The Retired Racehorse Project exists to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers, and organizations that transition these horses. RRP annually conducts Thoroughbred Makeover, the largest thoroughbred retraining competition in the world for recently-retired ex-racehorses. The event is open to Jockey Club-registered thoroughbreds who have a workout or race after July 1, 2021. This year a broodmare division has been added. To qualify a mare must have had a foal last year and at least one published workout during their life.
This year the event will be held October 11-14 at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Koch Thoroughbred Transformations of Greenfield, Minn. will have four participants in the Makeover. Koch Thoroughbreds is a newly founded non-profit family organization dedicated to retraining and re-homing of retired racehorses. Kristina Walker is the executive director. Walker says they participated last year for the first time but have a more prepared group of horses for October.
“Our mission is to take thoroughbreds that are unable to race and rehabilitate, retrain and find a loving home for them to live a happy and full life,” Walker said. “Our main focus at Koch
Thoroughbred Transformations is to teach these tremendous animals to trust their owners or even to have a second career in the hunter jumper discipline.”
Thoroughbred Makeover consists of ten competitive disciplines and a single horse may be entered in no more than two: Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Dressage, Eventing, Field Hunter, Polo, Ranch Work, Show Hunter, Show Jumper, and Freestyle.
“This is good exposure for our thoroughbreds and this event is one of the largest events for adoption of off-the-track horses,” Walker said “We are an aftercare program with a mission of finding homes for these horses so participation is a must.”
Dear Fay is a Minnesota-bred mare and two-time winner of the Princess Elaine Stakes at Canterbury Park. Dear Fay will be participating in the Broodmare Division. During her racing career, Dear Fay was trained by Canterbury Park Hall of Fame trainer Mac Robertson and was owned and bred by Bo Vujovich. The disciplines chosen for Dear Fay are Hunter Jumper and Freestyle.
Sleepless Nights was retired from racing last summer due to a bowed tendon. She spent the winter in rehab and started back to work this spring. Sleepless Nights is a 4-year-old donated by trainer Wade Rarick and bred by Lisa Duoos Smrekar. Sleepless Nights will be competing in the Show Hunter division, competing at a 2’6 height. She will also be competing in the Freestyle division. She is shown and trained by Maddy, Walker’s daughter.
The Freestyle category of competition allows trainers to present horses in disciplines other than the nine offered, or to perform in any manner that demonstrates the
trainability and talent of the horse. Trainers will perform a five-minute routine of their own creation which includes minimum compulsory movements such as backing, lead changes and loping, and additional skills as desired. Points are awarded for creativity with props, costuming, theme or music. Maddy will be using The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack and will be shooting a bow and arrow while riding Sleepless Nights.
Game of Inches was retired in 2022 due to osselets. Now four, the Kentucky-bred filly spent the winter in rehab and began training in the spring. Of the four competing for Koch, Game of Inches is the only horse not bred in Minnesota. She will also be competing in the 2’6 Show Hunters.
Fisherman Oscar is the youngest of the Koch quartet and the most recently acquired by the non-profit. The 3-year-old was retired this winter by owner and breeder Pete Mattson after racing in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida.
“I typically will not take a horse as quickly as we acquired Fisherman Oscar, however he has the brains to handle it,” Walker said. “We took him in at the end of June only leaving us four months to prepare him. He will be showing in Dressage due to his young age.” Fisherman Oscar will also compete in Freestyle to the song Surfin’ USA and will be riding a ‘surfboard’ constructed by Walker. “He’s going to catch a big wave at the end,” she said.
Thoroughbred Makeover requires much preparation, dedication and training. The end results are rewarding for Walker.
“Our hope is to bring awareness to aftercare and to Minnesota breds” she said. “We want people to know that we have a racetrack in Minnesota and quality horses.”
Dear Fay, Fisherman Oscar and Game of Inches are available for adoption along with others at Koch Thoroughbred Transformation. Find out more here at https://www.kochthoroughbreds.com/ on the Koch webpage. Donations to the non-profit can also be made there for those wishing to assist with racehorse aftercare and retraining.
Pictured in header photograph from left to right are Sleepless Nights, Game of Inches, Dear Fay, and Fisherman Oscar.
Photographs courtesy of Morgan Chapman Media