Second Career Star: John Ricky

A racehorse with wings on his feet.

Q-Racing Journal

John Ricky and owner Allee Votipka fly over a jump. PHOTO: Courtesy Allee Votipka

John Ricky is a horse with wings on his feet. He used them, first, to notch a respectable racing career, and is now using them to bound over fences as high as a car.

The horse was bred by the partnership of Judith Koontz and Curtis Perner, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was sired by Grade 1 winner Heza Fast Man. The stallion earned $801,356 in his racing career and from 12 crops would sire the earners of more than $13.4 million.

John Ricky was foaled in February 1999 out of the Mr Dark Jet mare Katy Silverticket. The mare had already given the partners the Rare Form gelding Jaffas, who that same year began a career that would see him earn a Superior Race Horse title; race a solid 53 times and win three stakes; and earn $105,474 in his productive career.

Katy Silverticket would also produce Sashea (by Corona Cartel, $59,660, and a stakes-placed producer) and Keri N On (by Tres Seis, $30,739).

John Ricky made his career debut as a freshman with a respectable second-place finish. He was then rested to come back as a derby horse, and when he returned, he quickly qualified to the $21,130 Kansas Jackpot Prep Derby (R). He qualified to and contested the $58,000 Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Derby (RG3) before his connections stretched him a distance. He very quickly found his stride, winning both distance starts at the close of the year, and would finish 2002 as the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission’s champion 3-year-old colt/gelding.

In 2003, he finished second in the $23,198 Expo Square Stakes, fourth in the $28,400 Oklahoma Express Stakes (R), third in the $18,875 Sign of Lanty Stakes and fifth in his final career start, the $16,280 Remington Distance Championship (G3).

He would retire with eight wins or placings in 11 career starts and earnings of $33,599 with a career-high speed index of 99.

“Curtis and I adored John Ricky and intentionally retired him early from racing in order that he be afforded a full and good life,” said Koontz.

The rest of John Ricky’s life began as he was sent to Koontz’s cousin, Kathy Lowe, an equestrian teacher in Kansas. Lowe transitioned him to his new career in the hunter/jumper world, and in early 2009 he found his new home with Allee Votipka of Pleasant Hill, Missouri, who had just lost her previous horse. Votipka grew up around horses, and rode Arabians, competed in dressage and then took up jumping about 12 years ago.

She tried out John Ricky and was instantly attracted to him, citing his eagerness to learn and a connection between them.

“I tried him the first day, rode him and liked him,” she says. “I went back the following day to try him again before I bought him, and he went even better the second day. Every ride I put on him, he is better after I put him away then he was before. So I thought, that’s the name for you….‘Automatic Updates’.

“You know how they tell you to go online and get an update (for your computer or smartphone)?” she adds. “We always tease that he went and flopped down overnight and got an update.”

Votipka says that “Auto” was not an easy ride when she first got him. While he was already jumping a respectable 3’6” high course of fences, his form between the fences needed some tweaking.

“He could run and jump, and that’s what he liked to do,” she says. “So we pared it back, I’ve taken the past several years and reschooled him in the proper way of jumping so he’s much stronger. He’s come a long ways.”

They are now regularly going over 4 foot high courses, and Auto is loving every minute of it.

“He loves it,” Votipka says. “He gets mad on the days you don’t jump. He would jump every single day if I let him.”

Auto’s gentle personality also makes him a barn favorite, and it’s clear that he was loved as a racehorse, and is now loved as a riding horse.

“He’s a giant puppy dog,” Votipka says. “He’ll just stand in the cross ties and let you love on him. He loves attention, and has everyone at our barn trained to give him treats. He’s a big mooch. I can give his leadrope to a 7-year-old and he’ll drop his head and walk next to her. He’s a complete sweetheart.”

Votipka and Auto have kept their competition focus on local schooling shows the past few years, but next week is big for the pair: They will be stepping up and attending their very first A-rated recognized jumper show together, the American Royal in Kansas City, on October 14-18.

Auto will be using his fleet speed to carry his owner around the jumping course, and his breeders will be cheering their second career star on.

Do you know of a second-career racing American Quarter Horse that should be profiled in Second Career Stars? If so, write to

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