Golden Horse: Texas-bred Transitions from the Track to the Barrels

by Texas Thoroughbred Association

AUSTIN, (TTA) – Texas-bred Brooks Open Gold is now embarking on a career as a barrel racer (Photo by Image Hounds Photography/Ken Carmona)

By Mary Cage There are two meanings of the word “race” for Texas-bred Brooks Open Gold. A 7-year-old gray gelding by Open Forum and out of the Alphabet Soup mare Alphabet Gold, Brooks Open Gold not only competes in races at the track but also in barrel races.

After finishing fifth in what was likely his final career start at Lone Star Park on July 16, his owner – Haley Thorne – will now focus on the gelding’s barrel racing career. The gray, who she calls Steel, wrapped up his racing career with 40 lifetime starts. Although he never reached the winner’s circle, he garnered three seconds and five thirds, as well as earnings of $20,014.

Steel entered Thorne’s life in March 2014, shortly after the gelding finished third in a maiden claiming at Sam Houston Race Park – his first in-the-money finish since December 2012. Brought to her attention by Dr. Geneve Dundas, a veterinarian and friend of Thorne’s, Steel immediately impressed Thorne with his calm demeanor. This quality of Steel’s convinced Thorne to purchase him and begin training him for barrel racing. After having spent most of his life at the racetrack, Steel had the chance to “just be a horse” now that he was in the care of Thorne. With the help of Thorne’s friend Catherine Thompson, Steel was started on barrels. The gelding learned the basics such as stopping, backing, and loping circles and, along the way, he impressed Thorne with his intelligence.

Owner Haley Thorne supported her horse on the racetrack with a custom T-shirt (Photo by Mary Cage)

But the allure of horse racing lingered in Thorne’s mind. Now that she owned Steel, her interest in the sport had a chance to become more than just a daydream. She continued to race the gelding, entering him in races at Lone Star Park during the spring Thoroughbred meet. In the five races Steel competed in for Thorne during 2014, he garnered a pair of seconds, two fourths, and sixth, earning $10,306.

Along with his success on the track, Steel was learning the skills needed for barrel racing. When the Lone Star Park meet concluded, Thorne put a greater focus on barrels for the gelding, even beginning to enter him in competitions. As the first racehorse she has worked with, Steel not only impressed her by defying the “crazy Thoroughbred” reputation but also with his demeanor in general.

“Steel is a joy to ride, and anyone can handle him,” Thorne said. “He is gentle, calm, level-headed and wants to please. . . He has taught me that a good horse is just a good horse. No matter what I ask him to do, he will do it. He may not be great at anything, b