UK-bred horse making a name for himself, equine studies program

His name loosely translates to "almost handsome," but he is making a group of college students look awfully good, too.

The 2-year-old colt called Casiguapo was bred and foaled by the University of Kentucky. Equine studies majors in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment were responsible for caring for the colt, which was sold as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton's October 2012 sale for $4,700 to Jorge Wagner to run in his All American Horses stable.

"He's a good-looking horse," Wagner said in a recent radio interview. "Maybe his pedigree is not that strong or kind of new, but since he was a baby, he was a really, really nice colt. ... When he started training, we noticed he did everything easy."

The horse won his second race by 11 lengths at Calder Race Course in Florida in July and then finished second in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in New York in September, fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in New York in October and second in the Grade 3 Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs in Louisiana in November.

Those races are key early races on the Kentucky Derby trail, but it is still too soon to say race fans will be watching him on the first Saturday in May.

However, Casiguapo has already made his mark. He and his collegiate breeders have been featured on ESPN, the influential racing-industry blog the Paulick Report and other horse racing websites.

"It's probably created some visibility with students who were not all that interested in horses before," said Laurie Lawrence, an equine-nutrition professor. "And it gives us a bigger connection to the industry."

UK's equine program relies on the generosity of the horse business to teach the next generation. The horses are bred using mares and stallion seasons donated by local farms.

Casiguapo's sire was the late Sightseeing, by Pulpit. And his dam is Emerald Buddha, who never raced. The breeding was donated by Richland Hills, the farm where Sightseeing was standing at the time, Lawrence said.

The horses are cared for by students who work at UK's Maine Chance Equine Research Campus on Newtown Pike.

"It's great publicity for our program," said Nancy Cox, the incoming dean of the College of Agriculture who has been the associate dean for research. "We're not trying to compete with the industry; we're just trying to give as good an experience as we can for students who would be working in the industry."

The college officially added the equine studies program in 2009; now 250 students list it as their major, she said.

"All the students do an internship, so they are getting out in the industry and not just on the farm — in the business cluster that supports the horse industry — farriers, business associations, legal, tack shops, you name it," Cox said. "We encourage students who already know how to handle a horse to get into the business side."

Equine studies is among the top three majors in the agriculture college and "certainly the one experiencing the most rapid growth," Cox said.

More than 60 percent of the undergraduate students are from out of state and came to Kentucky for the horses, Cox said. "And they do stay. ... We're really thrilled."

That real-world experience pays off.

Two students who worked the Fasig-Tipton sale in October were recruited to work for private consignors at the November sale, Lawrence said.

"That's really what we want to focus on. The students are our product. The research is our product. The horses aren't our products."

The university does not race horses, but it does benefit if they win breeders' incentives. If Casiguapo were to race in the Derby and win, UK would get another check.

"It's the best of all possible outcomes," Lawrence said "We want the students to understand about horse management, and this is a good reinforcement that the things they doing are having positive outcomes."

Lawrence said that in a recent interview, one of the students said the thing she has taken home from the experience is that you need to treat all the horses the same because you can never really tell which one is the good one.

"That's not just a life lesson for horses," Lawrence said, "but a life lesson for people."