Rathor quit racing by refusing to leave gate

Elaine and Rathor take it easy on their new life path

Elaine and Rathor take it easy on their new life path

As anyone who has spent time with horses will tell you, when an equine decides he or she doesn’t want to do something anymore, they’ll “let you know.”

Some are subtle with their horse-to-human cues; others are like Rathor, a gorgeous animal who is the very picture of Black Beauty, and is possessed of an equally flashy communications style.

When Rathor decided that his best race days were behind him, which included a win against Derby victor Funny Cide, and training with greats such as Sir Henry Cecil and Bobby Frankel, he made his case as clearly as if he had stormed into the boss’ office and crooned, “Take this job and shove it.”

“On the last day of his racing career, in Pennsylvania,” recalls his Rhode Island based owner Elaine Pelino, “when the starting gate flew open, he just stood there. He refused to move.”

She adds, “Someone could have lit firecrackers under him, not that anybody would do such a thing, but if they did, he still wouldn’t have moved.”

Barn name: Rocco
Sire: Machiavellian
Dam: Raisonnable (GB), by Common Grounds (GB)
Foal date: May 13, 2002
Earnings: $331,979

Thinking of him, and how he must have felt that day, Pelino finds commonality between her own hard-fought career in the entertainment business in California, and Rathor’s hard-knocking career grinding out 46 starts until he was nearly 10 years old.

“There was a time when he and I were both working in California. I was doing a lot of commercials and some small roles in film,” she says, noting that she appeared in commercials for Miller beer, Clairol and Canon cameras. “He was racing at California tracks. It occurs to me that we both worked so hard to get where we were at the time, we both went through the ranks, but we both got older.”

A few years ago, just before her 59th birthday, Pelino returned to her native Rhode Island to work part-time on writing projects, while Rathor shipped east to a Rhode Island barn.

“I decided to get a horse for my birthday, and my friend Laurie Tuozzolo, who owns several off-track Thoroughbreds told me she knew of the most beautiful black horse with a white face,” she says.

She always pictured herself with a Tennessee Walker or a Quarter Horses, but based on her friend’s enthusiastic description, decided to drive to the nearby barn and take a gander at Rathor.

Enjoying a little paddock time in his retirement

Enjoying a little paddock time in his retirement

After a quick ride, doing light walk and trot work, Pelino hopped off and turned to look closely at the accommodating mount.

He gazed back at her like a young girl’s storybook horse staring out from the pages: he was breathtaking. His dark bay coat, which is nearly black, shines in the sun. And his stark white blaze sets off his fine-boned facial structure. His sturdy, upright frame completes the picture of the perfect dream horse.

Startled by his beauty, intrigued by his history, Pelino began researching his pedigree and discovered he had been trained by the greats, and had had a stellar career before he landed, almost by happenstance, like her, in Rhode Island.

“I went online and couldn’t believe what a great pedigree he had. He deserved respect. He’s an old warrior who deserves a good life,” she says.

As she approaches her 60th birthday in October, Pelino’s goal is to make Rathor as happy in retirement as she can. She plans to trail ride him, and turn their jaunts into pleasure riding for both. Although he’s in remarkable condition after his long career, she’ll never jump him. He deserves a rest, she says.

“He’s on vacation for the rest of his life,” Pelino says. “He doesn’t have to do anything, anymore, that he doesn’t want to do.”

18 responses to “Rathor quit racing by refusing to leave gate”

  1. Michele

    I have an 8 year old TB and I had given him last winter off and was on the fence about bringing him back this summer. He was sound and feeling good so I sent him to the track, after a few weeks my trainer worked him and he didn’t want to pick it up down the stretch and he came back a little sore. I knew at that point he was over it. I had told the trainer if he showed any signs of not wanting to race anymore that I wanted to quit. I am so thankful that my trainer obliged me and told me I should retire him.
    Many trainers wouldn’t have listened and pushed the horse as we know.
    So long story short, I have retired my boo and now I work for him. He went to work everyday for me for 4 years, never complaining! So now I am paying him back by letting him enjoy his retirement on a beautiful farm! I even broke him myself and I had not ridden in years. We had an instant bond since the day we claimed him and I knew I wanted to keep him forever. Now if I can only make the 2nd part of my dream come true and someday live with him, I’d be the happiest person on earth!

    1. Nuala Galbari


      How wonderful for your ‘boo’ that he is living a life he has chosen; more ex-racehorses need such homes and people with great hearts such as yourself. If you listen to your horse, and you genuinely love him/her (as is obvious in your case), then you will know what the horse wants. My Well Ack Ack (also aged 8) did leave the gate, but was always slowing, weakening or running out. He didn’t want to run either, but this may have been due to his UFP, which occurred at sometime during his short career.

      Well, I tried a little dressage, flatwork, hunter-hack (with my trainer) and working him in W/T/C generally in the arena. I watched him closely and he didn’t like any of it. One day I noticed my trainer was riding with spurs. At 61, I was happy with a slower horse (although he cn certainly run on his own when he wants to. The UFP and possibly discomfort when ridden were two areas I considered. He didn’t like the bit, either.

      I discussed this with my partner, who said, “He doesn’t need to be ridden at all.” We developed a light fitness program for him and will move him this month to a 180+ acre farm where he can run to heart’s content, with a new (larger) herd. The arena will only be used for play/ground games and some in-hand cavalletti exercises to help him stay fit. We will take long walks together on the on-property trails, side by side. He loves to play, is learning to play ball, and will chase the other gelding arounds at will, exercising all of them — just for fun! He is loved, well cared for and very happy. He chooses to be with us now, leaving his alpha gelding as soon as we arrive. In case this is helpful, here is a simple exercise program I developed for ground work, from my research and looking at some other materials both in the U.S. and on U.K. training sites. I could not find exactly what I wanted, i.e., keeping your horse fit without riding.

      This is what I developed for Jack (it may be helpful to you)and I found some information on ‘miniature horse’ sites. I realized I was more likely to find this information there, as miniatures are normally not ridden.

      Conditioning Routines for Halter Horses

      Suggested 3-5 days per week

      Procotols: Light lunging, on or off lead (round pen or arena) and Cavalletti exercises. Free lunging can also be done.
      Trotting: Builds Muscle
      Cantering: Works the Stomach Muscles
      Cavalletti: Builds Topline
      Backing: Builds Hindquarters

      Sequence(lunging or free lunging only)
      1. Walk Warm up (5 minutes) (Can be in-hand)
      2. Five Minutes at trot — both directions (10 mins.)
      3. Five Minutes at canter — both directions (10 mins.)

      Work the horse 10-20 minutes in total each routine.
      This applies to young and senior horses.

      Ensure your nutrition program is excellent and the horse had adequate forage and turnout.

      This simple program can be practiced in addition to turnout.
      Well Ack Ack is turned out for a minimum of 14 hours in summer and 9 hours in winter. He is brought in during any severe weather, heavy rain or high heat.

      I hope this is helpful. Jack now takes walks with me off the lead. If he wanders off a little to graze, that’s fine; he always returns. We practice waterhole rituals with him (Carolyn Resnick).

      Look at Klaus Hempfling’s site (he’s a Danish Horseman). You can find him on YouTube.

      Blessings to you and thank you for the love you give your horse.
      May he live a long, happy, healthy life!

      Best wishes,

  2. Lisa Neely

    They really are sent to you to love and grow with…spectacular realization to have such a beautiful partner seem to appear when you need each other. It happened to me twice with two gorgeous horses from the Secretariat Center at the KHP who blessed my life after I lost both my parents. I feel the same way as she expresses and am of a similar vintage!!

  3. Nuala Galbari


    What a spectacular horse — he’s stunning. He will completely capture your heart, as my TB has done (Well Ack Ack, son of Well Noted), although Captain Jack Sparrow (Horse.com) was retired at age 5. These horses really communicate with you, especially with those of us who listen closely. Jack has UFP on the right hind, so we mostly do trot work/cavalletti and he loves to go on hacks. He’s quite content to putter around most of the time and seems to really enjoy just ‘being with us’, walking on the halter, hand grazing and being close to his human family.

    We are working him a little in English Pleasure, which is best.
    Vicky Jensen is correct; if you can convince them, patiently, that it’s their idea, they will give their hearts.

    Blessings to you. I am also in my 60th year, so each day with my beautiful Captain Jack is a great gift.

    May you enjoy many wonderful years with Rathor, your Rocco!

    With warm wishes,

  4. vicki jensen

    Yep, I owned one that did the same thing. Won 1st time out & decided not to run again. Gates would open & he just stood there. That’s how I ended up getting him as a show prospect. He was a challenge! but ended up being a very successful equitation horse in the Chicago area. You just had to convince him that everything you asked him to do was HIS idea. Quite the character.

  5. Alyson Pace

    Something similar happened with my former OTTB who had a very strong personality, he just decided he was over it one day and stopped in the middle of a race, completely uninjured, he retired sound and decided to do other things with his life :). Thankfully he had a wonderful trainer who has trained and rehomed MANY OTTBs who were in her care.

  6. Gloria Stagmer

    I am so glad this beautiful hardworking horse has a home where he is loved and can now be a horse and enjoy his life. How smart of him to have the courage to say enough. I wish you both health, happiness and the love that good horse womanship brings.

  7. TBDancer

    Either I saw this race on TVG or it has happened before–a horse in Post Position #1 stood where he was when the gates opened. Eight horses entered the starting gate, seven burst forth to run. The bettors got their money back because technically the horse did not run, so it was the same as if he had not been there. Not sure what happened to the horse (and do not remember its name) but I’m sure the horse had figured enough was enough. “I HATE racine. I do like I’m trained, break from the gate without falling down, then run like crazy. Then, just when I’m about home, this gnat on my back starts hitting me with a whip. Sorry, folks. I’m finished.”

    With luck they’d ALL end up like Rathor–with “tubs of butter” for second homes and more acceptable jobs for second careers.

  8. Susan Crane-Sundell

    A perfect match…call it coincidence or a master plan but it is pure serendipity how horse and rider had similar paths to a great match!
    Congratulations to you both, may you continue to share life’s journey and your similar attitudes as a great partnership!

  9. Melissa

    Truly kismet! How lucky they both are to have each other at this time in their lives.

  10. Vivian

    BTW….my boy was adopted from Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center in the KY Horse Park!

  11. Vivian

    When I decided it was time to get my own horse, my horse chose ME! I know how it feels to have circumstances work for you.
    They say there is no such thing as coincidences.

  12. Fran Webb

    As a former OTTB owner, I can really appreciate your beautiful story. Mine was the best horse I’ve ever had. I don’t believe in coincidences anymore . . . he was meant to be with you. God sure had a great plan for you both and I wish you many happy years together!

  13. AscotDollWins

    Thank you so very much for sharing this wonderful story with us. Elaine and Rathor both look amazing.

  14. bettylion

    Haha! Not leaving the starting gate = brilliant! Clever horse. 🙂

  15. Liz Carlin

    What a wonderful tale. I’m glad such a beautiful horse got matched up with a happy forever home.

  16. Notaquitter's Mom

    Wow – he’s absolutely stunning! What a handsome guy!

  17. Fern Blair

    There are no coincindences – only God moments – it was a series of God moments which led you to each other – happy 60th and happy life with Rathor.

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