Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: Replacing ‘A Warrior And A Mascot’

It was a snowy, chilly morning at Keeneland this past Saturday, probably no different than the hundreds of racetrack mornings Arch Rivalry had experienced before. The barn was buzzing with activity with horses being walked, stalls being cleaned and tack being set. Arch Rivalry was taking it all in.

But as the saddle was hoisted up onto his back, there was something distinctly different. Gone was the eight or so pound contoured and compact exercise saddle he typically donned for this morning exercise. In its place was a behemoth of a concoction: Sturdy, broad and loud with the creaks and squeaks of thick leather and seemingly weighing not much less than the jockey he’d carried in his last race just a few months prior.

In true Arch Rival fashion, his reaction amounted to little more than a horse’s version of a shrug and a nod. If he were human, he probably would have said something like “Eh, whatever. Let’s go!”

That’s how Arch Rivalry approaches most things in life. Largely unfazed, yet always looking for a treat or a bit of attention from the people around him. It was that easy-going attitude, kind disposition and “what can I do for you” approach to life – not a world-class race record or earnings mark – that landed him back in the Stidham barn this past week as a track pony-in-training.

“He came into our barn as a 2-year-old and was owned by Twin Creeks Racing. He won his second career start for us, then won again later that year, but he was claimed out of that race by Michael Reavis for $16,000,” said Hilary Pridham, assistant trainer to and longtime girlfriend of Michael Stidham. “He was never the most talented racehorse or the fastest, but he was just a good-looking Arch colt with loads a personality – just an all-around nice horse.”

Reavis had Arch Rivalry for all of six weeks. In the colt’s first start for him, he was claimed away once more, again for $16,000. Luckily, Pridham was quite familiar with Arch Rivalry’s new trainer, Dee Poulos, and quickly connected with her to see how the dark bay was doing.

Poulos races on the Illinois circuit and Arch Rivalry ran consistently over the next two years, competing mainly at the allowance level when at Hawthorne and at the claiming level when at Arlington. Pridham checked in on him regularly when the Stidham stable had a string at Arlington.

It was this past winter that Poulos got in touch with Pridham to let her know that Arch Rivalry was probably nearing the end of his career.

“He’d gotten down to running for $5,000 claiming at Hawthorne this past winter and she thought his owners would opt to retire him at the end of the meet rather than having him claimed away, but they ended up wanting to turn him out for a few months and try bringing him back this year,” said Pridham.

Then, earlier this month, Pridham got a call from Poulos that the decision had been made to officially retire Arch Rivalry, who now had several months off since his last start (which also had given him his sixth and final win – his fifth win had come just two races prior).

“She called and asked if we wanted him and I said ‘absolutely!’ She was running a horse at Keeneland this past Saturday, so she offered to bring him down for us when she shipped in and that was that,” said Pridham, who, along with the rest of the Stidham racing team, is based at Keeneland Race Course for the spring meet.

The plan for Arch Rivalry, who is affectionately known as Archie around the barn, is to see how he takes to being a track pony. If all goes well, he will eventually replace Jack, the stable’s 26-year-old track pony and beloved friend.

“Jack is a warrior and a mascot for the barn. He’s been about the best track pony you could ask for and we’re hoping as Archie comes along, Jack will gradually get less of a work load,” said Pridham. “He’s going to have to prove that he likes being a track pony and that he can actually be good at it. He’s comfortable to ride and is the type of horse that likes to be in the barn and in a training environment. He likes the attention.”

Jack, the 26-year-old stable pony Arch Rivalry may one day replace

Pridham said since Arch Rivalry has been back in their care, they’ve started acclimating him to his new role by accompanying sets of horses to and from the track in the mornings and teaching him how to neck rein. Soon, they’ll start having his rider lead horses to, from and around the racetrack to see how he reacts to having them bump up against him or jump around.

“Archie never seemed to care if horses were banging around next to him. Once he learns to take horses around the racetrack [both with and without a rider], we’ll have him break one off at the pole,” she said, referring to when a track pony escorts a racehorse around the track prior to a breeze, then lets them go at the appropriate furlong marker to start their breeze. This prevents the racehorse from getting too strong with the breeze rider or too fast before they are supposed to start their workout.

“Some horses can get pretty strong and rank as you take them to the pole. Jack is so good with the bad ones. We’ll have to see how Archie handles that. It’s important for the pony not to take off with the breezer once they let him go, but I don’t think he’ll have a problem with that,” she chuckled. “We used to always joke with Randy Gullatt [Arch Rivalry’s former owner when he was in the Stidham barn…the first time] that he probably wanted to be a pony more than a racehorse.”

Gullatt, who owns Twin Creeks Racing Stables, was thrilled to hear that his former charge was back at Keeneland and learning a new job. He even took a video of Arch Rivalry’s first day in Western tack and posted it with pride on Facebook.

“Hilary gets all the credit. She and Mike are wonderful people,” said Gullatt, who purchased Arch Rivalry as a yearling for $250,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2013. “Our horses mean the world to us. When we see a horse like Arch Rivalry make the transition from racehorse to a pony in the barn of someone of quality like the Stidham barn, I sleep very well at night.”

Pridham said the plan is to take it slow and see how Arch Rivalry progresses in his new role. If it turns out that ponying at the track doesn’t appeal to him, he will get turned out for a while and will then be rehomed as a riding horse.

“He’s very sound and still has the same personality he did when we had him as a 2 and 3-year-old,” said Pridham. “We are thankful for the Dee [Poulus] and the owners who had him for taking such good care of him and allowing him to retire sound to have a second career. They obviously thought enough of him not to push the envelope.”

Name: Arch Rivalry (a.k.a. “Archie”)
Born: May 6, 2012
Color: Dark bay
Sire: Arch
Dam: Stirring
Sale History: Sold at Keeneeland in 2013 as a yearling for $250,000
Race Record: 29-6-4-4
Race Earnings: $78,118

Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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