Eclipse Award Winner Declan’s Moon, undefeated as a two-year-old, will participate in a 100-day training project designed to prepare ex-racehorses for future careers, and enfold the racing industry and sport-horse world alike, in a team approach to find a lasting home and career for these deserving animals.
The expert rider had so much success masterminding the popular Retired Racehorse Training Project, which trained four racehorses in a matter of weeks to walk, trot, canter and in some cases jump, that Pittman was inspired to keep the momentum going.
This time, he enlisted the support of top racing farms, convincing them to donate a Thoroughbred for three-months of evaluation and training at his Maryland facility, Dodon Farm Training Center.
“It was really important to me to gain the participation and trust of the heavy hitters in the racing industry, so I could get them to recognize that these horses have a lot of value” in the marketplace outside of the racing arena, he says. “Our previous efforts focused more on attracting the sport horse riders and buyers, so this will help us increase our visibility in the racing world.”
Declan’s Moon, who was once considered a Triple Crown contender before he was sidelined by a racing injury, was retired at the Pons family’s Country Life Farm in Maryland. When Josh Pons heard about the trainer challenge, he approached the champion racer’s owner, Samantha Siegel of Jay Em Ess Stable, and suggested she enter him, Pittman says.
Getting her agreement was a tad easier than getting one from Declan’s Moon.
“Declan wouldn’t let us catch him!” Pittman says. “Josh and I went out to his field for a visit, but he trotted circles around us like a dancer, and then galloped to the top of a hill and struck a pose.”
Other farms pledged their equally promising equine athletes:
Gunport, a gorgeous three-year-old gray filly with a petite head and magnificent topline, was volunteered by Sagamore Farm, where Kevin Plank of Under Armour has worked with Tom Mullikin to re-energize racing, Pittman says.
“She had no desire to race … but now she has the opportunity to discover her other talents in the 100 Day Challenge,” Pittman adds.
Another contender is Suave Jazz, a 9-year-old who ran 70 races and won $651,000. He was a favorite of trainer Tony Dutrow earlier in his career, Pittman says, and wound up taking the horse back after he was retired from racing.
Dutrow, a partner at The Walnut Green Farm with Mark Reid, was eager to stand behind the “magnificent old campaigner” in the challenge, and expects that he will attract a huge fan base among viewers of Pittman’s Facebook updates, as they get a look at his glorious movement.
“He’s not the prettiest horse, but he’s a good mover,” Reid states in a press release. “And by the way, we want to win this thing!”
And, Northview Stallion also has a horse in this race!
Alluring Punch, a three-year-old gelding bred by Barbara Ryan, is in a family of great sport horses. His sire Two Punch fathered 2009 Rolex CCI**** competitor Vaunted, and like that superstar, Alluring Punch possesses similar qualities, Pittman says.
All four horses arrived at Dodon Farm on Dec. 1, and will be trained from the ground up.
“The purpose of the challenge is to demonstrate the versatility, trainability and quality of the Thoroughbreds being produced by America’s horse racing industry,” Pittman says. “This fits with the purpose of our charitable organization, The Retired Racehorse Training Project, and our mission to increase demand for
Thoroughbreds off the track.”
Training will be chronicled in video and blog entries, which will be uploaded on The Retired Racehorse Training Project’s Facebook page.
And by the end of it, Pittman will demonstrate what he has been saying for years: “Thoroughbreds are more suitable for most amateur riders because they’re easier to ride. They want to go forward, and they want to work.”