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Stories about your favorite retired racehorses. For archived stories, click here.

It’s a long way from the glamour of Saratoga’s select yearling sale and the glitz of the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle to the bucolic Mt. Carmel Hounds hunt field in Baltimore County, Md. Call it the road less traveled. But that’s exactly the path multiple graded stakes winner Lochte took en route to his forever home with veterinarian Dr. Trevor Wells.

Foaled March 7, 2010, in Kentucky, the dark bay gelding is by Medaglia d’Oro out of the stakes-winning Lemon Drop Kid mare Lemon Kiss. Bred by Maura Gittins, he was purchased for $475,000 by Anthony Stroud from Fasig-Tipton’s high-end yearling sale in August 2011. Unraced at 2, he made his first five starts in maiden special weights for Darley Stable and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in 2013. 

Back at Saratoga that October for Fasig-Tipton’s fall mixed sale, Lochte joined Carolyn Vogel’s Crossed Sabres Farm for $60,000. Vogel sent Lochte to the Gulfstream Park barn of trainer Marcus Vitali, and the 3-year-old made his first start for the new connections Nov. 10, 2013. He broke his maiden a month later and won an optional allowance Jan. 24, 2014. 

The next move was ambitious, but it paid off. Entered in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap-G1, Lochte won, rewarding backers with $80.60 for a $2 win bet. Lochte followed that splashy display with a second in the Kilroe Mile-G1 at Santa Anita and a third in the Makers 46 Mile-G1 at Keeneland.

As a 4-year-old in 2015, he won the Tampa Bay Stakes-G3 in January and then strung together three consecutive stakes wins at Gulfstream in the fall: the Mr. Steele, Spider John and Tropical Turf Handicap-G3. Lochte ran 13 times that year with five wins, a second and a third. He ran only twice in 2016, finishing fourth in two stakes. 

Three years later, Lochte again carried the lime green, black and white silks of Crossed Sabres Farm, but this time for Hall of Fame steeplechase trainer Jonathan Sheppard. His first start over jumps, May 4, 2019, at the Virginia Gold Cup, resulted in a fourth. In September, he was fifth at Colonial Downs. Three weeks later at Shawan Downs, Lochte “showed speed for one circuit, tired, pulled up and walked off.”

Point made. The 9-year-old retired – permanently – with a record of 37-9-5-6 and $772,080.

Vogel left him with Sheppard to be rehomed. Trainer Suzanne Stettinius was the first stop, but Lochte was too small to make a foxhunter for her father. She sent him to Wells, “and they fell in love.”

Wells, who whips for the Mt. Carmel Hounds, had recently lost his beloved hunter, Roy, in an accident as the field hacked home after one of the last days of the 2019-20 season. 

“Everyone banded together to find me a horse,” Wells said. “It was terrible when I lost Roy, really terrible. It was the end of the hunt; we were going home. We were crossing a stream behind a few other horses. The water had gotten murky, and he just stepped right into it. There was a 2-foot-deep hole, big enough for a foot to go through and that was it. If you were 10 inches to the right, you were solid. But he must have just stepped to the left, and he went right into this hole. It cut his hind leg and all his tendons.

“Two days later I got up the courage to go back and look at it, and I found this stupid rock and dug it out. It was a big slate rock that had developed this really sharp point.”

Stettinius felt sure Lochte and Wells would suit one another and she was right.

Wells, a companion animal veterinarian, grew up in Sykesville, Md., and hunted with his parents with the Howard County and Carrollton Hounds. He played polo in high school with Maryland Polo Club and was a three-time All-American at Cornell University, twice named the Polo Training Foundation’s Player of the Year.

“I’m the first whip with Mt. Carmel,” Wells said. “I’ve been doing this for 17 years. That’s one of the reasons I’m trying to teach Lochte a little bit.”

Roy left formidable shoes to fill, but Lochte (Wells calls him “Ryan” after his namesake, Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte) is stepping up in his education. 

What must a good staff horse be?

“Bold and independent,” Wells answered without hesitation. “There are some horses who pick it up and like it and some who really can’t wrap their heads around it. You have the commotion of the hounds hunting and the whips and all that, and then you have the group. Horses running around following each other, whereas in racing, they’re trying to lead, not follow. You have some horses who are really bonded to the group, or some who get really nervous in the group.” 

Wells recalled taking Lochte to a joint meeting with the Wicomico Hunt Club last year, and they rode in the field. The Grade 1 winner wasn’t at all into the “hang back with the pack” agenda. 

“I think my arms were 2 inches longer by the end of that day,” Wells said. “All he wanted to do was be out front.”

Now in his third season, Lochte has settled into the routine and enjoys the job.

“I’m just trying to teach him how to conserve himself, and they do learn it,” Wells said. “Because when you whip and you go out for four or five hours, you have to teach them to put their head down, learn how to put their feet through the woods on their own. Sometimes I have to make my own trail. He is learning that. It’s usually the third season when the light bulb goes on. Now after a half-hour, I can ride him around on the buckle. I teach them how to neck rein, because I’ve got so much else going on with the radio, the phone and the whip. And because I played polo, I used to ride with one hand anyway. And he loves it.”

Wells hunts Lochte once a week, and the off-season is spent turned out and completely let down for a break. 

While “a clown” at home – Lochte lives for peppermints and will playfully clack his teeth or grab a sleeve while being tacked or blanketed (“I think he’d get really embarrassed if he actually grabbed or nipped you.”), he’s all business under saddle. 

“You’re not going to break his spirit or his heart,” Wells said. “He’s one of those horses you kind of have to meet in the middle. He’s still a competitor.”


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