The Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park and National Symposium

September 30, 2019

The elegance and versatility of the Thoroughbred horse will be on full display this week at Kentucky Horse Park as Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) presents The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium. The Makeover event is the largest and most lucrative retraining competition for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in the world and is intended to inspire trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers. The National Symposium serves to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners.

New to the event will be the inaugural Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit on Tuesday, October 1, presented by the Thoroughbred Charities of America, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP) and Retired Racehorse Project (RRP). These agencies will join together to present a conference focused on education and networking among those with a professional interest in the retraining and re homing of Thoroughbreds after racing.

The Summit will focus on topics such as finance, business management, board governance and grant and sponsorship-seeking best-practices. There will also be a round-table session for individuals and organizations to discuss and idea-share on challenges affecting them.

Education takes center stage on Friday, October 4 for the Makeover Master Class, sponsored by Thoroughbred Education & Research Foundation (TERF) and will feature three experienced horse trainers demonstrating their methods of restarting prospects off the track. The TERF Makeover Master Class is free to attend and runs from 9 AM until noon in the TCA Covered Arena.

A competitor in Eventing gallops past the iconic Rolex Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover.

A new wave of equestrian enthusiasts is trying Thoroughbreds for the first time or returning to the breed after decades away — but getting started with a new off-track project can be overwhelming. The Makeover Master Class was conceived to give spectators a comprehensive look at what to consider when evaluating prospects and how to approach those early rides off the track. The Makeover competition begins on Wednesday, October 2, with 474 horses registered. Ten different disciplines are offered at the Makeover, and horses can compete in up to two disciplines: Show Hunter, Dressage, Show Jumper, Eventing, Competitive Trail, Freestyle, Barrel Racing, Ranch Work, Field Hunter and Polo.

To recognize trainers who produced their horse for the Makeover in peak condition, a Best Conditioned Award will be given in each of the Makeover’s ten disciplines. The award consists of a trophy halter by Clever With Leather and was generously sponsored by Nina Bonnie.

The minimum age for a Makeover contestant is three, but once again, the four- and five-year-olds are the most popular age group. Don’t write off those older horses though — there are 34 horses who were foaled in 2009 or earlier, which makes them eligible for the “Iron Horse Award.” The two oldest horses are coming into their second careers at the age of 14: Worthy of Wings and St. Patrick’s Rib were foaled in 2005!

To be eligible to compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover, they have to have raced or had a published workout after July 1, 2017, and for about six percent of our Makeover entrants, that’s as far as they ever went in their racing career. Of those who did race, entrants break down into three groups: 34 percent had 10 starts or fewer, seeming to indicate that while they showed enough promise to start, they proved to be not suited for the job. Another 36 percent were successful enough to keep running for awhile, notching between 11 and 30 starts. Twenty-four percent raced more than 30 starts, with 11 percent achieving “war horse” status with 50 or more starts.

We usually tend to think of the OTTB as a horse who wasn’t particularly successful on the track, and we suppose that you could say that’s true with 68 percent earning less than $50,000 in their careers. But 17 percent of this year’s entrants were quite accomplished, earning more than $100,000.

On average, Makeover entrants, at the Kentucky Horse Park as of August 1, have been off the track for 12 months. About two-thirds of trainers purchased their horses, while the other third obtained their horses for free. The average purchase price across all entries was $1,960, which is up from $1,200 in 2018. Entrants, on average, raced 21 starts with two wins, and average career earnings of $59,570. In total, entrants started 10,133 times, with 1,158 wins and over $28 million in total earnings.

About 55 percent of horses were acquired straight from the track, with about a fifth of those coming through an off-track listing organization or individual. Out of the horses obtained after they had left the track, about 40 percent came through a reseller. Other sources include independent non-profit organizations, such as New Vocations, or track-based after organizations such as New Start or Turning For Home. Ten horses were reported as “self rescues” from feedlots or auctions.

As expected from past years’ trends, well over half of the horses at the Makeover will be bay. Keep an eye out for Painted Patchen, a rare white horse — he’s registered white with the Jockey Club. The breakdown for color is: 38 percent Bay, 25 percent Dark Bay, 22 percent Chestnut, 12 percent Grey, 2 percent Liver Chestnut and 1 percent Black. The majority of entered horses fall into the 16.0-16.3 hand range with a few notable outliers: our shortest entry Hebeafortunateson is 14.1 hands, while Cocos Eddy will tower over us all at 18.1 hands!

Geldings make up the majority of the entries at 70%. Four horses were listed as stallions at registration making up 1% with the remaining 29% consisting of mares. Kentucky was the birthplace of a solid third of the 2019 field, as expected. A total of 28 states and four provinces are represented, as well as Ireland and France.

Looking at which of the breed’s stallions are represented, many of those seen are racing’s top sires but some lesser-known names often crop up, which can indicate both regional popularity as well as recognition of ability to sire sport horses. Eighty-eight sires are represented by two or more entrants. 19 of the top 20 leading US sires of 2018 are represented among entrants in addition to sires such as Freisan Fire, Oxbow, Artie Schiller, Temple City, Arch, Union Rags, War Cry and Bernardini. Six dams are also represented by more than one entry: Bald N Blue (Nathan O’Blue and Strive To Be Happy), CoCo Vive (CoCo Mon and Cocos Eddy), Cozinneta (American Colossus and Big Blue Arrow), Lavender Twist (Andouille and Extreme Justice), Mommie’s the Boss (Mammie’s Treasure and Put the Boss Back), and Shanghai Rose (Kovarro and Shanghaied).

New for 2019, every trainer submitted a letter of reference from their veterinarian with their application to compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover that stated that the veterinarian had confidence that the trainer could successfully transition a horse to a second career with regard to overall health, wellness and care.

In keeping with the organization’s goal to better serve the Thoroughbred and continue to educate the owners, trainers and farms who seek to help transition these horses to second careers, the Retired Racehorse Project’s new arrival exam at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium emphasizes soundness, body condition, and micro chipping.

Every horse that competes at the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park will undergo an arrival exam performed by veterinarians from Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. Arrival exams will include an assessment of body condition score and vital signs, examination for lameness at the walk, and a scan for a microchip.

For more information about the 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, or for tickets, please visit Thoroughbred Makeover

To see watch the live stream of Saturday’s Makeover finals

By: MB Kalinich

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