OTTB Showcase: Unsung Hero (a.k.a ‘Hero’)
Name: Unsung Hero (a.k.a. “Hero”)
Sire: Belong To Me
Dam: Upupandaway, by Our Emblem
Sale History: Sold for $19,000 at KEEJAN in 2004
Race Record: 57-6-6-6
Race Earnings: $68,987
With the announcement of I’ll Have Another’s pending stud plans in Japan, there’s been a lot of renewed chatter this past week about a special horse who became famous on the racetrack, but who became infamous in death. This week, I thought we’d feature a horse from an organization created in memory of Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby and 1987 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. Meet Unsung Hero, currently being fostered and retrained by the Friends of Ferdinand.
Hero was a moderately successful racehorse, running at Oaklawn, Arlington and Turfway and earning more than enough to cover his sale price and pay his way on the track. He was your run-of-the-mill blue collar claimer, and a versatile one at that, winning gate-to-wire, from off the pace, and variations of the two.
Not much is known about Hero’s life between when his racing career ended and when he arrived in the care of Friends of Ferdinand. He came to Friends of Ferdinand via a person who felt he was at risk in his then-current situation and was kind enough to purchase him out of it. Hero was significantly underweight and had broken withers. He also displayed the temperament of a lamb, according to Friends of Ferdinand board member, adoption coordinator, and occasional foster rider of Hero, Erin Thompson.
“We ended up with Hero through a woman with kind intentions, but not a great deal of experience with off-track Thoroughbreds, who found herself a bit in over her head,” said Erin. “After coming to us, Hero has done everything so easily, and most of that stems from his attitude.”
Hero was placed with fellow Friends of Ferdinand board member Sue Pratt and with time, veterinary attention and groceries, blossomed into a wonderful riding horse, yet maintained his mannerly, calm demeanor.
“He’s a very handsome horse. Nicely proportioned with soft eyes and fine features,” said Sue. “Getting to know Hero is truly to understand optimism. He never lets circumstances get him down, he loves people, and he is always interested in and willing to participate in whatever the next adventure or task is going to be.”
Sue admits that at first glance, his withers grab your attention. While the injury has long since healed and he has been cleared by vets to be ridden, his withers bare the remaining evidence of what must have been a serious accident and obviously a painful time in Hero’s life.
While many horses who experience such a physically traumatic experience would likely also display some type of accompanying behavioral issues, Hero is not your typical horse.
“Hero is a lower key Thoroughbred…not a dead-head by any means, but he has a sensible, rider-attentive way of going,” explained Sue. “He is not impressed by much, so he doesn’t spook easily. He is sensitive and will pick up queues from the rider’s body language, preparing for ‘the ask’ so that the transitions are effortless.”
Since his tenure with Friends of Ferdinand began in August of 2011, Hero has developed into a sound, versatile, and extremely capable horse who’s finally ready to be adopted out into a permanent home.
“All this guy wants is to do well and take care of his rider,” explained Erin. “He works hard trying to figure things out, but does so in such a patient, unflappable way.”
So, who is Hero’s ideal human?
“Someone who is interested in a horse as a friend and companion. Someone who wants the intelligence, sensitivity and heart of a Thoroughbred, yet will appreciate Hero’s steady, reliable nature. Someone who wants the same reliability taking a comfortable trail ride or cantering across an open field.” explained Sue. “His adopter will appreciate the way he stands patiently at the mounting block, his excellent halt, his ‘going somewhere’ walk, his well-controlled and responsive trot, his smooth, easy canter, and his appreciation for taking the proper lead when asked. They will adore his trusting nature, his willingness to try, and his desire to please.”
So, with the reminder this week of our beloved Ferdinand, let’s also take time to appreciate all of the good that has resulted from his truly unfortunate passing, and for those of you with social networks filled with equestrians, let’s help Friends of Ferdinand find Hero his home.
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.