by Jen Roytz
This week retired racehorses from all over the U.S. and Canada converged on Lexington, Kentucky to compete in the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by TCA. The action kicked off Thursday for the nearly 400 horses entered in the world’s biggest retired racehorse training competition.
All horses have received eight months or less of training since their last race and can compete in up to two of the 10 disciplines offered (barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunter, freestyle, polo, ranch work, show hunter, show jumping).
One of many riders who traveled hundreds of miles to compete at this year’s Makeover is jockey Chya Johnstone, who took off of her mounts this week at Remington Park to haul her two horses from Oklahoma to the Kentucky Horse Park.
Johnstone will be competing on Stormtoremember (Actor) in the dressage and show jumping divisions and on Crawley (The Visualizer) in the dressage and eventing divisions.
"I rode him in the mornings and told his trainer, I would love to have him when he's done," said Johnstone, who retrains and rehomes retired racehorses in her spare time, including several that are competing with other riders at the Makeover this week.
"He survived the Moore, Oklahoma tornado [in 2013] that killed over 200 people and lots of horses and other animals. His trainer and owner have followed him closely and are excited to see him compete here."
The Thoroughbred Makeover is helping to introduce Thoroughbreds to new equestrian audiences as well.
Danielle Ford and her husband operate Hill Ford Farm, where they breed and import warmbloods and compete throughout the country on the A and AA show circuit.
"We really only deal with Warmbloods, and that=s what our clients have as well, but finding and retraining Wakeboarder has converted me,” said Ford of the son of Bold Executive, whose 60-race career included seven wins. The pair only recently competed in their first horse show to prepare for the Makeover, earning reserve champion honors in the Baby Green division in Tryon, NC.
"I found him by chance, just mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. [Jockey] Megan Fadlovich had posted a video of her trotting him," she continued. “He moved like a nice show hunter, with that swing in his shoulder and suspension. He was entered in a claiming race that week [at Mahoning Valley] and I told the trainer Don't run him--I want him for the Makeover!= I wasn't letting him get away."
Preliminary competition concluded on Thursday for the field hunter, polo and working ranch divisions. Competition for the other seven divisions will continue through the day Friday. Live scoring can be found at the RRP's website here. http://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/live-scoring
The top five finishers in each division will come back for the Thoroughbred Makeover Finale Saturday, where final placings and prize money will be awarded, as will the title of America's Most Wanted Thoroughbred for the competition's overall winner. The Thoroughbred Makeover Finale begins at 9:00 a.m.