08/16/2017 9:06AM

Former top Thoroughbred and daughter of Olympic medalist combine for gold

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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Phillip 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.

That love for the breed, along with skill in the sport, runs in the family.

Dutton's teenage daughter Olivia recently rode one of the stable’s most familiar names, classic-placed Icabad Crane, to victory in the Junior Open Training division at Fair Hill International's August horse trials.

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Icabad Crane finished third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes and won or placed in 15 other stakes, earning $585,980, all for owner Earle Mack. The gelding’s ownership was transferred to trainer Graham Motion and his wife, Anita, following his retirement from racing, and a second career with Dutton, a close friend of Motion whose True Prospect Farm is less than an hour from Fair Hill Training Center, became a natural fit. Icabad Crane began competing in eventing in 2014, and became a poster child for off-the-track Thoroughbreds, as he was closely followed both by racing and sporthorse fans.

“We felt we had a platform where we could promote and show everybody what could be done [with Thoroughbreds],” said Anita Motion, speaking at a panel on Thoroughbred aftercare at the Equestricon convention in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. “We have a lot of other stories with [horses] that aren’t quite so well known.”

At Fair Hill, Icabad Crane and Olivia Dutton finished their dressage phase with a score of 33.20, placing them eighth heading into the two jumping phases, where penalty points are added for fence knockdowns, horses refusing obstacles, for going too far over or under the optimum time, or other mishaps. The duo did not add any penalties and climbed the standings to victory as those ahead of them faltered. 

Olivia Dutton rode three horses in her division, also finishing third, moving up from sixth after dressage with Syd Kent and fourth, up from seventh, on Mr Medicott.

Meanwhile, Phillip Dutton rode six horses in various divisions at Fair Hill, including Thoroughbreds Sea of Clouds, who finished sixth in the Open Preliminary division, and Quadrivium, who finished sixth in an Open Training division.

Sea of Clouds, a Malibu Moon gelding whom Dutton calls "a serious horse for the future," is owned by Anita Motion; Dutton's wife, Evie; Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani; Jodi Dady; and Annie Jones. Quadrivium is owned by Flaxman Holdings, Motion’s Herringswell Stables, and Evie Dutton.

The longstanding relationship between the Duttons and Motions will continue, as they have developed a system to evaluate horses for a possible second career in eventing, and to secure the futures of those who don’t have the aptitude for the demanding sport.

“When we take the horses from the track, Phillip takes them for 30 days to see how they adapt to life as an event horse,” Anita Motion said. “He can usually tell within 30 days if they’ve got the mind or the ability. Although we’ve had some success stories, we’ve had some come back, and we find them something else to do.”