Sam P ran the Derby, was meant for dressage

Sam P and Laura relax after a dressage lesson

Sam P and Laura relax after a dressage lesson

By any measure, onetime Kentucky Derby contender Sam P was a whole lot of horse.

Frequently placing in multiple graded stakes races —3rd in the 2007 Santa Anita Derby and 9th in the Kentucky Derby that same year— the hard knocking chestnut gelding earned close to $400,000 in 31 starts before he was ultimately retired to pursue a hunter/jumper career.

Although he ran into a bit of a tight spot finding his permanent home— at one point he was reportedly offered for sale at $20,000, but there were no takers—all the cards fell into place for him last February, according to Melissa King, manager and trainer at the Lexington, KY facility of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption.

This is when Ohioan Laura Vorwerk, who was heartsick over the loss of her beloved mare to colic, took a peek at Sam on the New Vocations Racehorse Retirement website. And while she swore she’d never own another horse, she took a drive to watch him work under saddle with King and, she says, “The stars aligned.”

Sam P
Sire: Cat Thief
Dam: Affirmed Legacy, by Affirmed
Foal date: Feb. 27, 2004
Earnings: $399,864
“When I saw on the advertisement that Sam had been in the Kentucky Derby, I was a little worried he’d be too much horse for me,” she says. “He has his quirks on the ground, but to ride him, he’s like a dream.”

Working with a dressage coach, Sam, it seems, has found his new calling.

Whereas his hunter training was quite good, he even competed a bit at the 2-foot-6 levels, his forward way of going made him a bit strong, and hard to handle, King says.

But dressage, she says, is perfect for him!

“The biggest part of finding Sam a good home was fitting him with the right person,” King says. “He could intimidate people on the ground, but with her, she’s able to redirect his attention and have fun with him.”

Although Vorwerk hasn’t had him very long, she has already figured out how to charm the aloof character into being a perfect gentleman.

Sam P always did know how to strut

Sam P always did know how to strut

“He knows he’s hot stuff, there’s no getting around it,” Vorwerk says. “He just oozes charisma. But, he also really likes to work, and is on his best behavior when you challenge his brain.”

The need to be kept actively engaged in the lessons, combined with his beautiful, fluid movement, makes him an ideal candidate for dressage, says Vorwerk’s coach.

“My trainer is convinced that he’s built for dressage!” she says. “And he’s such an athlete; I’ve never ridden a horse as athletic as he is.”

Although Vorwerk isn’t much of a horseracing fan, she has seen the Derby from time to time.

But Sam P’s Run for the Roses is one she has watched a time or two on video, and seeing him then, at the peak of his career, has inspired her to step up her own game.

“Riding Sam makes me realize how much more I need to learn. He’s such an athletic, talented horse and deserves a really competent rider who can really help him explore what he can do,” she says. “He makes me want to be the rider he needs me to be.”

8 responses to “Sam P ran the Derby, was meant for dressage”

  1. Carol

    Very happy to have come across this article and learn of Sam’s good fortune. He’s a good guy – I worked with him at TPletcher’s and tried to follow him at the end of his racing career when it appeared it might not be a happy ending but lost track awhile ago…

    1. Laura

      He seems to be as happy as a clam now! His ground manners have improved tremendously since I brought him home and his work ethic is out of this world. He is an absolute Cadillac to ride, and I will most certainly take the absolute best care of him I possibly can for the remainder of our time together. He is lovely and has obviously been treated very well his entire life so thank you, Carol, for the good work you did with him. He is just a fabulous horse!

  2. nan mertz

    awesome article! I’m so happy for you guys! i am going to look for the race online! Would love to watch him run! Don’t forget to let me know when your first dressage show is!! tx for sending this!

  3. Susan Galvan

    Please keep us posted on his progress. He’s a lucky boy!

  4. Martha Foster

    Great story! I love seeing the human addressing the challenge to be the best she can for her horse! Hope you’ll keep us posted on this pair and may they continue to inspire each other to their greatest heights!


  5. betty

    I’d love to see a video of him in action in dressage.

  6. Jeff

    I remember stopping by the Pletcher barn to see him prior to the Derby. Glad to hear he’s doing so well.

  7. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Sam P has a wonderful future thanks to all the great people who helped him find his new calling. Laura looks so happy to have him and he has such a great legacy that he can turn into elegance and grace with her as a partner. He is a beautiful and very fortunate boy!

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