A Sovereign Award-winning champion racehorse, who earned $1.7 million on the tracks of Canada before retiring to pasture for five years, has just returned to the limelight with long hair and a willing attitude to take on the challenge of a show career.
In January, the manager of a horse farm where the racing champ had retired turned over True Metropolitan, 14, to Ontario horsemen Robin Hannah-Carlton and her mother Marilyn Lee.
The women were chosen to guide the strapping 17-hand gelding into a new career by caretakers who wanted the best for the 2008 Eclipse Stakes winner, had followed the mother-daughter team’s efforts to show two famous off-track Thoroughbreds who had nearly died abandoned. Prodigioso the “Everglades Horse,” who was rescued in South Florida after being dumped and left for dead, and Future Kings, an Irish bred Thoroughbred who wound up in the slaughter pipeline were each remade into show horses by Lee and Hannah-Carlton.
Sire: Proud and True
Dam: Forest Dunes, by Green Forest
Foal date: April 2, 2002
Earnings: $1.73 million, 50 starts
Sovereign Award Champion Older Horse, 06/07The care the women have lavished on these two ex-racehorses, coupled with the success Hannah-Carlton has had in the show ring with them, inspired Shelley Chadwick of Hindmarsh Farm to reach out on behalf of True Metropolitan.
“I’ve seen Robin show on the Central West Trillium and always thought she’d be a great fit for True Metropolitan,” Chadwick says. “He’s a bit of a quirky horse, and I knew Robin does something special with these off trackies. They give them such a good life, and a lifelong home, and we thought he might have a good career ahead of him since he’s still relatively young.”
After providing a retirement sanctuary for True Metropolitan these past five years, Chadwick, manager for farm owner Lynne Hindmarsh, notes that her boss is retiring from the horse business, and that they deeply wanted True Metropolitan to have a great new home. So she reached out the day after Christmas to see if Hannah-Carlton might have an interest in taking on the challenge of training a horse who hadn’t been ridden in five years.
A brief message on Facebook later, the three women soon united in an effort to provide a new kind of life for a unique horse.
“It’s weird because I don’t really know a ton about this horse,” Hannah-Carlton says. “I didn’t know anything about him until Shelley sent me a message on Facebook telling me she’d seen me show Prodigioso and Future Kings and that they loved the work we’re doing with OTTBs. She sent me a picture of True Metropolitan and we don’t usually care what a horse looks like—we take anything—but he was just gorgeous.”
He arrived in January sporting a long coat he refuses to let be clipped, and a bit too much weight. But he glistened in good health and very quickly adapted to his new life as a riding horse.
Despite his “gigantic” size, he carries himself well balanced and effortlessly swaps his leads when asked. And he obligingly carries a number of different riders, including Hannah-Carlton, who rides him three times a week. “He’s a really sound, sound horse and he’s really cool,” she adds.
More than a cool racehorse with an amazing race history, True Metropolitan also links two families who go back generations, Lee says. Her father Tom was a good friend with members of the Hindmarsh family in bygone days spent working for the Toronto Star. And when the large, dark gelding walked off the trailer from the old Hindmarsh Farm, it was like walking back in time for her.
“One day my father was hitchhiking along the outskirts of Toronto and a grand Stutz Bearcat car passed by. It stopped to pick him up. And who should it be but Mr. Hindmarsh. On the drive they had a great conversation and Mr. Harry Hindmarsh Sr. told my father he appeared to be a very intelligent young man, and he offered him a job as a reporter at the Toronto Star,” Lee says, noting this all took place around the Great Depression.
Though many decades have since passed and her father is long gone, the opportunity to turn around and provide a home and good future to a horse briefly owned by the Hindmarsh family was an honor indeed.
“Our whole lives we’ve grown up with this story and a connection to the Hindmarsh family,” Lee says. “Though True Metropolitan did not belong to the Hindmarsh family until after he retired, Lynne Hindmarsh did the right thing and offered him a retirement when he started to slip down the ranks, and we’re just so happy to be able to offer him this chance at a new life now.”