When Mandy Alexander heard millionaire Mister Marti Gras was looking for a second career late last year, she tried to tell herself she wasn’t interested.
She had decided that she was taking a break from horse ownership and figured a horse with Mister Marti Gras’ long race record may not be the best candidate for a second career at the level she once competed at due to how long he’d raced – but that all changed when she saw him.
A fan favorite as a racehorse, Mister Marti Gras raced in 30 graded stakes during his 58-race career where he won over a million dollars, starting in the 2010 Louisiana Derby and ending in the 2016 Hanshin Cup Stakes. Retiring late last year after a few lackluster efforts, he was laid up at Chesapeake Farm when Alexander went to visit him.
“I knew when I went to see him, there would be one of two horses there,” Alexander said. “One: he would be broken down, ugly legged, unhealthy, and unhappy or mean even; or two: he would be a well-built animal, built like a brick house, super-sound, sane, fairly well behaved and amiable. I was sure it was going to be one, so I was pretty surprised it was two. He was friendly and easy to deal with for his handler and for the three of us who were running our hands all over different sides of him, and his legs were like tree trunks, solid and clean. Needless to say, I picked him up the next week.”
Four months after his final start, Mister Marti Gras started on his next adventure when Alexander started riding him again. He was given the new barn name “Krew,” and Alexander soon learned that her new mount thrived on learning new skills.
While Krew is laid-back most of the time, Alexander has had some issues convincing him that just because he’s tacked up doesn’t mean he’s headed to the track. But that has just been a small challenge, with the gelding picking up most things she teaches him quickly.
“So far the biggest challenge has been teaching him when the saddle goes on that he isn’t going to the track and that when other horses are in the ring he doesn’t need to beat them. He’s really a cool dude and once he understands – which doesn’t take long – he is back to business,” Alexander said.
Mister Marti Gras winning the 2011 Ack Ack Handicap
(c) (Anne Eberhardt/Blood-Horse
Alexander wasn’t sure that Krew would take to her discipline of eventing when she first got him, however. While he seemed to like dressage (one of the three phases of eventing), he didn’t seem to quite understand the jumping part. But the higher she set the jumps, the better Krew got, an encouraging sign for his future in the discipline.
But while she says that discovering his hidden jumping talent has been her biggest accomplishment so far, she admits that the gelding doesn’t agree with that assessment.
“He thinks his biggest accomplishment is to be the muddiest horse in the barn,” Alexander explained. “He’s ruined two blankets and often comes in so caked in mud I can no longer tell he is chestnut. He looks like a mud brown bay, it’s so nasty! He has certainly taken to being a non-racehorse well!”
The team’s immediate plans include competing in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover this coming October, but other than that Alexander doesn’t know where they’ll head. She is getting married in June and is still taking a break from the upper-level eventing she used to compete in – but she’ll let Mister Marti Gras tell her what the next step of her riding adventure is.
“For now, we are training for the Retired Racehorse Project this fall,” she said. “I’d like to enter him in the eventing division since that’s where I am strongest, but he’s an individual, and if he shows me his prowess is somewhere else, then we will enter there instead. I’d also like to get back to foxhunting if he is game. I worked for the Master of Woodford Hounds for a while and had a blast. I think it would be a great time for both of us, as long as I can teach him he doesn’t have to win when we all gallop! On the upside of that, he does stand well in the middle of the ring while others go around us, so the standing around part will go well!”
But no matter where the road takes them, she’s grateful to Carleigh Fedorka and Lothenbach Racing for connecting her with Mister Marti Gras. She’s also thankful to all of Krew’s fans who have shown her pictures of him from his racing days because she said it makes her appreciate him even more.
“I am a huge believer in the OTTB. I have now had three of them and each one has had a huge heart. I read stuff about pedigree and outcrossing and importing horses to be top event horses, but I think many people underestimate the OTTB. It’s not about conformation. [My former OTTBs] Cameron is built terribly, Mira is tiny, and Krew has led a huge career – but the thing they all have in common is heart. It takes a horse with a huge heart to overcome their own shortcomings, build, soundness, their past, and if any breed can do it, it’s this one.”
If you’d like to follow along on Mister Marti Gras’ adventures in his second career and his road to the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover you can like Alexander’s Shamrock Eventing page on Facebook. The page is full of photos and updates on the horse in his new career in addition to some other fun posts Alexander includes on the page.
“Krew” aka Mister Marti Gras
(c) Mandy Alexander