Stakes winner Billy Gilman and his 11-year-old rider took the Pennsylvania National Horse Show by storm last week.
The big, bay champ who won the Danzig Stakes in 2003, and earned a total of $181,471 in his racing career, calmly packed about the large stadium, taking young rider Kelsey Roland on a blue ribbon ride.
Gilman rode Billy in the team hunt division representing River Hills Foxhounds with teammates Kelly Conner, the riding coach and owner of Billy, and fellow young equestrian Ella Brophy.
Witnessing the champion ex-racehorse carefully carry his tiny rider around the ring, following second in a trio of hunt-team riders, was a sight that gave equestrian and River Hills Foxhound representative Priscilla Godsoe goosebumps.
“That night, Billy Gilman was a super star!” Godsoe says. “Here’s this big stakes winner packing around a little girl” after a six-year career as a racehorse.
Race name: Billy Gilman
Sire: U.S. Flag
Dam: Queen Explo
Foal date: March 24, 2000
Earnings: $182,471The 12-year-old ex-racehorse was nine when Connor decided to snap him up. “My brother, who spotted him at Penn National, found his trainer and said, ‘If you ever want to sell that horse, my sister will want him.’ Typically I choose big, bay horses. And Billy is an extremely good-looking horse!”
And it turns out he has beauty and brains!
Six months after she purchased him, she was trotting him through streams, riding into the ocean and exposing him to the whole, wide world beyond the track.
He took to it like a duck to water.
He’s not only brave over fences, schooling now at 4 feet, but showing at 3-foot-6, but has the most agreeable and trustworthy personality. After successfully teaming up with a 16-year-old rider, Connor paired her big Thoroughbred with Kelsey Roland last November. They only rode lessons together at the farm, before making their showing debut Oct. 15 at the Pennsylvania National Horseshow!
“I can definitely tell you,” Kelsey says, “It was the time of my life! It was amazing to be on an ex-racehorse who knows so much! All I had to do was sit up and ride him.”
The team rode in the No. 2 horse position, following Connor on her mount in the lead position, and trailed by rider Ella Brophy.
After jumping a course of seven obstacles, all three drew abreast and soared over the eighth jump in unison.
“When we came over that final jump, everyone just gasped and applauded,” Connor says. “The crowd went wild!”