By Bill Finley
For Prospect Point (First Dawn), accomplishments have never been measured in victories or earnings. He didn’t pile up enough of either for anyone to take notice of his anonymous career on the racetrack. His achievements are marked in days, 13,885 of them, to be precise. Born Mar. 4, 1978, Prospect Point is still alive and, as best as anyone can tell, is the oldest living Thoroughbred in North America. He might be the oldest living Thoroughbred ever. No one seems to know.
When Prospect Point, who grinded out a career that consisted of 72 starts, seven wins and $28,553 in earnings, made it to his 37th birthday last year he received a bit of notoriety. One year later, little has changed. He is alive and as well as a horse can be at age 38.
“He’s doing pretty darn good,” said his owner Gail Earle, who lives in Pageland, South Carolina. “Compared to last year, he is a bit slower, he doesn’t see as good, doesn’t hear as good, but his condition body-wise, I can’t believe how well he’s doing. I think he’s even gained some weight.”
Prospect Point last raced in a $1,500 claimer on July 10, 1985 at Waterford Park, which is now Mountaineer Park, finishing 11th. Earle has been told that attempts were made to turn Prospect Point into a polo pony after his racing career ended, but he didn’t gravitate to that sport. Earle acquired the gelding in 1988 and used him as a show hunter until 1993. He developed lameness problems after stepping on a rock, but Earle still rode him for recreational purposes until 2010, when he was 32. He has been a pasture pet ever since.
Earle is cognizant of the gelding’s health and well-being and isn’t trying to set any records. Rather, she sees a horse that seems perfectly content with his life.
“I think he’s as happy as he can be for as old as he is,” she said earlier this week. “It’s real warm today, so we got him to trot around. Yesterday, he actually came up to the fence and wanted me to groom him. I was watering and cleaning up stuff and he wanted to be hosed off. I know his look and how he acts and he was just standing there looking at me and I had to hose him off. Scrubbed him real good. He loves that. To me, if he was depressed or whatever, he wouldn’t care what was going on, but he’s interested in the barnyard activity. Believe me, if he were suffering or something was wrong with him I wouldn’t keep him around just to keep him around.
“He has slowed down a notch or two since last year but he still can be wild and crazy. In fact, yesterday after I rinsed him off real good it was kind of breezy and he kind of took off. He wanted to run and buck in the air, he just can’t because he’s arthritic. But he wanted to.”
Earle said the only problem she has with the horse is that one of his hind legs is weak and that makes it difficult for him to stand when they trim his feet. He also likes to sleep a lot, hardly a surprise considering his age.
Earle doesn’t have any theories as to why this particular horse has lived so long. She does her very best to take good care of him, but that doesn’t explain why Prospect Point has far surpassed the average life expectancy of a Thoroughbred, which is between 25 to 28.
No one seems to know what the record is for the oldest living Thoroughbred. Earle said she has heard of horses living to age 40, but is certain that none of them were Thoroughbreds. When stories about Prospect Point ran last year readers were asked to write in if they knew of any horse older than Prospect Point. None did.
At least one other Thoroughbred has lived to be 38. Named Merrick and foaled in 1903, he died on March 13, 1941. He made 208 career starts.
“I wouldn’t take $1 million for him,” his owner, J.C. Milam said a few months before the horse’s death. According to an Associated Press report from 1940, “people from all over the country visit Merrick every year.”
Earle knows she’ll never get a definitive answer when it comes to the possibility of Prospect Point setting some sort of record. She’d like to know, but it’s not anything she worries about. She’s perfectly content just to have him around.
“I am just so grateful he made it another year,” she said. “I love him dearly and will do anything for him.”