Classico' a classic case of good luck, unwanted colt now turning heads!
Written by Seth Soffian, Staff Writer,
Ocala Star Banner June 26, 1999
The man on the phone was offering Donna Rondeau the horse
she had always wanted, the horse she nearly purchased three years earlier
at an auction in Miami.
But this wasn't a good deal.
The price was reasonable, in fact, it was practically the same figure the
man paid to outbid Rondeau by a few dollars those three years
earlier. Yet this just wasn't the right deal.
The horse, a 9 year old, Paso Fino mare, named Bandolera, was virtually
the same horse too, yet something was wrong with the offer.
Bandolera came with baggage. She was, as they say, with child, a
male child. That was the wrong kind of horse, as far as Rondeau was
"Colts are difficult to handle," said Rondeau. "You
need different facilities, and I'm just a small breeder."
The deal actually called for Rondeau to take a third horse, another colt
who had recently been born to Bandolera.
"The only thing worse than one colt is two," said Rondeau, who
with her husband Chuck, didn't have room or the resources for colts on
their modest farm in Morriston, Florida.
When Rondeau balked at the deal, the man on the phone insisted, "It's
all or nothing," and Rondeau relented.
It was the best deal she ever made.
The already-born colt, Expresso, proved to be as difficult as Rondeau had
He was aggressive, rambunctious and "proved to be very good at
Within a year he was gone, traded for a mare.
But there was something different about the second colt, the foal
Bandolera was carrying when Rondeau made the purchase in June of '95. The colt named Reflejo el Classico in homage of his renowned
sire El Classic de Plebeyo, turned out to be calm, quiet and
docile-everything a Paso Fino colt isn't supposed to be if he's going to
be a champion.
"Reflejo was something different," Rondeau said of her
colt, whose name means "Reflection of the Classic" in Spanish.
"Reflejo was always quiet, kind and gently," she said, "He
was never aggressive. I would take him from pasture and he would stand
quietly and let me put a halter on him."
Originally believed to be anything but a champion, Reflejo has blossomed
into one of the best young Fino colts in the country. On Memorial
Day weekend, the 4-year old won the Classic Fino championship at the
nationally respected Spectrum competition in Tampa. Now the horse
once unable to command $8,000 as a yearling is worth at least $100,000.
All for a horse who supposedly lacked the presence and spirit upon which
Paso Fino greatness is judged.
One trainer quoted to me, "Someone needs to teach this horse to be a
horse and not a dog," said Rondeau, facing closed doors at every turn
until convincing internationally respected trainer Cese (pronounced
SE-say) Figueroa to take on Reflejo in late 1997.
Within weeks, the young colt was making great progress, all caught on tape
at Figueroa's training center in Landrum, SC.
"When I saw that first tape of him, it was absolutely
unbelievably," Rondeau said "I was really amazed and
Suddenly national-level Paso Fino shows were on the horizon for the Rondeau,
who to that point had won some local competitions with mares but had
floundered at the national level. Donna, a seventh-grade science
teacher at Dunnellon Middle School, and Chuck, an account representative
at Mark III, soon were watching their young colt compete with the best.
At last year's Paso Fino Grand Nationals, Reflejo finished fifth.
And that was only his fourth show.
"A lot of the horses that competed with Reflejo last year at
nationals, are gone." Rondeau said, They're asked to do too
much too soon."
Reflejo continues to move forward though, as he's competing in another
national-caliber event this weekend in Asheville, NC and perhaps another
before tackling the 1999 Paso Fino Grand Nationals in Perry, GA.
"Cese has trained horses for 40 years and he says Reflejo is the nicest
horse in his barn," Rondeau said. "He doesn't have a mean
bone in his body. He's always calm, but when you pull up the reins
and ask him, he's a dynamo, an absolute dynamo. It's amazing.
You get goose-bumps.
None of which Rondeau expected four years ago when she was forced to take
a horse she once called "Bandoleer's Baggage."
"It's absolutely incredible," she said. "I look at
him and I know what I'm seeing, but to have someone else tell me they're
seeing the same things is a tremendous feeling. When you watch your
child at a dance recital, you know they're the best, but I always wonder
if everyone else is seeing what I see. To have it validated...is
"I'm still in awe when I see him in the ring and I think he was a
little colt I tried to get rid of, I raised him and look at him now.
I cannot describe that emotion to tell you how it makes me feel."
Since the writing of this article Donna Rondeau has
begun her eternal ride, however Reflejo El Classico is continuing to
electrify people wherever he goes. At the 1999 Nationals Reflejo was
National Champion 4 year old Amateur Owner Fino colt and Grand National
Champion Reserve 4 year old Fino Colt and Reserve 4 year old Fino
Colt. Cese Figueroa (his trainer) and Charles Rondeau (his owner)
were awarded Fino Pro AM Championship and Reflejo was awarded the
prestigious Title of Proficiency. In 2000, Reflejo was awarded Hi
Point Fino Amateur Owner Stallion and was the National Reserve Fino
Amateur Owner Stallion.
At the very young age of six, Reflejo El Classico was
awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit and bestowed the honor of
presenting the American flag in the Tribute to America at the 2001
Donna's dreams became reality when her mare, Bandolera,
was 2001 National Champion Produce
of Dam, represented by Independencia Prestante and Reflejo El Classico.