NY Thoroughbred stallion to compete at Rolex!

Sea Lion II at Galway. © McCool

“You’re late! Hurry up! You’re going to be fined!” yelled the trainer.

Jolted into action, Jo Beth Kemp mustered her groom and her regal racehorse Sea Elephant, and dashed from the stabling area at Belmont Park, through a tunnel, up a ramp, and into the saddling area where everyone was frantically preparing for the next race.

As Kemp and her team swept into the paddock, one racehorse got loose, sending people and horses scrambling in a brief burst of bedlam.

But in the heat of the moment, her normally well-behaved steed did something startling, and some might even say, looking back on it now, prophetic.

“He jumped the entire length of the park bench in the middle of the saddling area!” Kemp says. “I turned around to look, and all of a sudden, my horse is flying in the air.

“That bench must have been six feet long, and he cleared it.”

That was July 21, 2001. Sea Elephant came in first that day, winning a $42,000 purse. But his career as a racehorse was short lived.

Instead, his destiny was to fly over many more jumps, across some of the most challenging cross-country events in the country.

Race name: Sea Elephant
New name: Sea Lion II
Barn name: Phante
Sire: Sea Salute
Dam: Ivory Today, by Caveat
Foal: Jan. 17, 1998
Winnings: $63,360
Later this month, the racehorse who was called “champion” by grooms who worked with him when he went by his Jockey Club moniker, Sea Elephant, and who now goes by the name of Sea Lion II, may earn another distinction.

He may well become the first New York-bred ex-racehorse Thoroughbred stallion to compete at the legendary four-star Rolex Three Day!

Marty Bauman of Classic Communication, media coordinator for Rolex Three Day, confirmed that in all likelihood, it appears that Sea Lion II is the first of his kind to tackle the fabled 1,200 acre Kentucky Horse Park in a competition that pits the nation’s top riders against one another in a bid for the summer Olympics.

Kemp’s stallion, who will be ridden by world-class equestrian and friend Pam Fisher, qualified for Rolex at the 2011 Jersey Fresh International Three-Day Event. He has as long a list of wins over fences and obstacles, as there are stories about his quirks and attributes.

The fact that a 16-hand horse, who is said to be “built like a Cadillac” and as “agile as a cat,” remains a stallion is a testament to his unique personality.

Photo courtesy Pam Fisher

“When I first shipped him to Pam Fisher for training, I told her that if she had any qualms about him remaining a stallion that she should tell me,” Kemp says. “After a few months together, she called me and said, ‘He’s amazing!’ ”

Fisher was able to school him far beyond Kemp’s wildest hopes, and tacked the trickiest courses without turning a hair.

He works as easily with voice commands as he does leg signals, she says, noting that Fisher can lunge him by standing in the middle of the ring and calling out which gait she wants him to perform.

And when presented with a unique challenge, he finds his way of doing what is asked, even if he has to do it his way.

The best example of this is how he loads onto a trailer. He goes backwards, no matter how steep the incline. And yet, he walks right onto an airplane—go figure, Kemp says.

And when he’s jumping, he is an unerring professional.

From his early days, when he hopped over small jumps with such grace that it was clear he had a “big talent,” to his myriad championships, Sea Lion has proved that a New York bred ex-racehorse can compete among the best, Kemp says.

“It’s a big, big accomplishment to produce a horse who’s capable of this,” she says.

Last year, Sea Lion II placed third at Twin Rivers CIC Three Star; he was 7th at the CIC Three Star at Galway Downs; and he was 12th at Jersey Fresh CCI Three Star.

Photo courtesy Pam Fisher

In 2010, he was the USEF Performance Horse Registry Reserve Champion advanced horse of the year.

And now for Rolex!

“Pam’s goal is to score high enough to get to the Olympics,” Kemp says. “If he gets a high enough score at Rolex, he could be long-listed for the 2012 games in London.”

Thinking of how her handsome, wiling stallion made it all seem easy, Kemp chuckles.

“We always knew he was a really good horse.”

14 responses to “NY Thoroughbred stallion to compete at Rolex!”

  1. TBDancer

    Another outstanding story about outstanding OTTBs, Susan. Good job. I look forward to reading more about Sea Lion II at Rolex. I bet he makes it (and makes IT look easy peasy ;o)

  2. Lezlie

    Here’s his Equibase page. Sea Elephant (what a dreadful name!) by Sea Salute out of Ivory Today ran 12 times in 2001 with one win. He earned $63,360.
    http://www.equibase.com/profiles/Results.cfm?type=Horse&refno=4582458&registry=T

    Great story, thanks!

  3. Fiona Farrell

    I read every story you write with such enjoyment. Each one exceeds the next. But today’s story about Sea Lion/Elephant beats all. I especially loved the detail about the park bench, knowing the owner has ongoing concern with her horses after racing, and that he is a New York Bred. I’ve heard so many great OTTB stories lately. You must be flooded with them from so many sources. How do you ever sort them all out?

  4. Melinda Rice Moss

    Awesome Storey! Best of luck to the Sea Lion Team!! Finally a Feel Good story about a NY Bred tied to Racing! Awesome!

  5. Pam Fisher

    Sea lion is all that Jobeth says and more. However, he is 16 hands as opposed to 16.3. the heart of a lion and the eye of an eagle. i cannot wait to soar over the Rolex Kentucky Course!!

  6. Lisa Suphan

    Hi Susan, being from NY myself I am very excited to watch this years Rolex ~ mainly because of Sea Lion! Is it possible to find out where in NY he actually came from? It would be great publicity for the NY based OTTB rescues.
    As always, a great article featuring amazing animals -thankyou!

  7. Jen Roytz

    LOVE this story…and love how it’s told! Can’t wait to watch this boy at the Rolex here in KY. Well done to Susan and to the entire team behind Sea Lion II/Sea Elephant!

  8. Erin O'Neill

    What a wonderful horse!! Is he at stud? I have a top WB/TB eventing mare that I am looking to get pregnant – finding the right TB stallion has been difficult. Could you please send my contact details to the owner!!!

    Please!

    Thanks…!

  9. Four-Star Rookies at Rolex : EVENTING NATION

    […] Pam Fisher has owned and operated her own eventing facility since 1986. Sea Lion is a New York-bred OTTB stallion. They were seventh in the Galway CIC*** this spring, and they'll make their four-star debut at […]

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