Low claimer with 41 starts rocks Prix St. Georges

After a lot of hard work, Real Gentleman has the muscle to float above the show ring. Susan Correia Photography

After a lot of hard work, Real Gentleman has the muscle to float above the show ring. Susan Correia Photography

A hardscrabble racehorse who bounced between Suffolk Downs and Finger Lakes, earning a pittance and never shining during his 41-race career, continues to rise up through the Dressage levels, winning against the most rarified Warmbloods.

In his debut last month at a Prix St. Georges-level show in Nottingham, N.H., OTTB Real Gentleman took a fourth-place ribbon against seasoned Warmblood competitors, putting in a flowing, steady and brilliant test, says his owner and businesswoman Ann Seamonds.

Real Gentleman
Barn name: Rio
Sire: Gone for Real
Dam: Sunshine Star, by Star de Naskra
Foal date: Feb. 5, 2006
“It was a very hot day, and he was very, very obedient,” she says. “Though his tempi changes had a couple of little baubles, he basically knocked it out of the park.”

Ridden by Bethany Larsen and trained by Pan Am Games-winning dressage rider Mary Howard of Brentwood, N.H., Real Gentleman showed “flashes of brilliance in the expression of his gaits” during a performance that capped off a wonderful and unexpected journey.

The path from racetrack to show ring began in 2012, after Seamonds purchased the OTTB with the simple goal of helping to re-train a retired racehorse for a second career. At the time, her goals were simple; to be close to a horse, and to watch him find a new path for himself. “It wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey,” she says.

Real Gentleman had 41 starts, bouncing between Suffolk Downs and Finger Lakes, before tapping his inner Dressage Horse spirit. Last week he took fourth at his Prix St. George debut against seasoned Warmbloods. Susan Correia Photography

Real Gentleman had 41 starts, bouncing between Suffolk Downs and Finger Lakes, before tapping his inner Dressage Horse spirit. Last week he took fourth at his Prix St. George debut against seasoned Warmbloods. Susan Correia Photography

But shortly after he arrived at Five Stars Farm in Brentwood, where Real Gentleman lives and trains with Mary Howard and his rider, Seamonds realized her horse, nicknamed Rio, was telling her he was ready for bigger and better things.

“I would watch his lessons and could feel when he understood something. For me, that was the biggest joy,” she says.

Though he always had the mind for dressage, he had to work hard to build the muscular strength to do what comes naturally to the sport-bred Warmbloods, she adds.

“It took Rio a long time to develop the strength to do these movements. He’s now to the point in the medium trot where you do see the brilliance because he’s really strong and relaxed though his back. He can lift himself off the ground now,” she says.

His poise and balance was so impressive during a fourth-level test last year that a show spectator approached Seamonds and asked to sit with her to watch the performance.

“This spectator told me she had noticed Rio was a Thoroughbred and asked if she could watch with me. She later said she didn’t think what he’d accomplished was even possible for a Thoroughbred,” Seamonds says. “That comment meant so much to me. It just validated everything I feel about this horse. Even if he never sets foot in the show ring again, he has done so much good by showing other people how great Thoroughbreds can be at Dressage.”

With flashes of brilliance, the hardscrabble ex-racehorse held his own against purpose-bred Warmbloods. Susan Correia Photography

With flashes of brilliance, the hardscrabble ex-racehorse held his own against purpose-bred Warmbloods. Susan Correia Photography

She adds, “Rio absolutely belongs in Warmblood company.”

Following his successful debut at Prix St. Georges, Seamonds plans to enter him in another show at the same level in August. And as he trains, Seamonds has doubled down on her commitment to OTTBs.

On June 21, she purchased OTTB Smokey’s Honor after seeing his ad on the Retired Racehorse Project’s Trainer Listing. Smokey came through Parx Racing’s Turning for Home program, and was under the care and training of Jessi Werner and Phoenix Equine Services at the time. Seamonds decided immediately that the OTTB’s big, elastic gait was ideal for her next Dressage horse.

Both OTTBs are ambassadors for the breed in an arena where very few competitors started off as racehorses.

“Warmbloods have been purposely bred for a long time. There are dressage lines and jumping lines. But what I hope Rio and Smokey show is that you can train the same movement into a Thoroughbred,” she says. “It may come more naturally to the Warmbloods, but Thoroughbreds are also really capable of amazing things in the dressage ring.”

 

13 responses to “Low claimer with 41 starts rocks Prix St. Georges”

  1. Lisbeth Mønsted Larsen

    Great work and lovely to see an ex-racer perform so well. In a sense its a bit the same with ex-racing greyhounds. Not a lot of people are aware that they are not only wonderful family members but can do execptionelly well in the showring as well. I have three ex-racers and the two of them have done extremely well my second oldest Collin has recieved an Exelent and my oldest has become best veteran four times he has recieved an exelent a CQ(certificate quality) and a reserve certificate. Very well done for an ex-racer no one thought could do anything at all so it just goes to show that both race horses and former racing greyhounds can have not only a second chance of life but also a second career. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with the rest of us.

    1. Ann Seamonds

      Hi Lisbeth, I also have two retired greyhounds and you are so right!

  2. Holly Cornwell

    This is wonderful. I ride an OTTB, compete in low level dressage, and know how rewarding it is to see them have a new career. Great job!

  3. Kathryn Baker

    Fantastic story! My hat is off to owner, trainer and rider. Beautiful horse. Thank you for giving him the chance to do this. OTTBs have so much to give.

  4. Bob Rose

    I hope I’m not off base here, but having left home at age 14 to join the Thoroughbred world 64 years ago, I’m not ashamed to tell that this whole story has tears flowin’! Perhaps just being released after a horrific hospital stay, the impact of it all has taken me to a world I thought no longer exists! I hope every single person involved in promoting this amazing guy to this point, knows they will be rewarded at the Pearly Gates. Sadly Thoroughbred racing has fallen apart as far as the vast majority of these dear horses are concerned, and happy endings such as this are far too few. My lifelong feelings seemed so basic…if any being is totally reliant upon your decisions, then put forth decisions that at very least will bring them good health and happiness. Those 2 ingredients will combine and equal confidence. Guess I took the long road in expressing my joy in learning of this story. What a grand movie of his life would be, but for now I’ll settle for printing out his bio, cos I can display it where it will make my day, each day! Once again, I know God has to be smiling down upon all involved, humans and Equine, cos this ole timer sure is! God Bless you all.

  5. sally

    Wow, awesome to see this story. I wish he was closer to SE Pennsylvania. Dressage at Devon 2016 Breed Show, a long-time gathering of warmblood stock, is once again offering a Thoroughbred class in the breed division. Would love to have him come as a representative of the versatile TB.

    1. Ann Seamonds

      Thanks, Sally – I will have to find out more.

  6. kdefranc

    Nice Test!! Excellent work with him,thoroughbreds are the best horses, with more ‘try’ and heart than many others.

  7. Linda Fabiszak

    Folks who enjoyed this story might be interested in researching the OTTB Ken’s Kitten by Kitten’s Joy. He too is climbing the ranks and doing beautifully. That was a lovely test…

  8. Kathy

    Thoroughbreds can do anything. Yes, the various Warmblood registries have been purpose-breeding for close to a century — but other than the Iberian breeds, a lot of their foundation stock was comprised of TBs. Until the late 70s, our dressage horses were predominantly TBs, as well. The great Keen, owned by Hilda Gurney, was bred to race, but he was too large to fit into a starting gate. He then transitioned to dressage, and has long been known as one of the sport’s greats.

  9. Constance Hartman

    To offer track Thoroughbreds,
    This article about Ann Seamonds horse, Real Gentleman (Rio) with rider, Bethenny Larson finishing 4th in The Prix St. George is a true success story. 41 starts as a racehorse isn’t consider doing if you the racehorses is a seasoned claimed. Nowadays great Thoroughbreds don’t race more than 6 times a year. Once they’ve collected a few graded stakes wins those Colts or Stallions are off to Syndicate and the breeding she’d.
    Once a horse has heard the ring he could change dramatically.
    With Rio’s new life he won’t hear the bells anymore. Great work trainer Mary Howard.
    From a all around horse friend.

  10. Anita Adamski for North American Thoroughbred Society

    So deserving, thank you Susan Salk for highlighting Ann Seamonds’ journey. Just to point out Real Gentleman, with rider Bethany Larsen, achieved the following in 2015:

    North American Thoroughbred Society (NATBS) North American Series National Dressage Fourth Level Champion

    USDF NATBS All-Breeds, 64.742%, Fourth Level Open Champion
    USDF NATBS All-Breeds, 64.742%, Fourth Level Open Champion
    NEDA Year End Award, 66.806%, Fourth Level Open Sixth Place

    TJC T.I.P. Fourth Level Dressage High Point Award, UNH June Dressage Show
    TJC T.I.P. Thoroughbred (Overall) High Point Award, UNH June Dressage Show
    TJC T.I.P. Thoroughbred (Overall) High Point Award, Longfellow Dressage Show
    TJC T.I.P. Thoroughbred (Overall) High Point Award, Oyster River Dressage at UNH I
    TJC T.I.P. Year End Dressage Fourth Level Reserve Champion

    * * *

  11. Dory Munder

    BRILLIANT! I’m thrilled to see one of our OTTBs excelling in this very difficult sport Rio and his people are an awesome team. And thanks for including the video so that we could see him in action!

Leave a Reply to sally Cancel reply