A pale gelding so humble he once went begging off the track, and who later was passed over and dismissed by top riders as “reckless” and “lacking in movement,” was recently named by Eventing Nation as one of eight emerging stars.
Silver Flash, a hard-knocking ex-racehorse who left Suffolk Downs at the end of the 2008 meet when a Georgia horseman paid $600 for him out of the goodness of her heart is today prepping to take his young owner/rider of four years, Abby Hamblin, across the ditches and fields at Pine Top Advanced CIC ** on Feb. 19.
Barn name: Brighton
Sire: Fabulous Frolic
Dam: Enough Approval
Foal date: April 2, 2003
Earnings: $41,928, 41 starts“I’m so excited! This is a horse that nobody wanted, who was disregarded by so many top riders,” says Margaret King, a Georgia trainer who purchased Silver Flash off the track via CANTER New England, retrained him, and sold him four years ago to the young rider who had the prescience to see in an unwanted horse the unique gifts he possessed.
“Before Abby came along, he was passed over and passed over. People said they thought he’d have a difficult time applying himself, or that he wasn’t careful enough. Others said he didn’t have enough movement or enough jump. People didn’t believe he had what was needed.”
But on the late-summer day that Abby Hamblin walked into King’s barn, and the unsung horse with a “nitty-gritty” spirit cocked his head and asked for a treat, at which point the test ride and vetting became a mere formality: “I knew as soon as he tipped his head at me … that I had to have him,” Hamblin says. “I’d only ever known one other horse who cocked his head for a treat. My older retired Thoroughbred does the same thing, and I knew immediately he was the right horse for me.”
That blind faith kept her in the saddle for their first ride, which jostled and bounced with comical movements. “I was bouncing all around, and we were chipping-in at the jumps and doing long spots. It was a very poor tryout ride,” she says. “I didn’t know how bad we looked until I went to look back at the videos and I saw what a good horse he was for not bucking me off.”
After those first ungainly attempts, Hamblin and Silver Flash went into training with two-time Olympian Julie Richards, a coach so good she rooted for the Thoroughbred with as much enthusiasm as she did for her barn of expensive Irish sport horses.
“She has helped me so much with him. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without Julie Richards. She’s been to the Olympics twice, and she’s surrounded by these big, fancy Irish horses that are unbelievable, but Silver Flash is pretty fancy too, and she has helped me see this,” Hamblin says. “Back when we were doing our first Novice she took me aside and said, ‘He’ll do a two star for you, there’s no doubt in my mind.’ So I’ve never put a limit on him and I’ve let him show me how far we can go.”
Sound as a bell, whip smart and eager, Silver Flash did not emerge as a rising Eventing star overnight.
His success came after years of hard work to nurture his potential, a journey that began in 2008 when King answered a phone call from Thoroughbred charity CANTER New England.
“Ellen O’Brien of CANTER called and said she had a horse she thought I’d like. I trusted her, and I said OK.”
And all these years later, after two years with her and four years with Hamlin, Silver Flash’s star is rising, and shining a light on the great possibilities for the Thoroughbred sport horse.
“I’m completely sold on the Thoroughbred breed,” Hamlin says. “I see all these Irish sport horses, and don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have one. But to me it doesn’t make sense to spend all this money overseas when you can buy a Thoroughbred who can do the same thing, and who will show you so much heart.”