07/18/2016 2:06PM

Dutton has golden touch with retired Thoroughbreds

Barbara D. Livingston
Classic-placed Icabad Crane is now a solid eventing horse.

Equestrian Phillip Dutton, who will seek this third gold medal in eventing as he competes for the United States in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, is involved with a trio of Grade 1-performing Thoroughbreds.

Dutton has long been an advocate of off-the-track Thoroughbreds for competition in eventing, which tests a horse’s athleticism, versatility, stamina, and courage through tests in dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. He has ridden many Thoroughbreds to success at the highest levels of the sport and has two classic-placed runners in his current eventing string in Icabad Crane and Commanding Curve

Dutton is also deepening his involvement in racing. In May, he bought into the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership that co-owns Grade 1 winner Ring Weekend, currently in training with Graham Motion, who also trained Icabad Crane. Dutton and his wife, Evie, are good friends with Motion and his wife, Anita. Motion is based out of Maryland’s Fair Hill Training Center, only about half an hour from Dutton’s True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa.

“I spend a lot of time traveling and competing but like to spend time at Fair Hill with Graham whenever I can,” said Dutton, whose Olympic mount this year is the Holsteiner Fernhill Cubalawn. “It’s really neat to be involved with a horse of this caliber trained by Graham. I’ve worked with a number of Thoroughbreds over the years, and this is a great opportunity to get to know more about racing.”

Dutton began his career riding for his native Australia, earning team gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics. He became an American citizen in 2006, changing his competitive nationality in order to represent his adoptive home. Since then, he has earned team gold and individual silver for the U.S. at the 2007 Rio de Janeiro Pan American Games and team gold at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. He also represented the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

Along the way, Dutton has been a major proponent of off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Australian Thoroughbred True Blue Girdwood was his mount at the Atlanta games, and House Doctor was his partner for Sydney. TruLuck, purchased off the track in Oklahoma, was his partner for the 2007 Pan American Games, one of his first major competitions for the U.S.

“He was an incredibly honest horse,” Dutton wrote about TruLuck on his website. “I never had a cross-country fault with him in his whole career.”

Dutton also rode Thoroughbreds Cayman Went and The Foreman, the latter an ex-steeplechaser, to success at the upper levels of eventing. Cayman Went, a son of Easy Goer, also became a foxhunter after his eventing career.

“He was an incredible horse,” Dutton wrote. “He had three careers and was very good at all of them.”

Dutton’s current competition mounts include Icabad Crane, who finished third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes and won or placed in 15 other stakes, earning $585,980 for owner Earle Mack. The gelding’s ownership was transferred to Graham and Anita Motion following his retirement from the racetrack, and a second career with Dutton became a natural fit. Icabad Crane proved a phenomenally quick study, winning his first beginner novice horse trial in March 2014. He ended that season with a return trip to Pimlico, where he won the Retired Racehorse Project’s $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest.

“The whole afternoon was pretty incredible and inspiring watching these off-track Thoroughbreds, where their lives have gone, and what the other trainers have been able to achieve with them in all these other disciplines,” Dutton, who donated the prize money to various Thoroughbred aftercare charities, wrote on his blog.

Icabad Crane swiftly moved up through the novice, training, and preliminary levels and finished a creditable fifth in his first one-star event at the Hagyard Mid-South Three-Day Event in Lexington, Ky., with the Motions on hand to watch. Higher-level events are rated on a scale of one to four stars, with only six four-star events internationally.

After his whirlwind 2015 season, Icabad Crane was given an extended winter break before resuming competition this April at the Plantation Field Horse Trials. With Dutton’s daughter Olivia riding, the gelding won the Novice Thoroughbred Series division.

With Plantation Field sponsoring several Thoroughbred divisions to promote second careers for retired racehorses, the Dutton barn also sent out three others in the preliminary division. Sea of Clouds, owned by Anita Motion, Jodi Dady, Annie Jones, Evie Dutton, and Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani, finished fifth; The Manager, owned by Jones, finished sixth; and UBQuiet, owned by Bill and Kate Simmeth, finished seventh.

Meanwhile, a few other high-profile Thoroughbreds have joined Dutton’s string. Deepening the new relationship between West Point and True Prospect, the high-end ownership partnership sent its 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up, Commanding Curve, to Dutton in May to begin retraining.

“Phillip has campaigned several Thoroughbreds at the highest levels of the sport and shares our commitment to providing retired racehorses with second careers,” West Point president Terry Finley said.

Commanding Curve’s trainer, Dallas Stewart, feels that the athletic gelding will excel in his new vocation.

“He’s a big, strong horse with a great mind, and I’m excited to see what he can do in his second career,” Stewart said.

Dutton has also teamed up with another Olympian with his new mount Water Cube, who was a winner on the track. The horse raced for record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, who began investing in Thoroughbreds a few years ago, and Graham Motion.