10/31/2016 12:36PM

Fairway King wins top honors at Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover

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Fairway King, a minor winner on the racetrack, was the major winner over the Oct. 29-30 weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, as he and trainer Lauren Turner earned “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred” honors at the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America.

The Thoroughbred Makeover showcases Thoroughbred ex-racehorses that are re-trained for a variety of equestrian sports. A total of 302 entrants this year, each of whom has worked with a professional or amateur trainer for less than a year, competed in 10 disciplines: 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.

Fairway King and Turner won the dressage division of the Makeover to put themselves into the finals. Dressage, in which a horse and rider complete a series of prescribed maneuvers inside an enclosed ring and are scored on each, is often compared to a compulsory program in figure skating. It is designed to test the trainability, obedience, and movement of the horse, as well as to showcase harmony between horse and rider.
Turner, a professional event rider who is based in River Birch Farm in Georgia, discovered Fairway King listed on Facebook when she was in the market for a new high-level competition prospect. The 4-year-old Leroidesanimaux gelding, bred in Florida, had won once in nine career starts, last racing in July 2015 at Charles Town. Turner said she is “at a bit of a loss for words” regarding the success of Fairway King’s in his new career.

“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.”

Lindsay Partridge, who won last year’s America’s Most Wanted competition aboard her mare Soar, was back for the event, and was again live in the finals, as she won both the freestyle and competitive trail divisions aboard Trivia Time. The Ontario-bred mare was 0-for-3 on the track.

“[Thoroughbreds are] horses that can last the trail, and have the endurance to do it,” Partridge said. “And they have great minds. Once you build that partnership, they want to connect with you. They’re so brave. Once you are that leader for them, there’s nothing they can’t do.”

The other divisional winners were second-time divisional winner Isabela de Sousa and Carajillo in show jumping. Cathy Wieschhoff aboard stakes-placed Speed Rail in eventing; Deborah Keiser with Morning Rainbow in barrel racing; Sarah Davis and J.J.'s Local Law in field hunters; Buck Scott and Strong Angel, a Thunder Gulch filly, in polo; Russell Littlefield and the aptly-named Trick Roper in working ranch; and Tyler Weith and Greeley's Magic in show hunters.

A number of familiar names from the Thoroughbred racing industry were in attendance at the Makeover, as Charlie LoPresti and his two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan gave a training demonstration on Oct. 30, and Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron and two-time Kentucky Oaks winner Rosie Napravnik participated in panel discussions and demonstrations.