Breeding a champion | SteamboatToday.com

Breeding a champion

Christine Metz

— Kevin and Leellen Koroulis’ horse, The Pen Pal, might just write himself into Colorado race track history.

For 13 straight races, the 5-year-old Ronas Ryan gelding horse has remained undefeated at Aurora’s Arapahoe Park race track.

Since 1999, Pen Pal has won a total of seven stake races and in 2001 he won all the quarter horse handicapped races at the track.

That, Leellen Koroulis said, just might be a Colorado record.

“It’s an absolute blessing,” she said of the horse which has won 13 of his 17 races at Arapahoe Park.

In his 13th win, Pen Pal won the $16,400 Rocky Mountain Championship for the second consecutive year.

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This season alone, he won the Dash For Speed Handicap and the Mile High Handicap at Arapahoe.

For a horse that the Koroulises bought from a friend in Texas for $3,500, the $107,233 that Pen Pal has brought in from winner’s share has made him a very good investment.

“It’s phenomenal for what we paid for him the way he wins,” Leellen Koroulis said.

But the Koroulises are not the only ones who have made money from Pen Pal’s winning streak. One of their neighbors who has betted on the horse has made a couple grand.

But the Koroulises too nervous to bet make all their money from the winner’s share.

Kevin Koroulis trains the horse, which involves a few hours every day of washing, feeding, wrapping legs and putting Pen Pal on a walker.

He also has the help of the Koroulis’ 9-year-old daughter, Kathrine, who helps feed and water the horse.

“We get extremely attached to the horses,” Leellen Koroulis said.

“It’s not a barn of 35 horses, but one or two. They are our heroes, our champions.”

Pen Pal is the second race horse the Koroulises have raised and trained. They also have two riding horses on their five acres outside of Steamboat.

The Koroulises started horse racing in 1995 with Sensational Zevi, who won five races that year alone in the full saddle race.

Later, the Koroulises lost the horse when she was claimed. But, they are training her two-year-old daughter and hope to have her racing by next year.

The Koroulises also have plans for putting Pen Pal in more races. Over the winter months, Leellen Koroulis said Pen Pal will be racing in some California races. Ultimately, the Koroulises would like to see Pen Pal compete in some grade-three stake races and eventually compete in a division of the Champion of Champions for race horses.

The success of Pen Pal, Leellen Koroulis said, shows how accessible horse racing is to an agricultural community like Steamboat Springs.

“It shows that anybody can do it,” she said. “It’s really not that hard.”