An aging Thoroughbred gelding who dropped like a stone from his glory days, tumbling far from the rarified auction where he fetched $200,000 as a Yearling only to wind up years later at a livestock auction steps away from slaughter, is set to travel to Florida this winter to compete among rarified show horses.
Two years since he was rescued from the New Holland auction in Pennsylvania, a place where meat buyers fill their trucks with unwanted horses and ship them to slaughterhouses, Future Kings, 17, is on the cusp of rebirth, says his owner Marilyn Lee of Sherwood Farms in Ontario. In February, the talented bay gelding will debut in Florida after spending the past year gaining points on the Ontario baby green hunter/jumper division.
Sire: Desert King
Dam: Stellar Empress, by Star de Naskra
Foal date: April 19, 2000The beautifully built Thoroughbred, who possessed a kind of star power even when he was caked with dust and discarded at auction, has blossomed as a hunter/jumper in the baby greens under the tutelage of Lee’s talented daughter, Robin Hannah-Carlton.
After competing on the A circuit in the Ontario Hunter/Jumpers last year, the pair finished with a respectable sixth-place in the baby green division, proving they can hold their own against much more valuable and highly trained horses, Lee says.
And in January, Kings will enter the show rings in Ocala, Fla. to compete in the Thoroughbred division of the hunter/jumpers, demonstrating his skill and dispelling myths about ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds.
“People always ask me about Kings on the show circuit. They comment about how gorgeous he is. And nobody believes it when I tell them he’s a retired Thoroughbred who came out of the kill pen,” Lee says.
Lee just smiles her knowing smile, for some of her best horses have come from very humble beginnings. Years before opening their barn to Future Kings, the mother/daughter team adopted a chestnut gelding castaway known in Thoroughbred circles as the “Everglades Horse.” This animal had been chained to a cement block and abandoned in a desolate stretch of the Florida Everglades before the Lees adopted him gave him a second shot at life. Starved and severely emaciated, Prodigioso was blind in one eye and required eight months of rehabilitation by the South Florida SPCA before he was fit to be re-homed to Ontario.
Lee took him in and in no time, the partly blind ex-racehorse began making a name for himself in the show circuit. And now their newest rags-to-riches racehorse will do the same in the Sunshine state.
“We took Prodigioso to Ocala two years ago to compete in Ocala, and now its time for Kings to have his shot,” Lee says. “He’s so great at what he does … he doesn’t have anything to prove to us, but we just want people to see him. He’s achieved more than we ever could have dreamed of.”
Kings is the Irish-bred grandson of a champion U.S. sprinter Star de Naskra. Two years ago, at age 15, he was rescued from the New Holland auction in a joint effort led by Marlene Murray of R.A.C.E. Fund, Gail Hirt of Beyond the Roses, and purchased with a donation by Texas businessman and philanthropist John Murrell.
Immediately after Lee and Hannah-Carlton learned of Kings’ fate, they stepped up to offer him a permanent home.
“My daughter Robin Hannah-Carlton and I both happened to be looking at Facebook and we both found King’s picture. We weren’t looking at him together, but we both recognized how cute he is. We knew nothing about his story, and there’s still quite a bit of mystery about him. He hasn’t raced since his last race at Thistledown in 2006 and we have no idea where he’s been, or how he wound up there,” Lee says.
But in the end it didn’t matter. He wound up where he was supposed to be, with them, in Ontario, setting the hunter/jumper world on fire.
— Author’s note: It has been a great honor to write nearly full-time about OTTBs in the pages of this blog these past seven years, the past two with the financial backing of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. I have decided to scale back the blogging effort at this time, but will continue to write an occasional article. Thank you to my readers for the social media support, and to the OTTB owners who’ve helped me tell over 1,000 stories. Happy New Year!