Usually if a Thoroughbred travels around the world, it's as a high caliber racehorse competing on the sport's biggest stages. It's not often that a smallish plain-looking ex-racehorse who was running at the $4,500 claiming level at Charles Town ever gets to tour the globe.
A little filly named Lucy earned that ticket, though, and is currently one of the top polo ponies playing the sport today.
Born at Country Life Farm in Maryland and eventually registered as “High Cature,” Lucy was a half or full sister to a stakes winner, two other stakes performers, and several other winners. No doubt, there was athletic ability in her family's lineage, but it didn't translate to racing in Lucy's case.
“My ex-husband and a good friend of ours, Donald Townsend, who trained in Maryland picked her out of the Timonium sale for me,” said Suzy Haslup, one of Lucy's former owners. “I drove to Maryland, where I was born and raised, and picked her up to take her to the Aiken Training Track, where I broke and trained at my property adjacent to the track.”
Suzy, who worked in real estate when not riding and training, and still does today, owned Lucy in partnership with two friends, one of which was a real estate client of hers who loved going to the races with his father when he was young.
Lucy made it to the track and even won a few races, earning just over $20,000 in a career that spanned about two years. While she was better than some, she definitely wasn't garnering the kinds of results that her owners had hoped she would when they put her in training though.
A life-long equestrian growing up showing hunter/jumpers and fox hunting in Maryland and Virginia, Suzy knew her way around a horse, and also had a good eye for which attributes would help a horse excel in sports outside of racing.
“I wanted to retire her sound and she was running for $5,000, so we paid – yes, PAID – to ship her back to Aiken from Charlestown in West Virginia,” said Suzy. “Her conformation, sassiness, self-confidence and Storm Cat pedigree were traits the polo pros wanted, so I gave her to Kimm Murphy, who was recommended to me by a close friend who also made polo ponies.”
Kimm is a former polo player who now operates a farm outside of Aiken where she starts and sells polo ponies – three to four at a time – and coaches an owner of a team. She often takes horses from Finger Lakes and surrounding lower-level tracks and takes a a year to a year and a half to retrain them as polo ponies, far more time and training than most prospective polo ponies get.
“She has criteria for getting prospects off the track,” explained Suzy. “ She will only take fillies or mares under a certain height and she does not want them to have more than 15 starts.”
Kimm took Lucy to her farm and put all of the buttons on her necessary for polo – short bursts of speed with quick turns and stops, neck reining, and stick and ball work. Lucy showed potential fast, and began to attract the attention of some of polo's most prominent players.
“Fast forward three and a half years later to last week,” said Suzy. “I get a call from Kimm concerning real estate, and she tells me that Lucy, now called ‘Flower Girl,' turned out to be a fabulous polo pony. Kim sold him to Julio Arellano and she turned out to be one of his two top playing ponies, playing in a 20 goal match last year! He wants to give her one more year before plying her 26 goal.”
For those not immersed in the world of international polo, Julio Arellano is the highest-rated polo player in North America, and travels around the world competing. Like many polo players, he often competes on Thoroughbred fillies and mares, a significant number of which were originally bred for racing, not polo.
“I have friends who routinely take their rigs out to the less prominent tracks and buy up several mares at a time who need to be doing something other than racing or breeding to make into polo ponies,” said Suzy. “The nice thing about the pros playing the mares now is that they were always the ones the show horse people passed up buying at the track, as they didn't have any residual value in the other disciplines. This has opened up such a great outlet for these fillies and mares.”
Name: High Cature (a.k.a. “Lucy”)
Born: February 3, 2006
Color: Dk b/br
Sire: Parker's Storm Cat
Dam: Bal Du Bois
Sale History: Sold in 2006 as a weanling for $11,500 at the FTMDEC Sale
Race Record: 9-2-0-2
Race Earnings: $20,090
If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we'd love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz (Jenlroytz@gmail.com) with the horse's Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.
Jen Roytz is the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She also handles the farm's Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns two retired Thoroughbreds: Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011 and is just starting back under saddle to find his forte as a riding horse, and Shotgun Shine (by Tale of the Cat, a.k.a. Gage), who is in training as a hunter/jumper. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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