The wise old horseman gave Nancy Richards her first big break with Thoroughbreds.
And in the countenance of new ex-racehorse Theposse’safterme, an equine athlete who “always paid his way” earning seconds, and a rare first, she could see a reminder of the grandfatherly figure whose horse she adopted shortly after the great old man died at age 99.
In the way that life seems to bring things full circle, Posse landed on a sales listing at Re-Run, a Thoroughbred adoption nonprofit, and Richards decided to adopt and bring him to the homestead of his late owner, longtime horseman Dominick Vittese.
“I always followed his racehorses when he was alive; I put them in a virtual stable online and would keep track of them,” Richards says.
Posse’safterme was one of the last horses purchased by Vittese, and four months after the elder horseman died, Richards spotted the racehorse on a sale’s page of racehorse trainer Lisa Molloy.
“I was on a Facebook page that the Retired Racehorse Training Project had linked to, when I saw his name,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘That’s him!’ I had always wondered what had happened to him.”
In her excitement, she mentioned him to Vittese’s daughter Lisa Clark, and could hardly believe her ears at the response.
Race name: Theposse’safterme
Dam: Fortunate Prospect
Foal date: March 31, 2007“She said, ‘Just go and get him. He was one of my dad’s last horses. If you want him, you can keep him at the farm, rent free.’ ”
And so, on Nov. 6, after Hurricane Sandy bore down on the east coast, a 16-hand gelding not wild about racing, but possessed of a most pleasing personality, arrived on the farm where the great horseman had gotten his start, and where he helped foster the dreams of a young horseman who once hung on his tales of racing glory.
Vittese often made time to sit down and talk with Richards about his great wins, and the champions he had bred or owned.
Pulling out stacks of win photos, he would regale her with stories after Sunday chores were done, delighting in the enthusiasm that the young woman showed for the sport.
“I had worked for him for years when I started to follow his horses on my virtual stable,” Richards says. “When I told him I was following his horses, he got really excited, and in the last couple of years, when he spent more time at the farm, and didn’t travel as much, he would tell me stories. He loved to talk about his horses!”
As a young kid dreaming like so many do of Black Beauty, Richards went further than most with her dreams: she made them happen. See related story.
Working around her class schedule, and holding down as many as four jobs at one point, she grew up tough and determined to own her own horse one day.
And the wise horseman, obviously respecting her grit, not only gave her two Thoroughbreds of her own, but in 2007, after she had been working at Vittese’s Idyll Acres Farm in Moorestown, N.J., for over 10 years, elevated her position to farm manager.
Although forced to weather the unexpected and difficult death of Dina’s Dear, due to severe colic and an impacted colon, Richards pressed forward, aspiring to be a great horseman herself.
Looking back at her long years at the farm, she has come to see Vittese as a grandfatherly figure, someone who set a great example for her, and who shared her passion for Thoroughbreds.
After his death in July, she feels a little piece of the old horseman lives on in the gentle ex-racehorse who made his way back, and maybe a little piece too, in her self.
“Oh my gosh, he’s the sweetest horse I’ve ever met!” she says. “It’s like he’s always been here.”
For Lisa Molloy’s part, retraining Posse for Re-Run and readying him for a new home, makes her quite proud. To see a horse who arrived like “hell on wheels” depart for Richards’ farm as a mellow, gentle horse nearly unrecognizable from the newly gelded guy she worked with for two-and-a-half months.
“He went from being the type of horse who went ballistic if another horse came near him—he was so bad we couldn’t stable another horse next to his stall— to a very loving horse, once his testosterone levels dropped,” Molloy says.
Following his surgery, and with time to cool his stallion ways, he became a friendly companion to other horses, and as “slow as a donkey” under saddle, Molloy adds.
“He’s just happy to plod along. I took him trail riding and he never did anything wrong,” says Molloy, noting that she is thrilled he has found a new friend and partner in life.