Retired Racehorse ‘Maverick’ Sidelined
By Richard Rosenblatt
Super Bowl LV will see retired racehorse Deputy Maverick kicking back in his stall, reaching for his game snack of oats and hay while watching the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go at it on TV.
If things hadn’t gone wrong at the last minute, he would have been trailered to Tampa to work the game, as he’s now a police horse. Fate put him on the sideline, for he’s out with a ligament in his left front leg that he injured in a freak accident. He’ll have 15 days of stall rest.
The Super Bowl was to be Deputy Maverick’s Kentucky Derby
Fate also placed him in the good company of those Kentucky Derby contenders who drop off the campaign trail each year with injuries. The Super Bowl was to be Deputy Maverick’s Kentucky Derby – and as a retired racehorse who never made it to the Derby, this would have meant a lot to the people who work with him.
“That’s a pity,” said William Sorren of Miami Beach, Maverick’s owner during his racing days. “Just to have had the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl is remarkable.”
Sorren said he wasn’t surprised the horse found a new career as a mounted patrol horse. Sorren has found new homes for about 25 of his retired or injured horses during 41 years of racing. One works for the police department in Ocala, Florida, one is a jumper, and one is helping children at a rehabilitation facility. They’ve all found their way to new homes.
Same with Deputy Maverick, who was deputized in Lee County after passing his training. He has a badge: a star surrounded by a wreath, with his name imprinted at the top. It’s the same badge Lee County detectives wear.
Deputy Maverick is large (nearly 6-feet tall) and big-boned for a thoroughbred, giving him an imposing appearance, suitable for crowd control. Most of his work in this part of Southwest Florida has been ceremonial rather than working crowds, although he’s been trained in both.
One training exercise tasked him with parting a raucous gathering of about 40 persons assigned to act like a belligerent crowd. More often, he’s served as a rider-less horse at veterans’ funerals. He’s accustomed to standing straight and tall behind flags whipping in the Florida wind.
His owner and rider, Corporal Aaron Eubanks, said he’s developed an amazing bond with Maverick.
“Naturally, I’m disappointed he’s not going to the Super Bowl,” Eubanks said. But Eubanks himself still will work the game. He’s taking his other horse, a Percheron he calls Argus. Maybe Maverick will spot his owner and stablemate on TV.
While Maverick is staying home with his injured leg, he won’t be forgotten. The 7-year-old gelding has become an overnight media darling. Even after Eubanks “scratched” his horse from the Super Bowl, television stations from Fort Myers and nearby Naples still wanted interviews. Not every day sees a retired, Kentucky-bred and undefeated racehorse go to the Super Bowl as a policeman’s mount.
In Tampa, Eubanks and other members of the Lee County unit
In Tampa, Eubanks and other members of the Lee County unit will join a couple dozen police horses invited by Tampa police to work crowd control outside the Raymond James Stadium before and after the game. Earlier during Super Bowl week, the mounted units will also be working in Ybor City, an historic section of Tampa where Super Bowl crowds are expected to be large.
Maverick’s story could have ended here, with having to miss the big event. But it does not end, for the story demonstrates he has a great future unfolding after retirement from the track. The story also reveals the care and concern that numerous persons have given the horse throughout his life. He is extraordinarily fortunate. From the time of his birth at Brookdale Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, people have been looking out for him.
William and Lyn Rainbow at The Acorn (where Maverick was introduced to the bridle and saddle) and Nick and Jaqui de Meric’s Manuden Farm (where he originally went into training) prepared the young horse for his racing career, back when he was known as Track Shill.
Both farms are in Ocala. When he was ready to go to the racetrack, “Track Shill” went into the stable of trainer Angel Penna Jr. He was a 3-year-old when he won his first race March 10, 2017, at Gulfstream Park. He turned on some serious speed approaching the stretch at Gulfstream Park and had the lead by the upper stretch. He won by 2 1/4 lengths, setting himself up for a useful career following this $25,000 maiden claimer.
All hopes for more great racing ended when he broke one of two small ankle bones, called sesamoids, in his right front leg during a training exercise. With breeder and owner William Sorren faced with determining the gelding’s future, Sorren chose retirement for him. He sent his horse back to Ocala in 2017 to heal and unwind from racing nerves. Track Shill was at The Acorn when a rehoming facility in Naples was recommended for his next move. The name of the place, Track to Trail, Inc., is a non-profit specializing in placing retired racehorses in forever homes. Its founder, Cynthia Gilbert, said she brings on young girls to help with horse care and learn life skills. A number of them helped with adjusting Track Shill to a new life away from the track.
The question was what kind of job he would take on
The question was what kind of job he would take on. He could have been retrained as a jumper or a dressage horse, a track lead pony or a trail horse. His future was decided when he encountered Eubanks, from the sheriff’s office.
If Track Shill was having to adjust to new circumstances, Eubanks was also. A few months previously he had lost a well-loved horse to colic. Eubanks said he was so distraught that he couldn’t think of riding a horse for several months. His other horse, the Percheron named Argus, also was having a hard time. He was lacking equine company. Eubanks offered to foster Track Shill because he needed a buddy for Argus and he also suspected the animal might have the makings of a mounted patrol horse.
A police horse must not only look solid in stature. It requires a temperament able to handle traffic, noisy crowds, fireworks, and numerous other situations that would frighten most horses. Eubanks took the thoroughbred under foster care and before long, he adopted him. He renamed him Maverick. Argus the Percheron welcomed Maverick into his company.
The Super Bowl invitation, even though Maverick could not follow through, was recognition for learning his new job well. Lyn Rainbow, at The Acorn in Ocala, is not surprised he has succeeded in his second career.
“As cow ponies, show horses, event horses: Thoroughbreds are proving there’s nothing they can’t do,” she said.
Amen to that, Deputy Maverick might say while kicking back, watching the game on TV and reaching for his Super Bowl snacks.