Mulhall aboard Kong on Nov. 3
If you found yourself distracted during the horseback interviews of this year’s Breeders’ Cup winners, you weren’t the only one. Yes, it’s a moment of joy for the jockey and the winning horse, it’s a great chance to see NBC reporter Donna Barton Brothers doing her best work, but it’s also a shining moment for the horse Brothers is riding on the big day.
This year, people were interested in Brothers’ black and white paint – both readers and Paulick Report staff members. If you’d wondered who the handsome steed is, wonder no more.
Kong is a 10-year-old American Spotted Draft/Percheron cross trainer Kristin Mulhall picked up at an auction. He was a pick-up horse at rodeos for many years, meaning he was responsible for ‘picking up’ cowboys off bucking broncos and helped wrangle bucking bulls at the end of their runs. He has been trained in all types of ranch work, but specialized in rodeos. There’s not much that can phase him – which is good, because although he’s seen big crowds at rodeos, last weekend was his first time working the races.
“He’s a gentle giant,” said Mulhall.
Mulhall was out with Kong in the mornings as well, helping out trainers who didn’t have their own pony horses at Del Mar. Most horses running on Breeders’ Cup week shipped in, either from Santa Anita or from out-of-state, and with flights in short supply, many couldn’t practically bring their own ponies. Mulhall could be spotted pitching in to help with the European visitors in particular. Despite his much heavier build, Mulhall said Kong has no problem keeping pace with the Thoroughbreds he leads – he just lets his large stride make up the difference, especially when he trots. His canter, Mulhall said, is a little more difficult to sit.
Kong could be spotted alongside his stablemate, an American Mustang named Smokey with Zoe Metz aboard, in the mornings. They’re just two of the horses Mulhall is riding or training between sunup and sundown each day, in addition to her racing string. Mulhall said she’s a frequenter of local horse auctions, picking up riding horses to train and resell.
“I’ve got a bunch of riding horses at the house, probably 15 horses,” she said. “And I’ve started getting into the draft crosses. When I go home, that’s when the work starts. I’m home all day, working after training stops. It’s a full-time job. But I enjoy it. I love being outside working with horses.”
As for Kong, he celebrated each successful interview with Brothers with horse cookies Mulhall kept in his saddle bag. He may have been visible on NBC cameras walking the dirt track in between races with Mulhall at his head. That’s because the one thing he doesn’t care for is the shadowy tunnel between the paddock and the track. His requirements gave Mulhall a good spot, right on the rail, where she could hold him in between Brothers’ rides.
Perhaps strangely, Kong has never been much for mints, carrots, or apples. Mulhall had to teach him what cookies were about, but now that he knows, he’s never going to forget her for it.
“He wouldn’t take treats out of your hand,” she said, speaking of Kong’s demeanor when she first got him. “He was the type that if you walked up to him, he’d snort at you. You couldn’t catch him. It took me like two days to get him spoiled.”
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