In any large-scale racing stable, there are the standouts and there are the rest. In the stable of Adele B. Dilschneider, where horses like Breeders' Cup Champion Blame and Grade 2 winners Yell and Roar hailed from, a plain bay colt named Sour wasn't exactly a standout.
Sour was a horse with modest talent, winning twice and earning just under a hundred thousand in a career that saw him have a faint brush with Triple Crown aspirations before finding his niche on the allowance circuit.
When the time came for Sour to drop from the allowance to the claiming ranks, Dilschneider and trainer Al Stall, Jr. decided that a better option for the horse would be retirement, leaving enough in the tank for his next owner in his next career.
Now, Sour is a sweet horse with a truly misleading name.
“Although some might consider Sour a cute name, I've dropped the ‘o' and kindly renamed him Sur, because no one wants to ride a sour horse,” said owner Elisa Matthews.
Elisa came by Sur simply by happenchance when a friend told her about a gelding that had recently come to Holly Hill Training Center in her area of South Carolina.
“She showed me a picture of him and I was in love with him before I even met him,” said Elisa.
Elisa was bitten by the horse bug at an early age. She first learned to ride on Nippy, her mother's Quarter Horse, who she'd ride around bareback as her mom cleaned stalls in the barn.
“I was a military brat growing up, so as soon as we would relocate and the dust would settle, I would find a barn to work and ride at,” said Elisa. “My first official riding lessons took place in California when I was in 6th grade and I learned how to jump on hunters. When we moved to Colorado, I worked off my riding privileges at a local stable by giving guided tours on horseback through the mountains.”
As the story goes with so many people Elisa grew into adulthood, got married, and settled into life in South Carolina with her husband and children. Horses, unfortunately, would take a back seat to the goings-on of raising a family.
“About five years ago, I decided I was missing horses in my life, so I started jumping lessons again,” said Elisa. “I purchased a little paint mare who helped me find myself in the saddle once again.”
Eventually, it was time to find her next equine partner and, having been exposed to the world of eventing in South Carolina, Elisa decided to consider a Thoroughbred.
“I've never owned or been around Thoroughbreds, especially ones off the track,” said Elisa. “Sur has been a Thoroughbred owner's dream!”
Elisa enlisted the help of several friends and trainers to help her give Sur the best foundation possible, having her friend, Charity, put 30 days of flat work on him and taking lessons on him with FEI-level dressage competitor Susan Selvey.
“Sur's a very smart horse who picks things up quickly, and we must be doing something right,” said Elisa. “At our first combined training event we placed fourth, at our first horse trials schooling show we placed first, and a few weeks ago we placed second at another combined training show.”
In a self deprecating way, Elisa explains that the only real setbacks the pair has had, aside from a few abscesses early on in Sur's retraining, has been the fact that they're both experiencing things for the first time. Her goal is that they will tackle the Thoroughbred Celebration Show in Virginia together later this year.
“He's been such a good sport and he and I are both learning the world of dressage together,” explained Elisa. “He has such a willing attitude and is really happy to please me. I love that he trusts me and genuinely tackles any obstacle I put in front of him with zest. I think I've been ruined from ever owning another breed of horse!”
Name: SOUR (a.k.a. “Sur”)
Sire: Lemon Drop Kid
Sale History: none
Race Record: 14-2-3-2
Race Earnings: $95,947
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 ([email protected]) 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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