By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
Georgia Keogh was pleasantly surprised in 2015 when her father James Keogh, who owns Grovendale, casually mentioned he had a horse arriving for her one day. When the gray gelding got off the trailer, Keogh was immediately enamored with the son of Giacomo, who caught her father's eye two years earlier at Parx Racing.
"It was kind of by chance," Keogh said of how she ended up owning the horse, named Crushing. "My dad was at Parx to claim another horse and he happened to see Crushing being worked that morning. He asked around (about the connections), and mentioned (to the owner), 'When you're done with him, we'll take him.'
"He said that on the track (Crushing) had a real good going about him—a long extension, using his body," she added. "It's funny because I have to explain it through hearing him say it, because I didn't know anything about this horse until the day he arrived on the farm."
Crushing, who Keogh describes as a "total ham," in his paddock at Grovendale Farm near Lexington. Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Owned by Joseph Riccelli while on the track, Crushing made his last start at Belmont Park in May of 2015. The Chad Brown trainee was eased in a one-mile claiming event and was then retired from racing. Bred by Bill Justice and Dr. Naoya Yoshida out of the stakes placed Quiet American mare American Czarina, Crushing finished his on-track career with a 4-4-4 record from 25 starts, with earnings of $222,593.
Now, two years after their first meeting, Keogh and Crushing have won back-to-back "War Horse" divisions at New Vocations Charity Horse Show in Delaware, Ohio. They're preparing for their next competition, the New Vocations Charity Thoroughbred Show presented by The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program, Sept. 8-9 at the Kentucky Horse Park. For these shows, a "War Horse" is defined as a horse who made at least 50 starts or made more than $100,000 in career on-track earnings.
"I'm really excited because I always have fun showing him in the War Horse classes," Keogh said. "You have Thoroughbreds of all kinds (at the show), but War Horse is for horses who have raced a certain amount or earned a certain amount, so it's not just a Thoroughbred people got their hands on early. It should be a really big show, so it'll be interesting."
Immediately following the New Vocations show is the inaugural The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program Championship Horse Show Sept. 10. The TIP Championship will award championships in 12 divisions in hunters, jumpers, and english pleasure, with each division offering at least $1,000 in prize money. The championship awards have already drawn considerable attention in the OTTB hunter/jumper community.
While Keogh is looking forward to the upcoming competition, she doesn't have any immediate goals for Crushing's show career at this time since she's been busy starting a new job. But the lifelong equestrian said the now 9-year-old gelding has been eager to please since day one and has even been out on a fox hunting hound exercise with her father.
"He's been super keen from the beginning," she said. "He's been very keen to do everything and that's how he's been since."
Crushing and Keogh in the show ring.
From the moment she first sat on him, Keogh knew Crushing showed a natural ability as a show hunter. Crushing was given eight months off after arriving to Kentucky soon after his last race and was already jumping within a few weeks of beginning his retraining process at Robert Murphy Stables in Lexington, where Keogh grew up riding.
"I'm not quite sure where it came from, but from the minute I sat on him, I knew," she said. "I've tried to make Thoroughbreds (into) hunters before and sometimes it doesn't quite work out, but I knew it was going to work out for him. He was really well into himself and using his body. I really didn't have any doubts about it, surprisingly."
As for owning a Thoroughbred with natural hunter abilities in an era where many top hunter riders are choosing warmbloods as their mounts of choice, Keogh believes off-track Thoroughbreds can excel in many arenas.
"There have been plenty of successful Thoroughbreds documented throughout the years (in the hunter ring)," she said. "There are plenty I've seen doing the A circuit. There's nothing they can't do."