Thoroughbreds Shine at New Vocations Horse Show

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


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I love these stories...thank you! More likely to bump into one of these retirees at the local show ring or the public barn where my Aunt keeps her horse anyway. My 3 favorite "ex-racers" were Strike, a gelding with a horrible looking ankle that went sound on the flat and is still loved by his teenage owner. Shana - by Alleged, who was retired at 3 due to a fractured knee who healed up beautifully and somehow made her way to Brecksville Ohio to be the star pet of the barn adored by her "mom" and "grandparents". And finally Star, a small ex-racer filly with a bad knee (that was fine when her silly owner wouldn't jump her) who was the BEST trail horse I've ever had the privilege of riding.

08 Aug 2011 3:34 PM

I wonder if Sweet William was named after the book.  

Sweet William is most impressive and I hope he continues to have a great life.

08 Aug 2011 4:38 PM

Would these horse make good to great for competitive endurance horses?

08 Aug 2011 4:48 PM
Linda in Texas

Esther, thank you. I hope the trainer from Mountaineer who sent Deputy Broad to slaughter reads this.

Offers to buy him went on deaf ears. The trainer was bound and determined to give Deputy Broad  no chance and unfortunately he succeeded and this has opened a huge following FOR second careers for thoroughbred race horses.

Again thank you for bringing this to the attention of so many. And i am so proud and thankful for the people who step up to help them.

It is a double reward, one for the rescued horse and one for his caretaker.

08 Aug 2011 5:03 PM

I wish I had known about the show in Delaware, Ohio. I would have attended. Glad to see that Seattle Slew grandsons can also excel in the show arena. Thanks for the article.

08 Aug 2011 6:55 PM

Why not have a NATION WIDE program to fund OTTBs in ALL equine sports? Hmmm?

09 Aug 2011 12:27 AM
Dawn in MN


Thank you for this story.  These are the stories I look for on Bloodhorse.  I am a great fan of the Thoroughbred, and it is the horses that draw me to Thoroughbred racing.  Following Thorughbred racing is always a moral dilemma for me, because I worry for the futures of the horses that aren't fast, or need to be retired.  I commend everyone who works in finding homes and jobs for retired race horses.  

One question, is Sweet William the bay or the chestnut?  The second and third photos are two different horses, both identified as Sweet William.  I always wonder if any retired Throughbreds compete in western games, or shows?  I think the Throughbred would do well in any discipline, like Anna said "They are extremely versatile, hardworking, and athletic; all things you look for in a show horse.”

I think teeburt has a good question.  My hunch would be that a very sound Thoroughbred would be a good endurance prospect because they are so smart, and so athletic.  The breeding and training produce horses that want a job and have the heart to do well.

09 Aug 2011 6:21 AM
Criminal Type

Teeburt, As talented as Thoroughbreds are, I think most endurance horses are primarily of Arabian influence. Most of the ones I have come across are Arab/QH, Arab/Morgan, Arab/TB, Or even QH/Morgan and QH/TB. Arabians are THE endurance horse. If you look at Tevis Cup (100 miles in 24 hours) results, your going to see lots of Arabian blood. I have a 3 year old 3/4 Arab, 1/4 Morgan colt I am training for endurance. I think he will do very well, he's very smart, willing anf best of all has rock hard feet.  

The biggest problems with a TB is that a lot of the endurance has been bred out in favor of speed, and a lot of them have tender feet not condusive to 50 and 100 mile races across country.

Case in point: Sheik Mohammad who's love of the thoroughbred and horse racing is well known. He owns Darley/Godolphin. Stands some of the most sought after stallions in the world in 5 countries. Spends ridiculous money on Thoroughbreds at auction because he can. (no disrespect intended at all) He is a competitive endurance racer and his endurance horses are Arabians. I think he finished 2nd or 3rd in the WEG at Kentucky Horse Park last year.

Im not saying that a Thoroughbred can't be an endurance horse, It depends on the horse, but chances are if your serious about endurance your going to want a more rugged type of horse.

09 Aug 2011 8:19 AM
Pedigree Ann

My son's favorite school horse when he was taking lessons (at Robert Murphy Stables!) was an OTTB.  We shouldn't think only in terms of competitive arenas for second careers of these very versatile animals.

09 Aug 2011 10:20 AM
A Horsey Canuck

Esther, thank you for another great piece. I've shared it with a number of friends who have been thinking of taking on ex-racehorses as hunter/ jumpers. Thanks again.

09 Aug 2011 10:37 AM

I have an OTTB in my back yard  (well, the barn  there ;o) who is 17 years old, ran five times (in the money three times) and his first win was with Chris McCarron on board, Del Mar August 1997. I bought him in July 1998.

He is the BEST horse--I love his heart, his try, his trust, and his fantastic work ethic. I didn't realize I was getting an OTTB because he too looks like a warmblood--but I can tell you I am sold on TBs and would not consider any other breed.

New Vocations has an email signup and I receive regular updates about new and returning retirees with pictures, videos and histories. I live in California and logistically a NV graduate wouldn't  be a very economical purchase for me--if they even adopt to people this far west--but I know someone in Ohio, I believe, who got a NV horse and I follow her blog.

After The Finish Line, LOPE of Texas, Second Change for Horses, and Tranquility Farm are fantastic because horses that aren't competitive on the track get retrained and rehomed to become ambassadors for those horses that otherwise might fall through the cracks (idiots like Deputy  Broad's trainer notwithstanding--but there is a special place in Hell for people like him).

Thank you, Esther, for writing about this.

09 Aug 2011 2:01 PM

Criminal Type: I'm sure your particular Arabian is good at endurance riding, but most Thoroughbreds would excell at it, if given the opportunity. When it poured rain and the track was a sea of mud, we (as racing officials) had to shorten the stakes races for Arabians as they just couldn't 'stay' in the mud. The Thoroughbreds could and did. Some Arabians in races that day flat fell over and layed there. Sad, for those who were supposed to be known for endurance. It sure showed me the difference that particular day.

09 Aug 2011 3:42 PM

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