By Dick Jerardi
To understand the kind of care so many retired Thoroughbreds are getting in the United States, one almost has to make a stop at the annual Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in the Kentucky Horse Park. Held in Lexington during the first week of October, the Makeover is a showcase for the retraining of recently retired racehorses.
The horses must have less than 10 months of retraining and can compete in up to two of ten different disciplines, including barrels, dressage and show jumping.
“The mission is to put these retiring horses in the hands of good trainers who can transition them carefully into second careers and transform them into solid citizens so they are safe for the rest of their lives,” said Danielle Montgomery, Program Administrator for Parx Racing’s Turning for Home Program.
By mid-August, there were 474 horses entered in the 2019 Makeover. They had combined for more than 10,133 starts, 1,158 wins and $28 million in earnings. There were 26 states, four Canadian provinces and two European countries (Ireland and France) represented.
TFH originally had 24 horses entered. Fourteen went to Kentucky. Two were late scratches so 12 competed.
“It’s a training test,” Montgomery said. “It’s not that these horses are going to win an open, real competition. This is not that. This is a marketplace where we try to get the best trainers we can get and bring these horses along and present them as a makeover in 10 months of training. They shouldn’t be the finished horses. They should be able to show that they are calm and relaxed and ready to go on to their second careers.”
Edger Jones, a seven-year-old son of Smarty Jones and a TFH graduate, finished 10th in dressage and 13th in freestyle.
The gelding raced 44 times over four years with four wins and $128,656 in earnings. All but six of those races came at Parx. When he was no longer competitive on the track, he was signed over to TFH which then placed him with one of its Partner Farms (KL Sporthorses) on the way to retraining for that second career. Just 13 months after his last race, Edger Jones was competing in the Makeover.
“Anytime we can take a Turning for Home horse that is right off the racetrack and put the horse with a good trainer that understands Thoroughbreds and understands the process of what they go through when they’re decompressing (is helpful),” Montgomery said. “They’re young horses. They go from being broken to the sales sometimes right to racing.”
Henny Strike, from the William Hedus barn, raced 10 times from November 2017 until August 2018. He won just once, but when it became obvious he could not compete at Parx, he became a TFH horse and just over a year later a horse good enough to finish seventh in eventing and 22nd in show jumping, earning him the Turning for Home High Point Award. He is currently available for adoption through Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Carolina.
Aces for John’s entire 50-race career was in South Florida. When he was brought to Parx in 2018 by trainer Eli Betancourt, it was discovered he had a knee issue that would not allow him to race again. He became yet another TFH horse that competed in the Makeover, this time in foxhunting and freestyle.
Shoppingforsilver finished 18th in barrels but found the perfect home on her return to New Jersey. I’m Truly Blessed was 26th in competitive trail. Pulpituity finished 17th in show jumpers which was definitely the right division. The horse reared so high in the paddock before his first (and last race) on Sept. 1, 2018 that the jockey slid right off.
“What’s great about the Makeover (is) it shows that every horse that retires can do something,” Montgomery said.