Millionaire Maryland-bred champion Eighttofasttocatch has barely paused to catch his breath since ending his racing career last December.
Given by owner Sylvia Heft upon his retirement to trainer Tim Keefe and his wife, Rumsey, the 9-year-old son of Not For Love and the Nice Catch mare Too Fast To Catch geared down for a few months before beginning his new gig as an event horse this spring.
"It felt like the winter was taking forever and we weren't going to be able to do anything," Rumsey said, "but now suddenly it's taken off."
No one close to "Catcher" is surprised by his smooth transition into this next chapter in his life, and his first outing July 26 was a rousing success.
"We went to the twilight event at Loch Moy Farm. You go in, do dressage, 10 minutes later you go do your show jumping and then you go right to your cross country. Everything is really compressed. He had the low score of the day; there are no ribbons, but he got a 26.3 and jumped everything clear. He's come along very quickly. He is going to Kentucky for the (Retired Racehorse Project) makeover and also to Laurel Park on Maryland Million Day."
He also squeezed in an appearance at the Maryland State Fair in a demonstration on the Timonium infield during the Maryland Horse Festival.
Then it was back to competition at the Seneca Valley Pony Club Fall Recognized Horse Trials in Poolesville, Md. They finished fourth (with a score of 29.5) in the Beginner Novice Division Sunday, all in continued preparation for the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park Oct. 23-25.
"The key to our success has been a routine, a regular training program teaching him to find comfort, and self confidence when I apply my aids," Rumsey said. "It is a competition, but I'm looking at it as more of a chance to educate the public about what we can do, whether it's a cheaper horse, one with a bum ankle or something or a very successful older horse who has been nursed along, kept sound and managed well like this one has."
Her 15-year-old daughter Ryan Keefe has provided plenty of help and support along the way. But her mother laughs and admits Ryan just might have ulterior motives.
"Ryan has been riding him and she's got her eye on him. She can't wait to get her hands on him soon. A few people who have known me for many years keep saying 'Don't give him to her - keep him for yourself.' "
An active competitor and Pony Clubber herself, Ryan is riding and competing two horses of her mother's. Ideally, she'd like to make it to the Preliminary level and take part in the Young Riders Championships.
"My two older horses won't get her there," Rumsey said, "But Catcher definitely has the ability to do that."