Five years after washing up on the backside of the Suffolk Downs racetrack, Pokeys Punch has started to gain ground in the world of the competitive hunter/jumper circuit, beating out horses who were purposely bred to do what only comes naturally to him.
Under the training and direction of owner/rider Kira Karbocus, a volunteer with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Pokey has picked up a head of steam competing in the three-foot hunter/jumpers, and winning with a natural grace and balance that did nothing for him on the east coast racetracks, but is putting him in high ribbons in his new career.
New name: Revere
Sire: Special Coach
Dam: Susan Pixum
Foal date: May 13, 2004“In our first horse show at the Saratoga Show Grounds, we competed against 40 professional riders, getting a 6th and a 7th ribbon in the 2-6 foot schooling round,” says Karbocus, who bought Pokey in 2010 from the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, Mass. “He has a really great jump. He’s really scopey with a tight front end and knees, and makes a picture perfect hunter over fences.”
And since that first show two years ago, the pair has been moving up the ranks, achieving a personal best earlier this month at the Vermont Summer Festival.
Pitted against A-rated professionals riding un-raced Thoroughbreds who were “purpose” bred to be hunter/jumpers, Pokey achieved 2nd place ribbons in a pair of 3-foot hunter classes, she says.
“I got so lucky with him,” Karbocus says. “I had no idea what to expect when I got him off the track. At the time, I went with my trainer and looked at 10-to-15 horses at Suffolk Downs. I watched Pokey jog and that was it. We picked him up the next day.”
“He’s a really smart horse who just wants to please. He remembers things really well, so he was a joy to train,” she says.
Though they had to cool their heels early on while Pokey recovered from a bout with ulcers followed by an injury sustained in the paddock, the last two years riding hunter/jumpers have underscored Karbocus’s belief that an off-track Thoroughbred can be every bit as competitive as a horse who has never raced.
“We compete in Thoroughbred divisions at the shows because I like to support the cause” and illustrate that a horse with 30 starts can hold up, and even win against horses who never raced, she says.
For Pokey, the journey has been hard won. First, he had a late start, taking a year off to let down off the track and gain weight. And then was sidelined again with a bout with ulcers followed by a bruised sesamoid, sustained while romping in the paddock. “He has such a huge stride that he kicked himself while in the pasture, bruising his sesamoid. He had to go on stall rest and I wasn’t sure he’d ever recover.”
But recover he did. And now, after only two years of regular showing, Pokeys Punch is a force to be reckoned with in his second career.
“Many A-rated hunter/jumper shows now have Thoroughbred divisions. In the past, these classes were barely filled with enough entries, but this year, they’re packed,” she says. “This gives me hope that awareness of this wonderful breed is growing.”