LARC NEWS Posted: 4/14/2024 5:28:41 PM

Second Career Star: Chocolatito

A Grade 1 runner continues to enjoy a life of luxury and prepares for a new career.

By Andrea Caudill

    It has been a couple years since racing fans have seen Chocolatito, but the memories of his accomplishments have not faded.

    The 2016 Favorite Cartel gelding won 10 of 26 starts and earned $319,703 on the racetrack between 2018 and 2022.

    Maybe you remember him best after cashing a ticket on him during his first stakes win in the 2019 Dillingham Handicap over Dexxter ($524,712). Or maybe you remember his valiant effort in the PCQHRA Breeders Derby (RG3) when he encountered a super difficult trip to finish second by a nose. Or maybe his first graded stakes victory in the Kaweah Bar Handicap (G3). Or the streak of success that led to the spotlight – a victory in the 2020 Vessels Maturity (G1) and Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship (G1), as well as lighting the board in the Go Man Go Handicap (G1), Champion of Champions (G1) and Spencer L. Childers California Breeders Championship (RG1). He also won the 2021 First Down Dash Handicap (G3) before his connections decided to provide him an opportunity off the track.

     Chocolatito was bred by champion breeder Dr. Steve Burns, and Favorite Cartel is one of the leading sires alive today. The Grade 1 gelding’s dam, Enjoy The Walk, is a daughter of Walk Thru Fire and is herself an earner of $107,836 on the track. Chocolatito was raced by American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame member Ed Allred, and was trained in his racing career by Scott Willoughby.  

     Finding the right place for a racehorse transitioning to a new career is very important for good horsemen, and Willoughby found the perfect place for “Tito” in the form of his niece, Samantha Willoughby (left photo by Crown J Photography), who is a barrel racer based in Stephenville, Texas.  

     “A horse of his caliber, you never really know if they’ll be able to (transition to a new career),” she said. “But he has done great. He has always been a perfect gentleman, never pushed through your hands, really trainable, and really willing to learn. He’s great around the barrels.”

     Samantha has had success running to the 1D and pro rodeo level, including with Runnin Fast, a Walk Thru Fire gelding who is a half sibling to the likes of Bac In Front ($226,956) and Checknbac ($216,410), who indeed was fast on the barrel pattern.

     Tito has settled into his new life and has personality to spare.

     “He is always the one to come up to you, he runs up to you in the pasture,” Samantha said. “He always wants to pitch in (when we’re doing chores). He’s a pain, but he’s very loveable at the same time.”

       Most good racehorses are smart horses, and Tito is no exception – she said it never takes him more than two tries to understand a concept, and once he has it, he maintains it.

       Tito is preparing to make his barrel racing debut this spring and has the potential to join her string of runners as she pursues pro rodeo goals.

       “I’ve always loved ex-racehorses to make barrel horses, especially when you know they have the speed to do the job. I’ve just found it easy, they’re trainable, they already have a foundation, and you just have to mold them in a different way than a horse you get that isn’t broke.”


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 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

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