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By Andrea CaudillQ-Racing JournalJuly 3, 2014
Pagan Stone at halter (above), and setting a Delta Downs track record (below). PHOTO: Donna Weeks (above) Coady Photography (below).
It’s a sure bet that a horse standing in the winner’s circle is good looking – at least to its owner. But how many fast horses can also prove their good looks to the sharp eye of a halter judge?
Turns out that Pagan Stone can do both of those things.
The 2008 Louisiana-bred bay gelding is owned by race trainer Kenneth Weeks and his wife, Donna, of Mc Intosh, Alabama. He was successful at his first career as a racehorse, and now his second career as a halter horse.
Donna helps her husband with their Wide Open Racing Stable, from which Kenneth has trained the earners of nearly $2 million in the past seven years. Among the horses he has sent out are Alabama Bred Futurity winners Kwik Version (2014), Struttin For Kenzie (2013) and Sweet Home Amabama (2010).
Donna grew up around halter horses, and while she loved her new discipline, in the back of her mind she had a plan. For three years, she had been looking for a racehorse that she could use to prove a point.
“I grew up showing halter horses, and that never left me,” Donna says. “I wanted a racehorse to show in the performance halter because I feel like, conformationally, they are very correct. A form-to-function thing. I said, these horses (racehorses) are the most correct I have seen, so why not?”
And when she saw “Pagan” in October of last year, she knew she had found the one.
“I saw him last October and just had a fit over him,” Donna says with a laugh. “I told my husband, ‘I’m buying that horse.’ Most people would’ve bought him to race, but I wanted him to show.”
During Pagan Stone’s 17-start racing career, he raced in Louisiana for his breeder, Richard De Vargas, and then Donald Kelly. The gelding started his racing career in the maiden ranks, finding the winner’s circle in his eighth try. When Pagan Stone turned 4 years old, trainer Ray Robbins extended the horse to 870-yards, and the gelding let everyone know that he liked it a lot – he set a track record of :45.118 at Delta Downs while winning by nearly 10 lengths.
He then played in the distance stakes ranks, and retired from racing in November 2013 with earnings of $70,830 and a career-high speed index of 105.
“His conformation is just incredible,” Donna says. “A huge shoulder and heartgirth, beautiful neck. He’s good-hocked, low-hocked, a big ol’ hanging hip. And he’s good headed for a racehorse. I think a lot of people don’t quite know what to do with his shoulder and heartgirth, because he does have a real prominent wither. But to me, that’s what a Quarter Horse is supposed to have. It’s hard to ride those horses that are mutton withered. I grew up showing halter horses, you know, and I think we’ve gotten away from the functionality of a halter horse so much. I think people are craving what a true performance horse is.”
Donna took him home, fitted the horse up and sent him to trainer Monte Horn to show.
Now Pagan Stone is hitting AQHA shows as a halter horse, in Performance Halter Geldings. With Horn at the shank, the gelding won two of four classes at his first show and stood Grand. He earned enough points to qualify him for the AQHA World Championship Show in November. Weeks is also hoping to also qualify him for the World Show in amateur halter.
“He’s extremely kind natured, just a big, pretty horse,” Donna says. “Probably one of the smartest horses that I’ve seen ... Crazy smart.”
And how did he transition from racehorse to halter horse?
“I think he’s adapted really well,” she says. “To be honest, we were a little concerned about that in the beginning because when you take them (into the show arena), they think ‘oh, it’s race time.’ I showed (a retired racehorse) before, I took him up to the arena and he was just sweating profusely and shivering all over. But Monte said from the beginning Pagan did very well. He’s been to two shows now and he goes out and shows like a champ. Which is kind of a big deal for him, to go from setting a track record to going grand in halter.”
Pagan Stone was bred by De Vargas of Natchitoches, Louisiana, who has also bred multiple stakes winner Dr Drip ($253,743) and stakes placed runner Rocking Charlie Tee ($116,072). Pagan Stone is by Lydgate (TB) and out of the Toast To Dash mare Scorpions Heart.
Lydgate won or placed in six of 16 career starts, with earnings of $139,769. His biggest win came in the 2004 Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs. A son of Pulpit out of a Danzig mare, Lydgate has sired only two American Quarter Horse starters, but both have come back winners. They have earned a respectable $111,735 between them.
Scorpions Heart, a 2001 daughter of Toast To Dash, won or placed in six of 16 starts with earnings of $23,608 while competing in claiming or allowance events. Pagan Stone is one of two starters she has produced; the other is Padre Paul (by Achievement, $74,617).
Pagan Stone’s achievement is not unprecedented. Melissa Ann Miller of Belton, Texas, bought the Royal Quick Dash mare One Quick Cookie ($12,102) and saw her finish fifth in Performance Halter Mares at the 2007 World Show. The mare went on to produce Grade 1-placed runner Jess Featureme Quick (by Feature Mr Jess, $552,038) for the versatile horsewoman.
And, of course, Erin Knox's Mr Eye Opener stallion Fly The Red Eye retired from racing to become the 2012 reserve world champion in Performance Halter Stallions on his way to becoming an Open Supreme Champion. And now Pagan Stone has the potential to follow that path.
“To me, he’s just the epitome of what a Quarter Horse is supposed to be,” Donna says of Pagan Stone. “That’s what they were intended for originally, and we get so specialized and off course.”
The horse’s ability to succeed with both a good racing career, and then a halter career is a compliment to both the horse and to his breed, which was built on versatility.
“I think the industry is craving (the versatility),” Donna says. “I know I do. I have been wanting to do this for three years. I just wanted the right horse to do it with, and I think he’s the right horse. To me, he’s the epitome of form-to-function. I think he’s done well in both, so I’m kind of excited.”
Pagan Stone will be pointed to the World Show, but after that his future career isn’t certain.
“He’s sound enough, we could race him again if we wanted to,” Donna says. “Depends on how well he does at the World Show, what we do with him after that.”
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, watch the AQHA Racing Newscast and visit www.aqharacing.com.
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