley was the trainer who started both Superman Himself (Amos) and Detroit Iron (Andy). Once again they would be playing in the fields together – this time in Georgia instead of Kentucky.
Both of Amos and Andy are 100% sound at seven years old and both have great personalities. They have always been well cared for and loved. They will enjoy each other’s company once again as they learn to be sport horses.
Thoroughbreds have a lot to offer after racing and Amos and Andy are proof of that. Take a chance on an off-the-track Thoroughbred and you won’t be disappointed.