After the Racetrack: Zivo and Cherie DeVaux
When you see a former racehorse back on the track with a new job, whether it’s as a public figure or ponying young horses, the versatility of the breed is on full display. These horses can do more than just run fast around the racetrack or produce the next generation of champions, they can also take on new identities as OTTBs: off-track thoroughbreds, moving gracefully through dressage routines, flying over a series of jumps, or mentoring younger horses as they learn the routines of the racetrack.
Even better, when it’s a stakes winner like Zivo, who has taken on a second career with trainer Cherie DeVaux, their presence brings even greater attention to what thoroughbreds can do after their racing days are done.
From Stakes Winner to Stable Pony
Bred by former owner Thomas Coleman, Zivo spent his entire career racing in New York, winning several state-bred stakes as well as the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap. After his final career start at Saratoga in 2015, the son of True Direction went to stud at Irish Hill & Duchess Views Farm in Stillwater, where he stood for four seasons. Coleman pensioned Zivo from breeding after the stallion was not able to catch on with breeders. When trainer Cherie DeVaux heard that Zivo had exited stallion duty, she knew she had to add him to her family.
“I always loved him,” DeVaux says of the New York bred. As an assistant to Chad Brown, DeVaux was able to see him go through Brown’s program, evolving from “a big, angry horse” to a mature racehorse and stakes winner. Her fondness for Zivo inspired her to call Coleman to inquire about adding him to her barn. Once Coleman agreed, DeVaux started the process to get the former stallion ready for his new role as part of her stable.
“We gelded him and then gave him plenty of time off,” so that he could recover from the surgery and come down from previous job. Zivo spent time in Kentucky at New Vocations, turned out in a field with other geldings, including Crushing, another former Brown trainee. However, the surgery took a lot out of the 17-hand Zivo, who lost weight and muscle afterwards, and DeVaux has taken her time with him in his new position in the DeVaux barn: stable pony.
New Job, Same Zivo
After retiring sound from the racetrack and healthy from his time at stud, finding a new job was a natural progression for a now 13-year-old Zivo. The former stallion has been part of the barn for two years now, ponying horses to the track for morning workouts and serving as the stable’s mascot. Though his job has changed, Zivo himself is still the same horse that DeVaux fell in love with when working as Brown’s assistant trainer. “He’s still a ham,” the trainer of horses like Regret Stakes winner Gam’s Mission shared. “He’s always had a great personality. Fun to be with and pretty laid back. He even will walk into my office looking for treats.”
In addition to serving as a stable pony, Zivo also stands as a symbol for everyone who works with and owns thoroughbreds. “We all dream of what it is to have a good racehorse. He gives you hope for every horse you have in your barn,” DeVaux says.
Additionally, the former stallion also is a symbol of how versatile a thoroughbred can be. Observing horses like Zivo in their new roles gives fans a chance to see how the breed can be off the track and dispel the myth that they can be hot-headed and hard to handle. “If you can bring a horse like him out on a raceday and be out in a high energy setting, then you can see just how wonderful a thoroughbred can be,” DeVaux says.
In his role as a stable pony and DeVaux mascot, Zivo is another example of the many options for OTTBs. Not only does he have a job, but he also has a forever home and a human family committed to caring for him for the rest of his life. “He’s part of our family now” DeVaux says, “He’s going to be with us for his whole life.”
Aftercare as we should aspire to make it: a lifelong commitment to care beyond the racetrack and the breeding shed.