06/10/2010 11:00PM

New career for Commander Buck


Commander Buck had been a staple at Louisiana Downs ever since 2005, but he was retired from racing last fall and is on a new career path: three-day eventing. A popular horse on the track for both his frequent wins and his significant height, Commander Buck has made a nice transition to a sport that combines different disciplines, such as jumping and dressage.

"He's a young horse, in the novice level, just starting out," said Mike Huber, a former Olympian and Pan American Games gold medalist who now trains Commander Buck in Flower Mound, Texas. "We'll see how far he goes."

Huber said the hope with all new prospects is that they might develop into Olympic horses. He rode Commander Buck in his first few competitions to teach him the ropes, and liked his consistency. Tom Howard, who trained Commander Buck, recently had a chance to check out his former charge.

"I got to watch him jump, and I was impressed," he said.

Howard trained Commander Buck for Lewis Matthews Jr., who late last year gave the horse to Jacob Fletcher for the purpose of eventing. Jacob Fletcher is the grandson of Frank Fletcher, who like Matthews owns racehorses. The men are friends and both have horses with Howard.

"One day at the races at Oaklawn I invited Jacob to come down to the saddling paddock to see Commander Buck," Matthews said. "He's a real large horse, like 18 hands high, and I wanted him to see him close up. I knew he'd fall in love with him."

Commander Buck won that afternoon. But a few months later, after a pair of lackluster races indicated to Matthews and Howard that the horse, then 8, might have lost his desire for racing, Matthews decided to retire him and called the Fletchers.

"We've been fortunate that he has another career and seems really happy with it," said Matthews.

* A number of stakes-caliber fillies and mares, led by Category Seven, will meet at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf in the third race Sunday at Louisiana Downs.