By Jay Privman
In hills above Fallbrook, Calif., about 40 miles northeast of Del Mar racetrack, several horses who once competed with distinction at Del Mar are in the process of being turned into pleasure horses through Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation, which has partnered with CARMA for nearly a decade.
Red King, who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in 2020 for trainer Phil D’Amato, is about to take that competitive spirit on the road, to the prestigious Retired Racehorse Project in Kentucky, where Sandia Creek’s Kiersti Wylie will show him in dressage freestyle.
It’s a new challenge for Red King, but throughout his life he’s been game for a challenge. The son of champion male grass horse English Channel raced 43 times, winning eight – including the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita – and earning $586,555.
He – and familiar names like Mr. Roary, Red Storm Risen, and Scarto – all are currently being re-trained at Sandia Creek to begin their post-racing careers.
“First they go through quarantine, then we buddy them up with a horse in a pasture that’s a good leader,” Wylie said of the initial stages of re-training. “We take our time, progressing to hand walking, then walking on a trail.”
The lessons take. On a recent visit to Sandia Creek, all four were seen as readily amenable to commands, docile, giving off no indication they were once high-spirited racehorses.
Mr. Roary, a gelding by Scat Daddy, won four of 28 starts, including the Grade 3 Eddie D. for turf sprinters for trainer George Papaprodromou at Santa Anita in 2017, and later that year competed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar.
Red Storm Risen, a 6-year-old gelding, won optional-claiming races at both the summer and fall meetings at Del Mar in 2021 for D’Amato before he was retired, having won three of 15 starts. He is about to be adopted out to 18-year-old Reese Reener, a resident of Temecula who was part of Sandia Creek’s internationally recognized Pony Club. Like Red King, Red Storm Risen has been trained to be an eventing horse.
“Reese’s very first horse was a Thoroughbred/Appaloosa cross,” Wylie said. “Now she’s ready for her next horse and to go to the next level.”
Scarto, a gelding by Paynter, won twice at Del Mar in the summer of 2020 for trainer Mike Puype prior to a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita. He retired with five wins in 11 starts and earnings of more than $200,000. Like Red King, Scarto won races for a partnership headed by Little Red Feather Racing.
All horses being re-trained make full use of the facility.
“We have 34 acres, but access to over 2,000 acres,” Wylie said.
Funding for CARMA, which supports organizations like Sandia Creek Ranch Auxiliary Foundation and helps facilitate second careers for horses like Mr. Roary, Red King, Red Storm Risen, and Scarto, come from private donations as well as CARMA’s annual fund-raiser, CARMAthon, to be held this year on Aug. 26 at Del Mar, with generous support from FanDuel TV and TVG.