Kentucky-bred gelding (b. 1999)
By Sea Hero-Batanda
Career (2001-2006): 25-4-2-4, $104,290
When training a Thoroughbred, two of the most important factors are distance and running style. Does the horse want to run in sprints or routes, does he have the speed to be in front, or would he prefer to come from behind.
Horatio would prove an extreme case for trainer Sharon Ross. The gelding’s bloodlines screamed distance—his sire won the Kentucky Derby, his dam won six races one mile or longer—but how does one know when a horse would make a good marathoner? Or in the case of Horatio an extreme marathon horse at that?
“You could train him up to a long race without having to run him short first,” Ross said of Horatio. “His last year at the track, he won at a mile and a-sixteenth first time out. Those horses are pretty rare."
So are horses that can win that rarest of Thoroughbred events—the two-mile marathon. Horatio won two of those at Emerald Downs, both in absolute romps. He scored by eight lengths on Sept. 20, 2004 and by 8 ¾- lengths on Oct. 16, 2005, setting a track and state record of 3:22 3/5 in the 2004 race.
"In the two-milers, he'd just gallop the first mile and Debbie (Hoonan) would just let him know the race is on and he'd run the second mile, pass everybody," Ross said. "He was big and strong as a racehorse, very tough to gallop.”
Not that Horatio wasn’t a good horse to begin with; as a maiden Horatio won the 2001 Gottstein Futurity, rallying from 15 lengths back to win going away by 2 ¾-lengths. In all he would earn over $100,000 in a 25-race career that ended in 2006.
Since his retirement, Horatio has lived with Dr. Duane and Susan Hopp at their Castlegate Farm south of Puyallup, where the now 14-year-old gelding lives a life of leisure. He spends days in the same five-acre field where as a youngster he would romp with Flying Notes, who also was bound for stardom at Emerald Downs.
“Horatio was our first really successful horse,” Dr. Hopp said. “During the day he hangs out underneath the trees, eats grass, and at night he might walk up by the road to see what’s going on."
Hopp said the same traits that made Horatio a distance specialist would make him a poor candidate for a trail or riding horse.
“He just pulls too much,” Hopp said. “Once when Gary Baze was working him, he just dragged him around and around. (Horatio) just loved that distance.”