Pancho Update: Livin' it Up at Oaklawn Park

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.


Leave a Comment:



Wonderful update on Pancho. It is a good thing that he still has a job to (maybe) ease the sadness of being separated from his buddy Curlin. Horses really form bonds with each other and I'm sure Curlin missed his companion also. However, his mind is on other things these days. :)

Kudos to the Asmussen barn for appreciating Pancho, taking such good care of him and planning for his retirement when the time comes.

Great pictures on your post and on the link to the 2008 Morning Line entry from Dubai. What a great blog this is!

18 Feb 2010 12:31 PM

Thanks for the update. We all LOVE PONCHO!!!

18 Feb 2010 1:37 PM

If you're looking for another story for "Beyond the Blinkers", I would love to hear what/how Chindi is doing.

Last I heard (early 2009), he was still working as a stable pony for his former trainer Steve Hobby.

He was even mentioned in this 4/2008 posting:

CHINDI gr. G, 1994 El Prado-Rousing (Alydar) 81s, 18w, 13p, 23s Earnings: $1,000,838

He will always be one of my all-time favorites!

18 Feb 2010 2:51 PM
Cheryl G

Excellent Pancho update! I heard one was was in the works, it's great to hear that Pancho is doing well and healthy. When Curlin went to Dubai 2 years ago, I'm certain he was happy to have his best buddy at his side.

18 Feb 2010 4:53 PM
Paula Higgins

Loved this story!!!

18 Feb 2010 8:04 PM

MRO: Is Chindi an almost white horse? If so he's ponying @ Arlington Park!

18 Feb 2010 8:40 PM
Brian Appleton

Anything with the name Curlin in it makes me happy! (:

18 Feb 2010 10:20 PM

Thank you so much!! I've been worried because he was so fond of Curlin. I loved the moment in Dubai that Pancho began to fret and whinny while Curlin was in the winners circle. It

surprised me that the men that were holding him immediately led him to Curlin. Pancho is a jewel,

I'm glad that he is happy.

19 Feb 2010 2:09 AM

Ditto on Terry's post!

My little stallion loves his gelding buddy...they've (we've) been together for over 24 years...

19 Feb 2010 8:03 AM

Esther, being the great lady you are...would you check on a horse for me that I saw race last week? I so apologize, I can't remember the track.

His name is Dynareign, 10 years old, earnings at that date were $384,000, he was running his 66th race in a $4K broke my heart to see him whipped down the stretch as he tried to run, but couldn't, badly backing has been really bugging me and I can't get it out of my head...

19 Feb 2010 8:10 AM

Loved this! Thank you. Re-read the older linked article as well. Just so heartwarming.  

I looked but can't find Pancho's facebook page-- anyone have any info on that?

19 Feb 2010 8:41 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thanks for this great update on Pancho.  I will look for him when I go to Oaklawn in April.

19 Feb 2010 10:55 AM

What a wonderful surprise for the many Pancho fans!  An update on our favorite pony.  Reading this has made my day!

Please tell the good folks at Oaklawn to give our fella a big hug and kiss ... and tell him how much he's missed.  I was worried about Pancho when he and Curlin were separated, but it sounds like he's living the good life and is a very happy horse.

Thanks for this news ... and to all those good Pancho folks who love that fella.  

19 Feb 2010 1:40 PM
s lee

Ah, Pancho, what a character.  My brother saw Curlin working out one morning and Curlin was bouncing around being a young stud until he came up to Pancho.  It might have been Blasi on his back, but who ever it was Curlin nipped at and Pancho just turned around, sort of wrapped his head around Curlin's and leaned into him.  Nothing drastic, nothing mean, nothing abrupt, just your really good lead pony saying "hey, kid, behave!"  And Curlin did!

Pancho - gotta love him.

19 Feb 2010 1:42 PM

Pancho is da horse!!

19 Feb 2010 3:20 PM

I sure hope he goes to Stonestreet Stables maybe, one day get re-united with great that would be....

much love directed toward Pancho!!

19 Feb 2010 4:16 PM

Oh, my gosh,

does this mean that Pancho will be at Oakland when Rachel runs in the Apple Blossom, maybe,  I can get his picture along with Rachel's...this was written 2-18-10...I made a great mistake...thinking it was 2008

19 Feb 2010 4:30 PM

That is awesome, I was wondering where Poncho was.

Another whom I have been wondering is Butterscotch, who was Smarty Jones's pony and companion.

19 Feb 2010 7:46 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks so much for the update on Pancho! It's great that he's so appreciated by his humans!

21 Feb 2010 1:53 PM

Pancho is almost 20 years old? gosh, when is he going to get to retire and mate some fillies? Curlin is getting'em left and right and poor pancho cant retire and get one. WTH, damn he got shafted.

21 Feb 2010 2:13 PM

I have a picture of Curlin and Poncho on my desk.  I took it on Haskell Day. The two are walking to the starting gate. I swear they couldn't walk any closer to each other; like two peas in a pod! I feel privleged to have such a nice shot of two handsome legends.

04 Mar 2010 9:54 PM

Carolyn, I hate to burst your bubble but umm,,,  Poncho is a gelding.

Thank you for the lovely article.  It put a smile on my face to beable to read such an uplifting and non-bashing article!  

14 Apr 2010 7:36 PM

wouldnt it be great if pancho could be with curlin again.I just saw curlin he looks great and seems to be happy but I am sure he would love to see his freind again.

24 Aug 2010 1:09 PM

I enjoyed reading this Pancho update back in February 2010. Is Pancho still with us?  If yes, what's he up to?

24 Aug 2012 4:23 PM

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