Can a horse sourced for free from Craigslist prevail at endurance racing? Well, 10-year old Arabian gelding RA Ares, fondly known as Goober, just did!
Eighteen-year old Sanoma Blakely and her amazing horse made headlines after winning the 64th Tevis Cup, edging out three-time winner Jeremy Reynolds.
The Tevis Cup is among the world’s most demanding endurance races, running over 100 miles of rugged terrain on the Western States Trail, stretching from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sacramento, California, with climbs of 19,000 feet and descents of 22,000 feet.
The route passes through remote and rugged wilderness territory that is generally accessible only by foot, horseback, or helicopter.
Endurance racing is a serious sport and business, where horses travel cross country over extreme distances. Riders often start honing their skills at a very young age and it takes years of experience to race among the very best. Horses are often sourced from well-known breeds and champion racing stock.
One hundred eighty-four horses started off at 5:15 am near Truckee, California for this year’s Tevis Cup. The teams hurdled three canyons, several river crossings, and punishing elevation changes. Blakely and Goober ran mostly neck and neck with Reynolds and his mount, bay mare RTR Rimfires Etta.
“He passed me a couple of times in the last four miles. We were running our horses as fast as they were willing to go.” Blakely and Goober, however, prevailed after 16 hours of racing. “That last loop, we were pretty much flat-out racing. I was about a horse length ahead, so it was galloping to the finish. Just a full-out sprint. It was pretty crazy.”
The Blakelys are certainly not new to endurance racing. The family manages several horses under Blakeley Endurance Stables and regularly competes in hardcore races. Sanoma Blakely was six years old when at her first competition in the American Endurance Ride Conference.
She joined the Tevis Cup in 2014 (at age 12) and 2016, failing to finish the course both times. Blakely’s win is a welcome addition to the family trophy case, which already has six Tevis completions through mother Gabriela and five Tevis completions through father Wasch.
Her brother Barrak has completed the course four times, with the additional distinction of winning the Haggin Cup in 2014 at age 15. Among top ten finishers, the Haggin Cup goes to the horse deemed to be in the most superior condition.
Blakely’s win is even more remarkable given Goober’s origin story. Eight years ago, Wasch got the 2-year old horse through an ad in Craigslist, although it wasn’t the first time they got horses through the site. “We’ve gotten a few good horses on Craigslist,” Blakely said. She also related how the horse got his nickname. “He would open gates. He would grab our other horses by their halters and lead them around. He was such a goober.”
Technically, the horse belongs to her father, and together they’ve completed the Tevis Cup four times, placing third overall in 2018. This year, however, Wasch thought that Sanoma and Goober would work well together, and they did!
“Even 90 miles in, Goober didn’t seem tired. He was shying at stumps and getting bored and I decided to go for it. He was feeling really strong the whole day.” The Tevis Cup has mandatory veterinarian checkpoints, where horses can resume the race when their pulse return to normal resting rates.
Goober was able to leave the vet stops faster and get a head start over the other horses. “It was just a lot of time conditioning. You get out what you put in.”
Blakely was truly grateful for all the support. “I am just so proud to have been able to ride this amazing athlete and that he finished so strongly and finally got his moment to shine. Thanks for everybody who supported us, all the volunteers, everyone who made this ride possible, and everybody who sent us positive comments! Happy trails!”
Winning the race is a product of a lifetime of hard work for Blakely and Goober, and certainly points to a bright future for the pair in endurance racing.