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Updated on 10/25/2012 2:59PM
Fair Hill horse show stars retrained Thoroughbreds
LEXINGTON, Ky. – This weekend’s inaugural Fair Hill Thoroughbred Show will spotlight ex-racehorses in new careers, but the day could be nostalgic for horseplayers and racing fans, too. Among the show’s 110 entries are such horses as millionaire Dry Martini, a four-time graded winner for Barclay Tagg who is now a showjumper; 2010 Fort Marcy winner Baletti; and longtime claimer Torbay, a full brother to Tinners Way and one of the last living sons of Secretariat.
For Secretariat fans and pedigree scholars, Torbay might steal the show at the Oct. 27-28 event at the Fair Hill Fairgrounds in Elkton, Md. The 25-year-old will compete in the leadline class with 7-year-old Elizabeth Barr, daughter of Torbay’s longtime owner Betsy Barr. Barr found Torbay in 1995 at Delaware Park, where the chestnut gelding was recuperating from a bowed tendon.
“The people had blistered him a couple of times, and it was really gruesome to look at,” Barr recalled. “I felt sorry for him. He was supposedly really difficult in the barn and had been pinning his ears at people, but when I went down the shed row looking at horses and walked to his door, his ears were up. The trainer said, ‘Wow, he’s never like that!’ That was it, he was coming with me.
“He was a wild man initially, but he’s a really smart horse, and he knew he was done racing,” Barr added. “When he got home, after a couple of weeks getting acclimated, he was a different horse.”
Torbay foxhunted into his 20s, until Barr’s local hunt disbanded. More recently, he has accompanied Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, a famous Pennsylvania pack.
“I’ve been an outrider at point-to-points on him, he’s ponied horses getting fit, he babysits my foals when we wean them,” Barr said. “The only thing he hasn’t done yet is go to a horse show!”
Horse shows also will be new for Balleti, who will compete both on the flat and over fences as a beginning jumper. His owner, Fair Hill Training Center exercise rider Jen Paxson, also will lead a group trail ride as part of the weekend’s events.
The 8-year-old Gulch gelding, a onetime $450,000 yearling, just came off the racetrack in May.
“I turned him out when he came off the track and gave him a break, because he was a little sour,” Paxson said. “Then when he showed me he was ready, I started riding him. I’ve just done fun stuff with him. The show is a pretty big event for him. He’s a classy, smart horse, and I think he’ll handle it pretty well.”
But fashionably bred runners and former stakes winners aren’t the only ones who’ll star this weekend. Also among the entries are such ex-claimers as Rocky Macan, Wrongkindapleasure, So Risky, Silver Pieces, Shakin the Blues, and the winless Twizler and Strapped.
Show organizers Penny Woolley and Paget Bennett both work for Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, and Woolley said her experience with Thoroughbreds from yearling to racehorse and beyond moved her to help launch the show.
“My husband [Tim Woolley] is a trainer at Fair Hill Training Center, and many of the riders, grooms, trainers, and veterinarians try very hard to find loving homes for the animals when their racing career is finished,” she said. “We work with these great animals every day. So many we have seen through the years could be a wonderful companion for someone. People are becoming more aware of the abilities of these Thoroughbreds, and we think it is a wonderful opportunity to give back to these animals that have given us so much joy.”
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