Inaugural Real Rider Cup Raises Funds, OTTB Awareness

By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
Racing and three-day eventing are separate sports requiring different skills and training methods, but the one thing that's needed to succeed in both is serious athleticism. One newly created event is trying to bring the eventing world and the racing world closer together, and celebrate the one breed with endless athletic talent: the Thoroughbred.

Earlier this year, the Plantation Field International Horse Trials in Unionville, Pa. announced a multi-year partnership with the Retired Racehorse Project, which was spurred on with help from eventing Olympic gold medalist Phillip Dutton. Along with making RRP the event's charity beneficiary, a new competition called The Real Rider Cup was launched with the goal of raising money and awareness for off-track Thoroughbreds succeeding in second careers.

"The Real Rider Cup was designed to showcase how Thoroughbreds are well suited for the sport of three-day eventing and (how they) can move on to have successful careers once they retire from the track," said Herringswell Stables' Katelyn Jackson. 

Competing Sept. 17 during the 10th annual Plantation Horse Trials, four teams—trainers, owners, veterinarians, and jockeys—faced off in a 2'6" showjumping course aboard off-track Thoroughbreds. The sponsorship of the 20 participants and the event raised more than $20,000 for the RRP and Plantation Field International. 

A few recognizable faces, both human and equine, were involved including Zoe Cadman, Rosie Napravnik, Joe Sharp, Michael McCarthy, Sean Clancy, Icabad Crane, and Twilight Eclipse, as well as representatives from Team Valor International, West Point Thoroughbreds, and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders' Association.

Participants in the inaugural real rider cup
Participants in the inaugural Real Rider Cup. Photo courtesy of The Real Rider Cup.

While The Real Rider Cup was mostly for fun, the teams were scored on their collective times with the trainer team (Sanna Neilson, Chucky Lawrence, Tim Keefe, Leigh Delacour, and Joe Sharp) taking home the top prize. Second place went to the owner team (Anne Moran, Erin Birkenhauer, Bri Mott, Lauren Baker Cannizzo, and Nuno Santos), third place went to the jockey team (Rosie Napravnik Sharp, Kaymarie Kreidel, Sean Clancy, Mike McCarthy, and Mark Beecher), and in fourth was the veterinarian team (Dean Richardson, Kath Anderson, Celia Goodall, Stowe Burke, and Erika Jo Beck).

A member of the winning team, trainer Joe Sharp tweeted, "The @TheRealRiderCup was a lot of fun. Great job to all who made it possible and showed up to enjoy!"

For the RRP, getting involved in the Plantation Horse Trials was another bridge to connect the racing community and off-track Thoroughbreds to the sport of eventing. 

"We want to use our network within the racing community to attract people to Plantation Field," Pittman said in an RRP release when the partnership was announced. "What we've seen is that racing people love eventing when they take the time to go watch the sport. They get to see horses galloping on cross country, which is something they can get excited about.

"We hope this will be a real coming together of the racing world with eventing so we can have a positive impact that will support the sport in the long run. The goal is to bring the mid-Atlantic racing community out to enjoy everything Plantation Field has to offer. Maybe we'll even get some racing people buying event horses."

The organizers considered the partnership and The Real Rider Cup a success and already have generated interest in next year's Cup. 

"The first event was a huge success and we were so thrilled to have 20 participants in the event," Jackson said. "We have already received a few entries for next year. It's so rewarding to see the racing community take interest in Thoroughbred aftercare and participate in such a worthwhile event."

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