Horowitz On OTTBs Presented by Excel Equine: Prince Of New York Shows New Potential For Marketing Thoroughbred Stallions - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Horowitz On OTTBs Presented by Excel Equine: Prince Of New York Shows New Potential For Marketing Thoroughbred Stallions

Chris Bennings with Prince of New York

When Prince of New York arrived at Morning Line Equestrian in Paris, Ky., in the spring of 2021, his new owners needed to come up with a barn name.

Chris and Celia Bennings' first idea was “Pony,” the first letter of each word in the horse's name.

“We thought that would be cute, but then of course my wife looks at me and was like, 'A 40-year-old with a big stallion called Pony, that'll go over well,'” Chris said with the deadpan delivery of a standup comic.

So, the Bennings instead decided to call him “The Stallion” around the barn.

The fact that a generic moniker like “The Stallion” is specific enough to identify Prince of New York is notable. He is the only stallion out of the approximately 50 horses at Morning Line Equestrian. He was one of just two stallions among the 281 horses competing at the 2022 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Prince of New York stood out, and people took notice. The 6-year-old dark bay New York-bred finished first out of 79 in Show Jumpers and second out of 74 in Show Hunters. He won the People's Choice Award.

Prince of New York represents a specialized path taken by owners of Thoroughbred stallions. While not entirely unique—the second stallion at the 2022 Thoroughbred Makeover was Comanche Chief, who was 12th in Barrel Racing—it's quite rare.

“Having a stallion made me be a little more ambitious about making sure my training and my preparation was ready,” Chris Bennings said.

Three weeks after the Thoroughbred Makeover and 13 miles away from the Kentucky Horse Park at Keeneland in Lexington was the Breeders' Cup world championships, where Flightline followed the more common and sought-after plan for Thoroughbred stallions: Win a career-defining race and then retire to stud to reap large stud fees for their owners. (See “Commentary: The Problem With … The Race To The Breeding Shed”

Flightline is now one of many stallions at farms in Kentucky whose purpose is to pass on their genetics to future generations and continue the Thoroughbred breed's legacy in racing. Calling Flightline “The Stallion” at Lane's End would be silly at a farm with 22 stallions standing at stud.

The stallions that are not able to go from racing to breeding, either because the demand for breeding to them does not exist or they're not viable for breeding, are usually gelded so that they become better suited to a new career as sport or pleasure horses.

Prince of New York was a situation somewhere in the middle. He raced eight times from his 2-year-old year in 2018 to his 4-year-old year in 2020. He won twice. But, victories in a maiden claiming race at Aqueduct and in a $7,500 claiming race at Finger Lakes don't exactly get a horse to Lane's End or a full book of broodmares showing up to the farm.

Still, the Bennings' main purpose for acquiring Prince of New York was for breeding, with the idea that he could pass on his genetics for sporthorse purposes based on his conformation and movement.

Prince of New York finished first of 79 Show Jumper competitors at the Thoroughbred Makeover

The Thoroughbred breed is experiencing a revival off the track, thanks to events like the Thoroughbred Makeover. Certain breeding lines are showing an aptitude for certain equestrian sports, such as Kitten's Joy for dressage and Fusaichi Pegasus for eventing. However, those stallions were marketed exclusively for racing purposes, and the high cost of breeding to them would have been a hindrance to sporthorse breeders.

“As we've done the Makeover, my wife and I have paid attention to breeding, and there really isn't a whole lot, maybe a handful, of Thoroughbred stallions for sporthorse breeding,” Bennings said. “So, we always kept our eye out for a nice stallion to bring along.”

In Ireland, Thoroughbred stallions like Emperor Augustus, Master Imp, and Pointilliste feature prominently in the Irish Sport Horse studbook. Higher percentages of Thoroughbred blood are sought after for suitability in equestrian sports like eventing. (See “Horowitz On OTTBs, Presented By Excel Equine: Thanks To Genetics, Thoroughbreds Are The Ultimate Shapeshifters”

“There needs to be more Thoroughbred stallions,” Bennings said. “When we looked at our own herd, we have really nice Warmblood mares, but our biggest fear is breeding to another big Warmblood, and they get too heavy.”

Bennings felt that Prince of New York would need to prove himself as a sporthorse to be marketable as a sporthorse stallion. The original plan was for “The Stallion” to compete at the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover, but Bennings opted to take more time so that Prince of New York would be better prepared. (While horses are only eligible to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover once, the Retired Racehorse Project rules allow horses to be turned out for a year, so long as their full-time training for their sporthorse discipline doesn't begin before December during the year prior to their competing in the Makeover.)

“When he got here, I played with him for a couple of days, but we decided that was going to be way too quick of a turnover for him,” Bennings said. “So, we turned him out and bred him and then started up January the next year for this year.”

The extra time to settle into his new environment off the track and to foster a relationship with Bennings paid dividends for Prince of New York.

“The movement and the jump, he was very easy to train,” Bennings said. “He took to the jumping immediately. It was very natural for him.”

Showing a stallion can be more nuanced than showing a gelding or a mare.

“I really think it's a mentality you have to be in,” Bennings said. “How do I take him places where he mentally is going to think he's the only horse there?”

Bennings would lunge or warm up Prince of New York with as much isolation as was possible in the busy show environment at the Kentucky Horse Park, sometimes at unorthodox hours.

“He's got to be thinking about me, and I've got to be thinking about him,” he said. “The distraction is I'm looking for every other horse to keep him away from, and he's looking at every other horse to get close to.”

Prince of New York

After making the Finale in Show Jumpers and Show Hunters, Bennings opted to hand walk “The Stallion” in the TCA Covered Arena the day before to acclimate him to the busy show ring rather than ride him. When it came time to compete for the top honors at the largest Thoroughbred-only horse show in the world, Prince of New York was all business.

“There's just a different quality, they definitely have a different shine to them and a presence, and I saw him in the ring familiarization and just really a gorgeous horse handling the environment really well,” announcer Ashley Horowitz commented on the Thoroughbred Makeover Finale livestream.

Bennings said that one of the Field Hunter judges inquired afterward about breeding to Prince of New York. Should Jenna Denver decide to breed her chestnut mare She's a Bold One, who was first in Eventing and the winner of the Carolyn Karlson Trophy as the overall Thoroughbred Makeover champion for 2022, crossing her with Prince of New York may very well produce the ultimate Thoroughbred sporthorse.

Prince of New York's first foal was born this year to a Warmblood mare to be a sporthorse prospect. Bennings has four Warmblood sporthorse mares and one Thoroughbred race mare currently in foal to Prince of New York. The Warmblood mares were bred through artificial insemination, while the Thoroughbred mare was bred through live cover so that the foal will be eligible to race under Jockey Club rules.

“The Stallion” has had time off while breeding before returning to training, but Bennings said that going forward he would like to continue to have Prince of New York in training while breeding him, provided the horse is mentally up for it.

“Finding a good enough horse, period, and then to find one that's intact that has a brain, that's what took us so long to find him,” he said.

Now that they've found him, Prince of New York could become a king of breeding top-class Thoroughbred sporthorses and bring a new dimension to the Thoroughbred breeding industry in the United States.

Just like Thoroughbreds are showing their versatility competing in a variety of sports on and off the racetrack, horses like Prince of New York have the potential to showcase that versatility in the breeding shed as well.

Announcing horse races inspired Jonathan Horowitz to become an advocate for off-track Thoroughbreds, as well as to learn to event on OTTBs and to expand his announcing of and writing about equine sports to horse shows around the United States. He also announces a variety of sports around the Denver-metro area, where he and his wife, Ashley, run the Super G Sporthorses eventing barn. He can be reached on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube at @jjhorowitz.

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