Second-Career Star: Mitey Phantom
Second-Career Star: Mitey Phantom
Of the most recent list of top AQHA point earners in senior barrel racing this year, the top three horses are all second-career racehorses. Among them is a flashy sorrel mare by the name of Mitey Phantom, who has taken her equine family’s fast history and transferred it to the glamor and challenge of the barrel pattern.
Mitey Phantom is a 2016 foal bred and owned by Bobby and Catherine Simmons of Midland, Texas. She wears a God-given white mask on her face, and Catherine named the flashy filly in honor of “Phantom of the Opera,” who wears a similar mask.
“Phantom of the Opera” is one of the most successful entertainment events in history – and “Phantom,” too, is pedigreed for success.
Her sire, First Moonflash, is a champion who still holds the American Quarter Horse quarter-mile world record. He earned $969,828 in his racing career, and as a sire has gotten the earners of more than $23.2 million, including the likes of champion Flash And Roll ($1,710,718), All American Futurity (G1) winner Handsome Jack Flash ($1,517,491) and All American Derby (G1) winner Too Flash For You ($1,065,692).
Phantom is out of Neons Miracle, a 2003 winning daughter of Yawls Rabbit who has produced nine starters, four of which have returned winners.
The most significant of those are Phantom’s full siblings, the stakes winners Mitey Man ($183,222) and Mitey Moon ($179,118).
But, unlike her brother and sister, the racetrack proved to be the wrong stage production for Phantom. She would make two career starts before they retired her.
“It just didn’t seem like that’s what she wanted to do,” Catherine said.
But there was another production available to the heroine of our story – barrel racing. Her older brother, Mitey Man, had retired from racing and had shown promise as a barrel horse before his untimely passing, indicating there might be a latent talent in Phantom.
“I convinced my husband to let her have a chance at this,” Catherine said. “You don’t know, when you give a horse a second career, if it’s going to come together. Her first career, it wasn’t like her siblings. They were stellar, they were somebody. And she wasn’t somebody on the track, but the fact that my husband allowed me to put her into barrel training is a big credit to him. He let me do it, and I just feel blessed that she has put it together.”
Phantom had to learn a whole new game and overcome some injuries, but this year has blossomed into a fierce competitor. Under the guidance of world champion barrel racer Lance Graves, the mare has captured victories at major events such as the 2022 Dixie National in Jackson, Mississippi; the Circle G in Texarkana, Texas; and the Robbie Phillips Lance Graves International AQHA Open in Guthrie, Oklahoma; as well as a placing at the 2022 National Western Stock Show in Denver.
“Barrel racing is not a hobby for Phantom; it is her second career,” Catherine said. “She has the mind and the soundness to do so, and she was bred to be an aggressive, competitive racing athlete. She had to make the change from a straightaway runner to a short sprinter and turning machine for barrel racing. Both of these sports are extremely specialized and are timed down to the thousandths of a second.”
The training and retraining of a horse always takes a team, and a number of good horsemen handled Phantom on her way to success, including race trainer Renee Wilson, who helped make sure the mare was in top physical condition and helped partner her with Graves.
“When she first started on the barrels, turning was not her forte,” Catherine remembers of Phantom’s start. “She just wanted to run, to take off. But even with some wide turns she was still clocking, which speaks to her speed. She has finally put it together, and holy moly she has got it. She has realized ‘I can do this.’”
The Farnam AQHA World Championship Show is on the horizon, October 28 - November 20 in Oklahoma City, and the best American Quarter Horses in the world gather to crown amateur, Select amateur and open world champions. Phantom is qualified for senior barrel racing, and her connections report that they’re considering contesting it.
If Phantom is able to score a gold globe, it would place her dam, Neons Miracle, in very elite company as a broodmare. In the history of the World Show, only two mares have been able to produce runners that earned more than $250,000 on the racetrack and an open barrel racing world champion (junior or senior divisions).
Those two mares are On A Bunny, who produced race earners of $1,187,657 and world champion barrel horse FM Radio; and Hempes Folly, who produced earners of $815,672 (including racing world champion Dashing Folly), as well as barrel racing world champion Three Folly Six.
When you settle in to watch barrel racing, Phantom will be easy to spot coming through the gate – she’s the one in the mask.
“She’s very, very smart, and she absolutely loves to run,” Catherine said. “That’s a thing that a lot of people who don’t own horses, or specifically racehorses, they don’t understand how much the racehorse blood gives the want to run. When they have that want, you can’t teach that. You can’t put it in them, they either have it in them or they don’t. And she has that.”
Second Career Stars is an ongoing series on retired racing American Quarter Horses in new careers. If you know of a horse that should be featured, write to email@example.com. AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqha.com/racing.