A Bobby Frankel-trained Thoroughbred, who beat the great Funny Cide at Keeneland in 2007 and was once favored to trounce Derby winner Giacomo, was assisted this week by an “army” of friends hell-bent on giving their all for a beautiful black horse in need of some luck.
In four short days, several New England horsemen, a good-hearted shipper, and Michael Blowen of Old Friends of Kentucky mustered to assist 14-year-old black gelding Rathor in an effort to retire him well, and fast.
The opinionated OTTB, who retired from racing with 46 starts and $300,000 in earnings after refusing to leave the starting gate in his last race, had recently expressed a similar opinion about continuing on as a riding horse for Elaine Pelino of Rhode Island. The headstrong animal made it clear he no longer wanted to carry a rider, and Pelino immediately reached out to fellow horsemen Laurie Tuozzolo and Matthew Clarke for help.
Dam: Raisonnable (GB), by Common Grounds (GB)
Foal date: May 13, 2002
Earnings: $331,979, 46 startsAnd the phone lines were soon burning up as they reached out to well-known Thoroughbred advocate and trainer Lorita Lindemann, formerly of Suffolk Downs in Boston. She in turn dialed up her longtime friend Michael Blowen, owner and cofounder of Old Friends Kentucky.
And before the week was out, Rathor was led gently onto a horse trailer operated by JR Hudson Horse Transportation, and taken, free of charge, from Rhode Island to Kentucky to begin his new life living among a herd of famous racehorses enjoying permanent retirement.
“It takes an army, it really does,” Lorita Lindemann says of the fast and furious approach they all took to get Rathor permanently retired. “I wasn’t too familiar with the horse when I got a message from Matthew Clarke and Laurie Tuozzolo of Rhode Island. They both reached out to me to see if I could help because it had come to the point that he couldn’t be ridden anymore, and they asked if I could try to get him in with Michael Blowen. By the time I hung up with them and called Michael, he already knew about the horse and said he’d find room.”
Blowen, the president and cofounder of Old Friends, says he accepted without hesitation.
Though Rathor was never a “great” racehorse of the level of a Silver Charm or Game on Dude, he was once trained by Bobby Frankel, a prominent trainer who left a generous donation to Old Friends upon his death.
Blowen explains: “I have a funny story about Bobby. I didn’t really know him, but I introduced myself to him at Saratoga one day. I told him I had his horse Ruhlmann at my farm, and he said OK, and he walked away. He really blew me off. Two days later I was standing practically in the same spot in Saratoga and I feel this tap on my shoulder, and it was Bobby. He asked me all about Ruhlmann, and what I do and I told him all about the farm. That was the only conversation I ever had with the man.”
But clearly, Frankel never forgot their chat. Years later, following the great trainer’s death in 2009, Old Friends was notified of the farm’s prominent inheritance, Blowen says. “His estate has sent us about $200,000,” he says.
Though Rathor did not rise to the level of being a millionaire racehorse like Ruhlmann, who held a turf record at Santa Anita, he did fight some great wars on the track, says Blowen, noting that he beat Funny Cide and was a favorite against Giacomo at one point in his early career.
And up until earlier this week, he was the cherished pet of Elaine Pelino, who says it was a “miracle of God” that so many people pulled together to help her horse find a retirement home. After owning him for five years, Rathor had become increasingly unhappy with being ridden, she explains. And she felt the best thing for him would be life in a retirement herd. “He was ready to be the retired champion that he deserved to be,” she adds.
Rathor pulled up to Old Friends in Kentucky on Tuesday afternoon, driven free of charge by JR Hudson Horse Transportation. Providing the last piece of the puzzle was something shipper Robin Maxwell Hudson says her company was only too happy to do.
“We were raised in the horse industry and have earned our livelihood because of these amazing animals,” she says. “We are happy to be able to give back to them in some way, and Michael Blowen and Lorita Lindemann work hard to “make a way” for so many horses. Seeing that inspires us to do our part.”
When Rathor walked off the trailer, Blowen picked up the lead rope and was amazed at how sweet natured his newest resident is. “He’s so sweet!” he says. “I could lead him around with dental floss if I wanted. All he wants to do is eat carrots and hay—he’s wonderful!”