As anyone who has spent time with horses will tell you, when an equine decides he or she doesn’t want to do something anymore, they’ll “let you know.”
Some are subtle with their horse-to-human cues; others are like Rathor, a gorgeous animal who is the very picture of Black Beauty, and is possessed of an equally flashy communications style.
When Rathor decided that his best race days were behind him, which included a win against Derby victor Funny Cide, and training with greats such as Sir Henry Cecil and Bobby Frankel, he made his case as clearly as if he had stormed into the boss’ office and crooned, “Take this job and shove it.”
“On the last day of his racing career, in Pennsylvania,” recalls his Rhode Island based owner Elaine Pelino, “when the starting gate flew open, he just stood there. He refused to move.”
She adds, “Someone could have lit firecrackers under him, not that anybody would do such a thing, but if they did, he still wouldn’t have moved.”
Barn name: Rocco
Dam: Raisonnable (GB), by Common Grounds (GB)
Foal date: May 13, 2002
Thinking of him, and how he must have felt that day, Pelino finds commonality between her own hard-fought career in the entertainment business in California, and Rathor’s hard-knocking career grinding out 46 starts until he was nearly 10 years old.
“There was a time when he and I were both working in California. I was doing a lot of commercials and some small roles in film,” she says, noting that she appeared in commercials for Miller beer, Clairol and Canon cameras. “He was racing at California tracks. It occurs to me that we both worked so hard to get where we were at the time, we both went through the ranks, but we both got older.”
A few years ago, just before her 59th birthday, Pelino returned to her native Rhode Island to work part-time on writing projects, while Rathor shipped east to a Rhode Island barn.
“I decided to get a horse for my birthday, and my friend Laurie Tuozzolo, who owns several off-track Thoroughbreds told me she knew of the most beautiful black horse with a white face,” she says.
She always pictured herself with a Tennessee Walker or a Quarter Horses, but based on her friend’s enthusiastic description, decided to drive to the nearby barn and take a gander at Rathor.
After a quick ride, doing light walk and trot work, Pelino hopped off and turned to look closely at the accommodating mount.
He gazed back at her like a young girl’s storybook horse staring out from the pages: he was breathtaking. His dark bay coat, which is nearly black, shines in the sun. And his stark white blaze sets off his fine-boned facial structure. His sturdy, upright frame completes the picture of the perfect dream horse.
Startled by his beauty, intrigued by his history, Pelino began researching his pedigree and discovered he had been trained by the greats, and had had a stellar career before he landed, almost by happenstance, like her, in Rhode Island.
“I went online and couldn’t believe what a great pedigree he had. He deserved respect. He’s an old warrior who deserves a good life,” she says.
As she approaches her 60th birthday in October, Pelino’s goal is to make Rathor as happy in retirement as she can. She plans to trail ride him, and turn their jaunts into pleasure riding for both. Although he’s in remarkable condition after his long career, she’ll never jump him. He deserves a rest, she says.
“He’s on vacation for the rest of his life,” Pelino says. “He doesn’t have to do anything, anymore, that he doesn’t want to do.”