Washington-bred gelding (b. 2004)
By Tropic Lightning-Maria Michele
Career (2008-2014): 60-18-13-6, $147,031
Olympic Lights, affectionately nicknamed “Lights”, was lights out in his racing years at Emerald Downs.
With 17 wins at Emerald Downs, second only to West Seattle Boy’s 21, Olympic Lights frustrated his competition on a weekly basis, winning at least one race from age four through age nine.
Despite changing hands several times, Olympic Lights raced 43 of his 60 starts with trainer Charles Essex, who conditioned the Washington-bred gelding in two separate stints; the first, for his dad—Dean Essex, D.V.M—and then for Moon Glow Farms and Dennis Trenkenschuh. A veteran trainer, Essex knew he had something special from the start.
“I didn't get him until late as a 3-year-old,” Essex said. “We started him first in Phoenix as a 4-year-old and I told my Dad he could probably cash a bet, but he ran a big second."
The Essex team may not have picked up a win that day, but there were plenty of victories on the horizon. A beast on the racetrack, Olympic Lights won races in bunches with a versatile running style. In his early years, he’d blitz his foes from the opening bell, but as he got older, he evolved into a stretch runner.
“He was always fast, but as he got older, he learned to come from off the pace,” Essex said. “If you could get him back some, he'd kick a little better."
Interestingly enough, Olympic Lights’ tenacity on the racecourse didn’t translate to his demeanor back at the barn.
"He's a real personable little horse, “ Essex said. “Anybody could take care of him. You could put him in a thermal blanket, ice buckets and hot water all at once and he'd stand there without anybody holding him.
A horse owner and racing fan, Renee Shadel quickly fell in love with Olympic Lights when she would visit him at the Essex barn. Keeping tabs on him during his final races during the winter meet at Portland Meadows, Shadel acquired the son of Tropic Lightning and retired him to Caryn Bujnowski’s Feature Farm in Auburn. At Feature Farm, Olympic Lights has been adjusting well, according to Shadel, as she looks forward to his future career in dressage, as well as trail riding and English pleasure riding. Still, it appears there might be a bit of racehorse left in the 10-year-old.
“The first time he went out on a grassy field with another Thoroughbred, they both started to play Emerald Downs,” Shadel said. “Then after awhile they must have figured it might just be better to walk around and eat grass.”