This is a story about an unusual alignment of relationships within a Pennsylvania horse community and one particular retired race horse who has flourished as a result of these connections. Perhaps this wasn’t the path that his breeder envisioned, but it is the beginning of his promising future.
MK’s Concord Dawn, registered with the Jockey Club as Mason, was born in 2009 at Tim F. Ritchey Racing Stables. Tim, who previously evented at the top level of the sport in the 70’s, is a 5 time leading race trainer at Delaware Park. He and his wife Janet have a well-known training and bloodstock business, and in 2005 trained Grade I Belmont and Preakness winner, Afleet Alex.
“Mason was bred to be a racehorse. His mother, whom we also bred, Della Street, had earned over $100,000 for us, and his daddy Smart Guy was bought by us for $10,000 as a yearling and went on to earn over $500,000 including the Pennsylvania Derby. Mason was always very friendly, good with other horses, easy to break and to train, so when he won his first race quite easily we really were not surprised,” Janet said.
“What did surprise us was his subsequent racing career through 2012 and part of 2013, which can only be described as lackluster. He trained well but went through the motions in his races but never returned tired. We decided he was not the racehorse we had hoped he would be but he was handsome and his attitude pointed to being a useful show horse in the right hands and luckily that’s what he found. Although financially it’s not what we had planned we couldn’t be happier to see our ‘Mason’ flourish.”
Enter Molly Kinnamon of MK Equestrian, whose long time working students, Hannah Metz, was rising up through the levels of eventing at the age of 18 two years ago. She and her horse Zhen were competing at the 1* level when Zhen was injured. Dr. Kathy Anderson, MK Equestrian’s primary veterinarian, treated Zhen. She was also a vet for the Ritchey’s race stable and knew of Mason’s potential retirement from the track. Since Tim had a background in eventing, he favored his horses being repurposed into quality eventing programs. Knowing that Molly’s young rider was in need of a potential project horse, Dr. Anderson made the initial introduction.
Dr. Anderson thought MK Equestrian could be the perfect retraining facility for Mason. Molly had previously re-trained many OTTB’s in California and spent considerable time breaking and exercising race horses once she came east. Molly felt her time working with these young horses gave her a better understanding of how to bridge the gap from track to the XC course. Having gained so much from the experience she encouraged many students, including Hannah, to gallop race horses.
Break Away Farm, located near Molly’s facility in Kirkwood, Pa., was Molly’s starting point with race horse training on the east coast. Many of her students have gotten experience there as well. Luck would have it that Mason was initially backed at Break Away Farm by the owner/trainer, Travis Kinnamon, who is also Molly’s brother-in-law.
Hannah Metz did a wonderful job working with Mason during his first year off the track, introducing him to the sport of eventing at some starter trials while working and training with Molly. Ultimately she made the decision to sell Mason as she recognized his great talent and knew she didn’t have the resources to develop his full potential. The opportunity presented itself for Molly and her husband Bryce to buy this rising star and to keep him within the program at MK Equestrian. Hannah was thrilled with this next step for her horse.
The Thoroughbred Series
The timing was perfect for Molly and Mason as Plantation Field Equestrian Events announced their $5000 Thoroughbred Competition Series for the 2015 eventing season. Sponsored by Kathleen Crompton, over 90 horses competed for the award, given to the owner of the Thoroughbred earning the most points during the season. Points were accumulated in the recognized and starter horse trials in the Beginner Novice, Novice and Training divisions. This program also rewards the original breeder of the horse with a $500 breeder incentive. This has enabled Molly to stay actively involved with the Ritchey’s as Mason has progressed through the levels of eventing.
Mason began the year with a win at Sporting Days Horse Trials and had several other top finishes before coming back from Aiken last winter. He finished second at his first recognized competition at Plantation in the Novice division and was awarded points for being the division’s top OTTB. He continued to accumulate points by winning his Novice divisions in May and June before moving up to Training level over the summer and then eventually winning his training level division at the October starter trials as well.
The series will continue in 2016, with hopes that this will encourage area equestrians to continue to seek partnerships with talented young thoroughbreds. Plantation Field organizer Denis Glaccum and sponsor Kathleen Compton hope the program will grow to the point that entire divisions can be dedicated to off the track thoroughbreds. The Unionville community has long been dedicated to breeding, racing, fox hunting and producing top thoroughbred sport horses for multiple disciplines. This new incentive will certainly help support that purpose within the eventing community and Molly is honored to be the first recipient.