by Jen Roytz
LEXINGTON, Ky–Day two of preliminary competition concluded on Friday at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in Lexington, KY. The top five finishers in each division will be invited back to compete in the finale on Saturday, where divisional winners will be named and the overall champion will be crowned.
Included in the 50 horses that will return for the finale are Mister Marti Gras (Belong to Me), a graded stakes-winning millionaire who this week added a winning performance in the Field Hunter preliminary competition to his long list of credits with rider Mandy Alexander in the irons. Bred and raced by Lothenbach Stables, Mister Marti Gras won 11 of 58 starts. After earning $1,194,027 on the track, he retired in the fall of 2016 and began his retraining earlier this year with Alexander.
Also making it to Saturday’s finale is Lindsey Partridge, who won the 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover with Soar (Trajectory). Since winning the Makeover, Partridge has gained an impressive following, traveling throughout the U. S. and around the world to give demonstrations and seminars on horse training. Partridge was also the on-set trainer for the motion picture Unbridled (2017) and the upcoming movie The Farmer and the Belle (2018).
“It’s becoming an event the equestrian world watches,” said Partridge, who trains out of her Partridge Horse Hill base in Pontypool, Ontario. “This year I’m seeing more people from farther away, including more competitors from Canada. There are so many good amateurs and juniors competing alongside world-class pros like Ian Roberts (Olympian), Elisa Wallace (Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event competitor, short listed for the Olympics) and Nick Larkin (Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event winner).”
Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance ambassador third year Thoroughbred Makeover competitor Jordan Pruiksma is back in the finals as well, this time riding Bandit City (Congaree).
“I’m so proud and impressed by how much the event has grown. Every year the caliber of horses and riders gets better, and the competition gets tougher,” said Pruiksma. “This year there are a lot of racing connections here supporting their horses. I think it’s really helping people to see that if they stop earlier on their horses, they hold value and can go on to be successful in other arenas.”
Trainer Michael Blake was one of many who came out to see his former charges. In from his base at Fort Erie to look at a horse running at Keeneland on Friday, Blake decided to add the Kentucky Horse Park to his itinerary and cheer on Sambrook and The Bowie Van, who he trained and re-homed upon their retirement.
“Events like this have really helped to raise awareness for retired racehorses and all they can do after they’re done running, and the more we know about what options are out there for them, the better we can be about knowing what each one will be best suited for,” said Blake. “I’d say the majority of trainers work hard to do right by their horses when it’s time for them to retire, and events like this have definitely make it easier to find them homes.”
The Retired Racehorse Project began in 2010 with the mission of increasing demand, and ultimately value, for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in equestrian sports. Many of the horses that compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover each year, including 120 of the 385 entered this year, are offered for sale in the event’s sale showcase on Sunday.
Based on the demographics and motivations of many of the spectators in attendance, the organization is accomplishing its mission.
“This is a great place to shop for young horses with upper level potential,” said internationally competitive four-star eventing competitor William Hoos. “Usually you have to travel to California to see one horse, Canada to see another. Here, you have so many quality horses in one spot. This is a great horse shopping opportunity. It makes things so much simpler and easier.”
Added Hoos’s son, Josh, who is also a professional trainer and was shopping for prospects: “I’ve been very impressed with the quality of horses here. There are so many good horses in one spot, and the atmosphere is great. I hope to compete in it next year.”
The Thoroughbred Makeover competition concludes Saturday with the Finale beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Kentucky Horse Park. After divisional winners are announced, all will return for the crowning of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred. Live streaming of the event will be available here and live scoring can be viewed here.