OTTB Spotlight: Sir Prize Birthday

Today I ran across a pretty cool OTTB-related story I thought was worth sharing. Sent by Francis LaBelle, former assistant director of communications for the New York Racing Association, it chronicles the life of the stakes-winning, hard knocking horse Sir Prize Birthday, who is soon to be 33 years old! Enjoy.


On Saturday, May 25, Sir Prize Birthday will celebrate his 33rd birthday and mark another year as the oldest of the 950 horses under the charge of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Sir Prize Birthday, who raced more than 200 times in his career, will surpass the average life expectancy of Thoroughbreds by three years.

Sir Prize Birthday at the ripe age of 32

Since 1996, Sir Prize Birthday has called the Wallkill Correctional Facility in upstate New York his home. The TRF, now in its 30th year, began its Second Chances program at Walkill as a vocational training program to provide homes for ex-racehorses while teaching equine care and stable management to select inmates. When Sir Prize Birthday joined Wallkill in 1996, he immediately put himself in charge.

"We group horses according to how they fit with other horses," said Jim Tremper, farm manager at Wallkill. "Sir Prize Birthday was always among the more aggressive horses--with other horses. In the pecking order of the herd, he was always No. 1 or No. 2. He had to be first at the feed tub, first in everything.

"But he was only aggressive with other horses. Around people, he was easy. In fact, he was so easy that for years we used him as a starter horse for new inmates. We had a lot of inmates from the inner city who had never even seen a horse before and were scared of them. But when they were around Sir Prize Birthday, it didn't take them long to get over being afraid."

The Wallkill program, the first of its kind, was founded in 1984 with the purpose of teaching horsemanship to inmates, while providing a home for former Thoroughbred racehorses. Its success helped the TRF grow to oversee 10 such facilities and, over the past 30 years, it has helped more than 4,000 horses.

It is not hard to understand Sir Prize Birthday's different personality with horses and humans. As a racehorse, he is one of the few in the modern era to have made 200 starts. When he left the racetrack, he had a record of 39-38-32 from 206 starts and more than $300,000 in earnings, including a victory in the 1987 One Eyed King Handicap at Suffolk Downs. Bred in Florida by Emanuel Mittman, Sir Prize Birthday is a son of Singh, out of the Vent du Nord mare, Prize Du Nord.

"He is one of my favorite horses," said trainer Tim Ritchey of Sir Prize Birthday, who raced for several different owners throughout his career. "He was just all class with a great disposition. When I got him, he was an older horse, but he tried every time he went to the racetrack. He was a hard-knocking horse, and earned every penny he made."

According to Tremper, the class carried over to Walkill.

"He is so easy, we once sent him out to work at a children's camp," Tremper said. "When the owner got sick and had to close down the camp, Sir Prize Birthday came back here."

These days, Sir Prize Birthday spends most of his days with four younger horses, and at feeding time, he is isolated with another.

According to Tremper, Sir Prize Birthday is no longer as aggressive with other horses, but still happy being a horse.

"He has always kept weight easy, but now, he gets senior feed," Tremper said. "He's doing pretty good for a horse his age."

Which should come as no surprise.


--I am deeply saddened by the devastation that has resulted from the tornado that ripped through Oklahoma this week. Many lives were lost--both human and equine, and many of the state's farms are left picking up the peices. If you would like to learn how you can help horsemen that were impacted by this disaster, click here.

--On a happier note, Dale Simanton of the South Dakota-based farm Horse Creek Thoroughbreds, which I blogged about not too long ago, has been selected as one of the finalists for the National Retired Racehorse Training Project Thoroughbred Makeover Competition to be held at Pimlico in October. Great job, Dale!! To read more about the program, click here.

--One more thing...New Vocations in Lexington is seeking a summer intern if you know of anyone that would be interested! Click here for details.

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