Seventeen months after he became a one-day sensation by bolting free down U.S. 1, thoroughbred Bullet Catcher is set for a gentle retirement.
Now 5 years old, with 20 starts behind him, the gelding is munching hay on a Montgomery County farm, waiting to be adopted.
“He’s just been a thrilling horse,” says owner Gina Rosenthal. “And now I really want a special person to take him and give him that good life.”
Though a solid racer, Bullet Catcher was never destined to achieve fame on the track because of creaky knees. He found the spotlight a different way on the morning of Jan. 11, 2013.
He began his 20-minute adventure by throwing jockey Jeremy Rose after his daily workout at Laurel Park. He bolted past a security gate, hung a left on Whiskey Bottom Road, then followed the left-turn arrow (yes, really) onto U.S. 1. He miraculously stayed with the flow of traffic, crossing two county lines before he was finally corralled by jockey Abel Castellano and trainer Charles Frock, who had followed in their cars. His trip lasted 1.6 miles, and he suffered only minor hoof abrasions.
Bullet Catcher ran a week later in West Virginia, finishing second. He’d run a total of 14 times after his aborted race to freedom, winning four. Rosenthal retired him when he developed a foot abscess following an April 26 start in which he finished an uncharacteristic ninth. She says she could have sold him to an owner who would’ve raced him at lower-level tracks but feared for his future health.
“It was like a sign to me,” she says of the abscess. “These horses give so much to us, and I believe at the end of the day, we have to give back to them.”
She’ll always remember Bullet Catcher’s floppy ears, love for peppermints and bold personality. In fact, she says, he also broke free as a yearling and briefly roamed the streets of Chestertown. He avoided traffic mishaps that time as well.
A week after the gelding retired, one of Rosenthal’s business partners, Robin Coblyn, took him to her farm in Clarksburg, where she’s easing him into post-racing life and preparing him for adoption. He has switched from a high-carbohydrate, high-protein diet to simple hay. The abscess on his right front hoof is largely healed.
Many horses struggle with the easier rhythms of farm life after the intensity of training for races. Not this guy.
“He’s such a character,” Coblyn says. “He knows how to relax.”
She’s optimistic about finding a good home for Bullet Catcher as a pleasure or dressage horse for a low- to mid-level rider. She says she checks references for any potential owners and asks them to sign a no-auction contract so the horse will have a stable home. Most horses are placed quickly. Coblyn can be reached at email@example.com.
“He’s such a sweetheart,” she says. “He should make someone a good forever partner.”
The Paulick Report first reported that Bullet Catcher was retiring.