He was bred in Germany. His race record shows starts at Dortmund, Frankfurt, Baden Baden, Liecester, Cheltenham and Aintree. But last weekend, Moneytrain made headlines for winning a sidesaddle exhibition flat race at the Loudon Hunt Point-to-Point Races at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Va.
Bred by R. Kuhne, the now 16-year old son of Platini (GER) – Miss Esther (GER), by Alkalde (GER) was a classy young hurdler in England – winning at Cheltenham in January 2003 for German trainer Christian Von Der Recke and earning a start in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival in March. Moneytrain was brought down in a melee three fences from home and finished seventh (two spots behind future star Harchibald) in a subsequent race at Aintree. Moneytrain spent his American jump racing career under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. In the colors of Ed Swyer’s Hudson River Farms, the dark bay gelding won the Zeke Ferguson Memorial under Danielle Hodsdon in 2007 and placed in two other American hurdle stakes. At the time of his retirement in 2010, his record showed 20-6-2-3 and $103,360 in the bank.
Swyer knew exactly what to do next. He contacted his longtime friend, Virginian Anne Sittmann, and told her he had the perfect ladies’ foxhunter for her. Sittmann already had one of those and wasn’t really in the market for another one – until Swyer pulled out the big guns to plead his case.
“Ed said ‘I’ve got this fabulous horse and I need to retire him. Jonathan said he’ll make a wonderful foxhunter, and Jonathan knows his stuff.’ “
Sittmann had to think it over; she’d had OTTBs previously and had not had great luck. Swyer persisted and persuaded, and Sittman finally relented. Her other foxhunter was boarded at that time at Blue Ridge Farm in Upperville, Va., so Moneytrain was sent there to begin his new life.
“I just put him out in the field and let him detox for six months. That was sort of an interesting experience because it was just a big field with a lot of horses, and Moneytrain went from the chi-chi life to the prison yard.”
Admittedly, he had a bit of trouble adjusting and socializing. But once settled, Sittmann moved him into a smaller paddock with her other horse, and they bonded immediately.
“Then I moved to a smaller barn and took them both with me. They’re fabulous buds and he’s been very, very happy since.”
Sittmann, who lives in Arlington, Va., is employed by Customs and Border Protection for the Department of Homeland Security. For 30 years, she’s spent her weekends in Middleburg, where she foxhunts and rides.
For Moneytrain’s indoctrination to foxhunting, Sittmann enlisted the help of an experienced young rider who took him on his maiden voyage. She called him an absolute dream. The only thing she had to adjust to was Moneytrain’s huge jump. Otherwise, he was a consummate professional from Day One.
“He took to the whole scene – the hounds, the horns, the craziness – right away. He’s so brilliant at preserving his energy. He does not get rattled. Even when the horses take off in the hunt field, he goes at his pace … and when he has to pick it up, he does. He has wonderful ground manners and is a gentle, kind horse. I just love him to death.”
Inspired many years ago by Upperville resident Rosemarie Bogley, Sittmann took up sidesaddle riding and fell in love with it.
“I’d watch her ride, especially at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, and she was magnificent,” Sittmann said.
By the time discussions began in December about an exhibition race at Loudon, it had been several years since Sittmann and ridden aside, but she didn’t hesitate someone suggested she put the tack on Moneytrain. Once again, the unflappable gelding accepted it with his customary “no problem” attitude. His first time in the hunt field under that tack was just the third time he’d worn it.
Last weekend’s race was a half-mile contest on the flat, the second on the day’s card. The first race was also a sidesaddle exhibition, but with a 2-foot-4 coop to be jumped near the finish.
“I was going to be on a racehorse, and I knew he had a Ferrari gear. So I did not want to mess with an obstacle like a jump. I chose to do the flat. But I couldn’t stop Money at the end of my race; he was ready to make another loop. He was not interested in slowing down.”
After their victory, Sittmann celebrated with champagne before driving Moneytrain back to the barn and spending about 90 minutes cleaning him up. Then she headed back up the road to Arlington and another work week.
“I’m still flying high off this. One person at work knew I was doing the race. We had a directors’ meeting first thing Monday morning and she brought it up. It was actually kind of cool. And then we had a big all-hands meeting on Wednesday and the assistant commissioner brought it up and forced me to talk about it a little bit. And people were just in awe. It’s so unique and different, and there’s so much history behind it. I kept telling people I just wanted to get through it safely and have a good time. And I did more than that. It was pretty darn exciting.”