Money Makes Money was just a broken-down racehorse vanned off to the murky fates beyond the track when Karen Benson got a hold of him.
And turned him into a superstar.
Never doubting the potential of the pretty-faced gelding who last raced at Gulfstream Park, Benson rehabbed the injured animal’s blown tendon through nine painstaking months, and eventually turned him loose on the show world with great success.
A gentleman under saddle, and smart as a whip, he repaid the kindness shown to him, over and over again. He won hunter/jumper shows, took Benson on adventurous trail rides, and kept the blue ribbons coming.
In June, he won the $1,500 Take2 Jumper Stakes at the Thoroughbred Celebration Show in Virginia, for example, while back at the farm, another project horse, this one rescued from Camelot last March, was waiting to follow in his footsteps.
Though she claims not to make a habit out of saving and remaking hopeless cases, when Benson saw Atom, an unraced son of Royal Academy languishing at the Camelot Auction, she reflected on how well it went for Money Makes Money, and decided to try her luck a second time.
“He’s the first horse I’ve taken since I took Money Makes Money in 2006,” Benson says. “The horses are very different. Atom is not as easy as Money. He’ll buck, and he can be fresh, but he shows tremendous talent for jumping. I think he could eventually turn out as wellt.”
Atom arrived March 7 last year from Camelot in decent form, and standing on four good feet. But shortly after he arrived, he spiked a 103 temperature and developed swelling in his neck. Although cultures for Strangles disease were negative, he was a very sick horse, and was quarantined for three months.
As he recovered, his dull and depressed demeanor soon dropped away, revealing a fatter, happier horse.
Benson worked with Atom regularly, riding him for her partner, as his return to health allowed. And then one day, months into their time together, she jumped him over a two-and-a-half foot roll-top, and he cleared four feet.
“He jumps the height of the standards,” she says. “And he’s brave. He’s good on the trails, and he has common sense. And boy he has personality.”
After working with him for about a year, Benson purchased Atom outright from her partner Kim Randall, and scrapped all plans to sell him.
“He was an easy horse to fall in love with,” she says, “and I see him going a lot further than being a sales prospect.”
When Benson agreed to take her first hard-luck case in 2006, she already knew the owner, and had met Money Makes Money beforehand. With Atom, all she saw was a photo of the dejected looking animal on Facebook.
It’s funny how well it worked, she says. Now, she has two great show horses arisen from difficult pasts.
Money Makes Money, she says, is jumping bigger and getting better and better. “He’s jumping a meter 10 now and I plan to take him to Florida this winter, to Ocala and Wellington.”
And Atom, a New York-bred nearly without hope last year, may follow closely on his heels.
“I take the downtrodden horses because they’re talented,” Benson says. “And if you can see it in them, and bring it out, it helps make Thoroughbreds in general more valuable, and sought after.”
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