During the month of July, New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program hosted two horse shows that featured Thoroughbreds competing off the track.
The first event was held July 9-10, during which nearly 40 Thoroughbreds gathered at the Kentucky Horse Park to compete in two Thoroughbred restricted hunter/jumper classes. It marked the second consecutive year New Vocations partnered with the Robert Murphy Horse Show to put on an event that attracted Thoroughbreds from surrounding states.
Sharp Dressed Guy won the $2,500 Thoroughbred Hunter Classic sponsored by Homewrecker Racing. Owned by Bridget McNeese, the 5-year-old gelding by Devil is Due was bred by McNeese’s boyfriend, Dr. John Cummins.
Sharp Dressed Guy in the Thoroughbred Hunter Classic
Sharp Dressed Guy trained at Keeneland as a 2 and 3-year-old, but never showed much speed, and McNeese took him on as a show horse at age 4.
“I’d kept my eye on him since he was a baby and even told John he would make a great hunter,” said McNeese. “As soon as the decision was made to retire him I got him as a show project. He has excelled ever since.
“He’s not a rangey Thoroughbred; he’s large boned, so as a show horse, he’s built more like a Warmblood,” she continued of Sharp Dressed Guy. “But he’s also got a fabulous disposition. Even at 2 in his stall at Keeneland, he was very laid back and willing. I referred to him as my Labrador Retriever. He wants to please and do whatever you want him to do, and he tries real hard.
“I really prefer Thoroughbreds as far as their brains and attitudes, because they try so hard.”
McNeese said Sharp Dressed Guy’s victory was extra special considering he hasn’t been training in his new vocation for very long.
“I started him as a show horse about a year ago, so we were just hoping he would present himself the way we know he can,” she said. “We were very pleased (with his win); it was very unexpected.”
Sweet William, who raced under the name Bait n Switch, won the $2,500 New Vocations Thoroughbred Mini Prix sponsored by Castleton Lyons for the second year in a row.
Bait n Switch (Sweet William) after winning the Mini Prix
Now 17, the gelding by Digression raced 16 times during his career, mostly at Mountaineer and Pimlico in the mid 1990s. Retiring with two wins from 16 starts, he went on to become a successful eventer.
Currently owned and trained by Elaine Schott of the Versailles, Ky.-based River Mountain Farm and shown by Natassia Hovey, Sweet William has additionally excelled as a jumper.
“He continues to amaze us by his huge heart,” said Schott. “He has always been the barn favorite. There’s not a day he has acted his age. He’s a tough guy who loves his job and will keep doing it as long as he physically can.”
Bait n Switch (Sweet William) in the Mini Prix
Schott, who lives in Kentucky, bought Sweet William from a friend around five years ago.
“He’s the kind of horse who sees a ring full of jumps and knows what’s about to happen, and he just lights up and gets excited," she said. "He’s very enthusiastic about doing his job.”
The New Vocations event drew many spectators. A brief history of each horse was read by the announcer as each horse entered the arena to be judged over a course of fences.
Their stories ranged from graded stakes winners with earnings of more than $100,000 to horses that only raced a couple times and earned next to nothing.
“Once again the event was a great success,” said New Vocations program director Anna Ford. “It was quite touching to see so many quality retired racehorses come together and compete. This breed needs more recognition in the show ring. They are extremely versatile, hardworking, and athletic; all things you look for in a show horse.”
Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog about another recent New Vocations event for Thoroughbreds, the Charity Horse Show, which took place July 30-31 in Delaware, Ohio.
The event attracted more than 150 horses with a large percentage being retired racehorses. The open hunter and dressage show featured Thoroughbred specific classes and divisions. The Charity Horse Show raises funds for New Vocations’ mission to rehab, retrain, and rehome retired racehorses. For more information, visit www.horseadoption.com.