Kim Gatto to pen book on OTTB stars

Holystone, son of Man o' War, is among the featured OTTBs. Pictured with Lou Collister. Photo courtesy Barb Buerkle

Holystone, son of Man o’ War, is among the featured OTTBs. Pictured with Lou Collister. Photo courtesy Barb Buerkle

Equine author and Thoroughbred owner Kim Gatto has embarked on a book project she hopes will cause OTTB owners everywhere to stand a little taller, and puff out with pride.

In her latest work, due to be published next spring on History Press, Gatto chronicles the stellar careers of OTTBs who have hit the heights, winning Olympic gold, and soaring to greatness with legendary riders.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Gatto names a few of the great off-track Thoroughbreds who will appear in her book, and of her hope that their cache will return at the many horse venues around the nation.

Q: I understand you’re developing a book on Thoroughbred sport horses and success stories. How did this idea come about? 

I grew up showing in the hunter world in the 1980s, and, back then, the majority of the show horses were Thoroughbreds. Most of the junior riders had only one horse, so many competed in both the hunter and equitation classes, and some in the jumper ring as well. Many had been race horses before they began their show careers. Others (such as my own show horse, who was purchased as a yearling at Keeneland) never raced, but had been bred for the track.

As a young girl, I loved watching the horses compete in the highest levels of the sport. My trainer at the time had a Thoroughbred who was champion at WEF four years in a row in the hunters, and it was very exciting to watch him in action. Also, my mom used to take me to watch a grand prix that was held in Newport, RI, where we were able to see Olympic riders such as Leslie Burr (now Howard) and Michael Matz tackle demanding courses. Many competed on Thoroughbreds, who cleared these monstrous fences with ease. Of course, one of my greatest childhood thrills was watching the beautiful OTTB, Touch of Class, win not one, but two, Olympic gold medals in show jumping for the U.S.

Holystone over a fence. Photo courtesy Barb Buerkle

Holystone over a fence. Photo courtesy Barb Buerkle

For years, I have been thinking that I’d love to write a book that looks back at some of these amazingly talented legends of the sport, while also helping to bring awareness to the Thoroughbred as a breed. Having just completed my latest book (a history of Belmont Park), I thought that now would be the perfect time to embark on this new project. I approached the folks at the History Press, which has published several of my books in recent years, and they agreed that the project has merit. We are hoping that it will be ready for release next spring.

Q: Will you approach the stories as histories, as you did with your most recent works on Belair Stud and the Saratoga Race Course?

Yes, somewhat. I am planning to include chapters on 30 or so of the top Thoroughbred hunters, jumpers, and/or equitation horses that I have selected from the 1930s to the present time. Where possible, I am interviewing each horse’s connections, including many of the legends of the sport, to find interesting anecdotes to include. If the horse raced, I will include information on his/her career starts and PPIs. Each horse’s Jockey Club name and lineage will also be included, along with numerous black and white and color photos. Additionally, I will discuss trends in the show ring at the times in which these horses competed, and how the courses, judging, and other factors have changed, which will help readers to understand “the bigger picture.”

Q: Who are some of the well-known horses you’ll be writing about, and why?

There are so many, including several that have been inducted into the National Hunter Hall of Fame or the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. In addition to Touch of Class, a few of my favorites are Holystone, a dashing son of Man o’ War who was a champion hunter in the 1930s and 40s; the handsome Sandsablaze, who won the AHSA Medal Finals with Buddy Brown and went on to achieve success with Brown in the grand prix jumper ranks; the lovely chestnut Touch the Sun, who won numerous hunter championships with his owner/rider Lisa Castellucci; and the fabulous Jet Run, who earned a gold medal for the Mexican Olympic team before pairing with the legendary Michael Matz.

One of the many horse-related books penned by Gatto

One of the many horse-related books penned by Gatto

Oklahoma Land Rush, a star of the 1990s, was originally found at a slaughter auction and went on to dominate at the national level in the junior hunter division with his owner/rider Lauren Schweppe. Others include Whadayasay, Showdown, Kim’s Song, Chase the Clouds, Playing Games, Albany, Snowbound, Cap and Gown, Idle Dice…the list goes on and on. There are so many other amazing horses, and they all have stories to be told. It is difficult to choose just a few!

Q: It seems like a great time to be writing about OTTBs. Is it your sense that OTTBs are making a comeback in popularity?

I truly hope so. When I was showing, the hunter and jumper ranks were dominated by Thoroughbreds. While Thoroughbreds remain popular mounts in eventing, they were replaced in the hunter/jumper rings by Warmbloods, which many believed to be more even-tempered.

Nowadays, there seems to be a movement to bring Thoroughbreds back into the show ring, as many are recognizing that these animals have the grace, athleticism, versatility, and heart to excel at all levels of the sport. In today’s economic climate, they are also more affordable, as folks may purchase a horse off the track relatively inexpensively if they are willing to invest time in the retraining process.

It is my sincere hope that this book will help more folks recognize the greatness of the Thoroughbred. As the legendary George Morris recently told the media, “The American Thoroughbred is the best sport horse in the world.”

* Note: If anyone has a suggestion for a horse that should be included in the book, particularly one that has competed recently, feel free to contact Kim at

11 responses to “Kim Gatto to pen book on OTTB stars”

  1. Carol Brennan Windsor

    Kim, great subject for a book and can’t wait to read it. I personally LOVE Holystone and many of Man o’ War’s sons who all made beautiful hunters. Having shown extensively with many friends who had Thoroughbreds hunters and jumpers on the west coast open circuit in the 60’s and 70’s, I vividly remember the introduction of the crossbreds, future warmbloods, and how thick most of them were. Granted, they have had their spot in history, but I am happy to see the comeback the Thoroughbred!!!!! Good luck with your writing, Carol

  2. Kathleen Kirsan

    Hi Kim, just came across your page surfing for TB show jumpers, I am just finishing up a book on the American TB and its suitability for sport horse breeding and competing, focusing in on redeveloping the background lines from the 4-mile heat era, it should be out in 2014 ‘Legacy of Lexington’. Needless to say I would like to get your book when it comes out and I am thrilled you are doing this. Our American breeds are being completely ignored as sport resources when they are truly far more dominant in true sport genetics than those coach-farm horses from Europe. It is sad really the level of brain washing that has happened to the American Equestrian, completely forgetting our amazing heritage of top sport performance in our TB and part-TB. My first book: North American Sport Horse Breeder just came out this summer. Best of luck with your book and let me know when it is out. Kathy

  3. kim

    Hi Jan, I am not familiar with that horse. Could you please email me? Thanks! Kim

  4. Jan Markhan

    I hope the wonderful showjumper, The Blue Dolphin, also makes it into the book.

  5. Abby

    Yay Kim,I too will be looking forward to your ottb book;I recognize many of those star t-breds from the 70’s& 80’s as well as having been privileged to have had a few myself! Bravo <:

  6. Joanie Murray

    This really gets me excited for the book. I think I will recognize many of the horses’ names. I too showed in the hunters during that time period. And Jeffrey Welles was still showing ponies!

    1. Louise Ferro Martin

      Congratulations Kim!

      I am anxiously awaiting your new book, The Belmont and now a new book on Thoroughbreds that were successful in the Show Arena! This is really wonderful. Like your other books this will be just full of information all along being a great read! So many will love to finally know the history and great stories behind these incredible athletes. Thank you Kim for taking on this project!
      Best of luck to you 🙂

      Susan thank you so very much for doing this story. Great a usual…:)

  7. Kim

    Thanks so much! Yes, Lauren – For the Moment (“Fred”) will have a chapter for sure. Those were just a few that I listed. 🙂

  8. Lauren Mayer

    I hope For The Moment made the cut for this book 🙂

  9. Lisa Melone

    Feels like a walk down memory lane reading those names–I look forward to the book. Thank you Kim.

  10. Vicki

    What a fabulous idea for a book. I showed in the hunters during the
    70’s & 80’s too and remember these horses. TB’s were the
    only way to go. When Barcrest started importing Hannoverians
    in the 80’s, I thought baaa, these clunky types will never catch on…..
    Thrilled at the move to bring the TB back to the ring! Oh and sign me
    up for a copy of your book when it comes out. Can’t wait!

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