Pancho, the light gray gelding who was well-known as the sidekick and lead pony of two-time champion Curlin throughout his stellar campaign, continues to live the good life in the absence of his retired buddy.
After receiving a couple requests for an update on the strapping Quarter Horse, I decided to call Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, to check on his status and current whereabouts.
“He’s in Hot Springs right now,” said Blasi of Pancho, who right spends his mornings and afternoons performing lead pony duties under Asmussen’s Oaklawn Park-based assistant Mitch Dennison. “I sent him there because it’s a little easier on him…it’s not as far to the racetrack (from the backside) and there’s no pavement. He’s older, so it’s easier on his feet.”
Blasi said Pancho, who was shipped to Oaklawn with a group of Asmussen’s racehorses following the Churchill Downs fall meet, will go to Saratoga for the summer.
Pancho, who Blasi believes to be around 20 years old, will continue to travel the country and do his job as long as he remains in good health and enjoys his work.
“He’s very good at his job, and he’s such a neat horse,” said Blasi. “I’m sure the routine was different for him (after Curlin retired), but he’s got a disposition that you can’t buy; he was born with it. We’ve had him for at least 10 years now, and he’s just part of the family.”
“We don’t overwork him; he’s happy,” Blasi explained. “I’d rather use him than just turn him out to pasture. He gets taken care of so well, and he just likes his job.”
Pancho, who garnered a considerable following among horse racing enthusiasts, and even has a facebook fan page, served as Curlin’s faithful companion throughout his campaign. Pancho accompanied Curlin around the United States from California to New York, and even traveled with the chestnut to Dubai for his 2008 World Cup (UAE-I) victory.
Photo by Skip Dickstein
Blasi said he let Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who was in need of a track pony, borrow Pancho for awhile at Churchill last year. “Wayne and (Pancho) have a lot in common; they’re both getting up there in years,” Blasi joked.
When asked about Pancho’s relationship with Curlin, Blasi said he thought it worked so well based on the mutual respect the two horses had for each other.
“(Pancho) definitely knew a good horse…and there were definitely horses he didn’t like,” Blasi said. “But I think Curlin also had respect for (Pancho) because of how big he was…just his size and his mannerisms. Curlin just wasn’t going to walk all over him.”
When it comes time for Pancho to leave his pony duties and kick up his heels for the rest of his days, Blasi stressed the gelding would be kept at a good place.
“He’ll have a home with us for as long as he can, and when he’s too old to work, we'll definitely have a good place for him to be retired--we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Blasi said. “I might even talk to Barbara (Banke) and Jess (Jackson, owners of Curlin) and get him turned out at Stonestreet Farm (located near Lexington) or some place like that. I’m sure they’d be more than willing, considering how dedicated the horse has been.”
Click here to read a 2008 Morning Line entry about Pancho and Curlin in Dubai.