02/09/2017 11:36AM

578 trainers eligible to enter horse in Thoroughbred Makeover competition

Barbara D. Livingston
Former jockey Rosie Napravnik is partnering with the horse Aztec Brave in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover.

The $100,000 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover, which has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception several years ago, has accepted 578 trainers for this year’s event, including accomplished equestrians from several disciplines. The competition will be held Oct. 5-8 at the Kentucky Horse Park, coinciding with the stakes-rich opening weekend at nearby Keeneland.

Thoroughbred Makeover horses focus on one of several disciplines or categories: barrel racing, competitive trail, dressage, eventing, field hunters, freestyle, polo, show hunters, show jumpers, and working ranch. Each division’s top three compete on the final day in a best-in-show competition for the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred crown.

Among the approved trainers this year is former jockey Rosie Napravnik, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks. Others accepted include Canadian Olympians Ian Roberts and Kelly Plitz, Hall of Fame hunter rider Lois Serio, World Equestrian Games silver medalist Dorothy Crowell, and former Rolex Kentucky four-star winner Nick Larkin.

“We were overwhelmed not only by the number of applications but also by the quality,” said Retired Racehorse Project president Steuart Pittman. “We have very competent horse trainers in every discipline, including some who have competed at the Olympic level. Our goal has always been to increase the demand, and ultimately the value, of retired racehorses.”

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Thoroughbred Makeover trainers are pre-approved based on their individual skills but don’t have to apply with a specific horse. Of this year’s approved trainers, 230 have registered their horses already, including Napravnik, who is partnering with Aztec Brave. The gelding retired last June after winning the Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury – his third stakes win after being claimed by Napravnik’s husband, trainer Joe Sharp, and owner Brad Grady.

After letting down at Grady’s farm, Aztec Brave began working as a pony horse at Evangeline Downs under Marc Sharp, Joe’s father. The work is intended to give the gelding fundamental basics before Napravnik begins working with him this spring in a discipline to be determined.

More than 300 trainers are still looking for horses who that meet the competition’s guidelines. Eligible Thoroughbreds must have raced or had a published work after July 1, 2015, and may not have started second-career training before last Dec. 1. A number of aftercare organizations, such as New Vocations, specify whether adoptable horses meet those guidelines. The Retired Racehorse Project is also providing the opportunity for owners and trainers to list Makeover-eligible horses on its website.

“Many of the horses that compete in the Makeover each year don’t begin their training or even retire from racing until well into the year,” Pittman said. “I encourage racehorse owners with any horses they are considering retiring this year to list them on our website. It’s kind of cool to think about – the winner of this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover may not yet have run his or her last race.”

Last year’s Thoroughbred Makeover winners were Fairway King and trainer Lauren Turner. The Florida-bred Leroidesanimaux gelding won once from nine career starts before being acquired by Turner, a professional event rider based in Georgia. Fairway King and Turner won the dressage division of the Makeover to put themselves into the finals.

“I was excited about winning the dressage division, and to have this honor to represent the Thoroughbred breed in addition to that, I am beyond words,” Turner said. “So proud of this little horse who I picked out of a field. King has proven that the right amount of training and determination can take you anywhere you want to go – maybe even a few places you have never imagined.”