With this being the week of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, it is only appropriate that we take a look back at a horse who competed in not only one, but two Breeders' Cup races, and who is now enjoying life being retrained as a riding horse in Nicholasville, Ky.
Romp's story started in Argentina, where he was born and raised before being imported to the U. S. prior to his first start on July 15, 2006. His pedigree screamed turf and distance, and after lack-luster attempts at breaking his maiden as a 2-year-old, the tenth time was the charm, as he won a turf event at Belmont going 1 1/16 miles to break his maiden by 2-3/4 lengths.
He had been running competitively in claiming events, and in his next start caught the eye of Gail Fitzgerald, the management partner for the Sisters in Racing syndicate. The group claimed Romp out of his next start for $35,000 with hopes that the South American gelding would give them some fun memories and a few photos in winner's circles around the East Coast.
Competing in New York during the summer and fall and in Florida through the winter, Romp ran well for the syndicate during the rest of his three-year-old season and into 2008, rarely running out of the money at the $35,000-$40,000 claiming level. Slowly but surely, he began getting better as he got older.
For the next few years, Romp made several journeys across the country and back, racing at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park on the West Coast and Colonial Downs, Saratoga and Laurel Park on the East Coast. By the time he was six years old Romp was finding his best stride and mainly running in stakes and graded stakes races, taking his ownership group on the ride of a lifetime.
He competed in the Sword Dancer Invitational, was second in the San Luis Rey-G2 and Sunset-G3 Handicaps, and earned his way into two editions of the Breeders' Cup Marathon (run as a Grade 3 in 2010 and as a Grade 2 in 2012).
The Sisters in Racing syndicate loved their seasoned campaigner, and when it came time to consider the idea of retirement, they wanted what was best for him.
“The Sisters in Racing donated to the New Vocations Breeders' Cup pledge program with him both years that he ran in the Breeders' Cup,” said Anna Ford, Program Director for New Vocations. New Vocations is once again doing their pledge program this year, with 35 Breeders' Cup entrants slated to have a portion of their race day earnings this weekend donated to the aftercare organization.
“Long story short, when it was time for Romp to retire, Gail called to see if we could take him, and we said ‘absolutely!'” said Anna. “She paid to ship him all the way from California to Lexington too.”
The work ethic and attitude that made Romp a winning racehorse was soon put to use to make him a successful riding horse. He was happiest when he was working and was open to new challenges as quickly as they could be presented to him.
New Vocations adopted Romp out to Leah Alessandroni in April of this year, and together the pair has been training over small fences and schooling basic dressage moves. Leah said that while he can be a character in the barn, Romp puts his game face on as soon as the saddle is on his back.
“He's a big goofball. He wants to get into everything and is pretty nosey, in a good, entertaining way,” said Leah. “There are definitely times when he is ‘he' is up and wants to play around, but if you put him to work, he goes right to business and gives 110%. He's so interesting and fun to ride because you feel exactly what he's thinking. It's a great feeling when the light bulb goes on and he's like, ‘I got it! Let's go. What's next?'”
Leah, who works as the Bloodstock and Farm Administrator for Regis Farm in Versailles, Ky., says she has ridden hunters in the past but hopes to start showing Romp at some small shows in the spring, with a longer-term goal of competing in jumper shows and horse trials with him as they progress.
Gail has kept tabs on the former Sisters in Racing-owned star, talking with Leah and even coming out to the farm to watch Leah school him once when she was passing through Kentucky.
“When I started looking at horses last fall, I had an outline of what I wanted and looked at a handful that fit the bill, but that I wasn't really excited about,” said Leah. “Romp was actually almost the opposite of what I was looking for on paper – about five years older than I wanted, and had a lot more races under his belt. Regardless of that, I went out to see him because I know with Thoroughbreds there are often many different layers to them and you can't necessarily rule one out just based on paper.
“I'm so glad I went to see him that day because I knew he was coming home with me right away. As I watched him being worked in the arena at New Vocations, you could just tell he needed a job and loved working. On top of all that, he just has a presence about him. He's honest, brave, and has a huge heart. Basically, he exemplifies everything that I love about OTTBs.”
Born: March 2 2004
Sire: Incurable Optimist
Dam: Stormy Secret (ARG)
Sale History: None
Race Record: 55-4-8-14 (2nd – San Luis Rey Handicap-G2, Sunset Handicap-G3)
Race Earnings: $265,413
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 was the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She is a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant for various entities, both equine and non-equine. She can also still be found on the back of an OTTB most days.
Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.
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