UPPER FREEHOLD, N.J. — The “most beautiful horse to race at Freehold Raceway” now has a new career, and he did very well at the Jersey Classic Horse Show, held June 8 to 10 at the Horse Park of New Jersey (HPNJ).
Helene Gregory, track photographer, recalls that Kings Point Grad raced a lot at Freehold and he always was a favorite of hers to watch. “He raced on the pace but before the race, when they come out and warm up, he would always trot and he had this beautiful flowing trot and always arched his neck, he really gave me goosebumps,” she said. “And being a dapple grey, it just added to his beauty. He was just one of those horses that you always turned your head to look at a little longer.”
She added she’s happy Grad found a second career and it is great to see that he has the same owner, Sam Landy, as he did when he was racing who gave him the opportunity to change his career path. “These racehorses have so much to give after they are no longer competitive on the racetrack and it is important to show the general public that,” said Gregory. Kings Point Grad, ridden by Aleksandra Lenczewski, won the Standardbred Two Gait Rookie/Green English Pleasure class, Standardbred Three Gait Rookie/Green English Pleasure class, Standardbred Two Gait Pleasure Championship and the Standardbred Three Gait Pleasure Championship.
The road to success was not exactly smooth. Lenczewski, originally from Poland, first encountered the horse 18 months ago. She was starting her own riding and training business at Landy’s Congress Hill Farm, in Monroe, N.J. “For me as an immigrant, and growing up riding in Europe, it was very hard to find myself in this very busy and well established equestrian world of New Jersey,” she said. One day, Landy told her to come down to the barn, and when she walked in she saw “this beautiful creature looking at me with his huge eyes.” Sam Landy’s father, Eugene Landy, retired the horse from racing as Grad was very nervous, unable to stand or stop and hard to handle. Sam Landy asked her to work with Grad, and although she had experience with ex-racehorses, she had never ridden a Standardbred before. The next day, she started working with him on the ground, and found him very strong, unbalanced and nervous. People from the farm kept telling her stories of how Grad was very bad to be around, but she wasn’t discouraged.
After two weeks of working with him, she decided to get on his back. She knew some of his issues, such as his refusal to stop, so she had taught him voice commands, and it worked. At first, Grad would not bend in his neck at all, and the slightest touch on the reins caused him to become very tense. Lenczewski took her time, riding him more on trails and around the farm, getting him used to being brushed and building trust day by day.
She read articles and watched video about retraining Standardbreds. Grad became more supple and responsive to her leg and aids, but slowing him down and preventing him from pacing was a huge deal. Slowly, but surely, they began going to dressage clinics and lessons, where people “opened their eyes very widely when they kept hearing that he is not a warm blood, and that he was a Standardbred pacer.”
Grad started developing the most beautiful trot she had ever experienced. She took him to the National Standardbred Show last year, also held at the HPNJ, where they received a second place in dressage and high scores. They started doing fox hunts, hunter paces, cross-country schooling and local shows to expose him more. She notes that Grad has a past that is still in him and she thinks it will take much more time to have 100 percent trust. “I don’t limit him though,” said Lenczewski. “We jump, I try to do more advanced dressage movements with him, I ride him bit-less.”
Lenczewski plans to attend the National Standardbred Show this summer and possibly go to other shows in different states. “I would love to compete with him on a higher level so people can see how amazing this breed is,” she said.
Kings Point Grad was named Eugene Landy. The elder Landy was parking cars at Freehold Raceway in 1949 when he found out he was accepted to Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy. He later graduated Kings Point and Yale Law School. In 1976, Eugene Landy claimed a mare at Freehold Raceway, Miss Meta. Miss Meta foaled Meta Escape, who foaled Congress Hill Meta, who foaled Congress Hill Roan, who foaled Kings Point Grad.
The Jersey Classic focuses on Saddlebreds, and many of the horses in the Academy classes featured SBR in front of their names. That stands for Saddlebred Rescue, co-founded in 2005 by Nealia McCracken, owner of North Wind Stables, Blairstown. Since then, approximately 1,200 Saddlebreds have been rescued from auction and broker lots, or have come into the program from private owners, many of them Amish, who do not want their Saddlebreds to go to slaughter. McCracken said they have tried to put as many of these horses back into lesson programs as possible, and her own stable made the commitment to replace retiring school horses with rescues.
Currently, there are more than 25 Saddlebreds available for adoption through Saddlebred Rescue. At the show, SBR Val, SBR Boo, SBR Baylor and SBR King Henry competed with North Wind riders.
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