07/08/2013 5:01PM

Totally Thoroughbred horse show set for Saturday at Pimlico


Racing is old hat for Grade 2 winner Mr. O’Brien, but on July 13 the former mid-Atlantic runner will get a chance to see his former workplace at Pimlico Race Course in a new light.

With trainer Robin Graham in the saddle, Mr. O’Brien will be among hundreds of onetime racehorses expected to converge on Pimlico’s infield that day for the Totally Thoroughbred horse show. The event attracted more than 300 horses last year and raised about $16,500 for charities, and it also highlights Thoroughbreds’ suitability for second careers after they have left the racetrack.

Mr. O’Brien is a case in point. As a racehorse, he won four stakes, most notably the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders’ Cup Handicap and the Grade 2 Dixie in 2004; he set a course record in the latter at Pimlico, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.34. He also placed in a pair of Grade 1 races that year, finishing second in the United Nations and third in the Manhattan Handicap. Retired after the 2005 racing season, he’s been ridden on trails, served as Graham’s lead pony, and won show classes over fences. He’ll be showing over fences again at the Totally Thoroughbred show.

“Two weeks ago was the first time we’d ever done anything like this,” said Graham, who saddled Mr. O’Brien for his graded wins and now keeps the gelding on her small farm in Woodbine, Md. “We went to a schooling show, and he actually won the handy hunter class because you had to jog into the first fence, and nobody else’s horses would jog. That’s what I’ve been doing with him: jogging.

“The last thing I need is a horse with a track record to think I want him to go fast when he’s doing things!” she quipped.

Before taking out her license to train racehorses, Graham started her own riding career by getting foxhunters fit for a Master of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt, and she also showed her own horse. “I hadn’t shown in about 35 years,” Graham said. “But some of us at the track got together and thought, ‘This would be cool. We all have ex-racehorses. Why don’t we do it?’”

Graham says she hopes the show will bring more attention to retired racehorses’ value beyond the racetrack. “I hope people will see that these horses have everything to offer, always,” she said. “When Mr. O’Brien was running, he gave everything he had.

Whatever we asked him to do, he took in stride. He’s 14 now, and we’re just starting to do this with him, and he jumped right into it, like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ And he’s not the only one. They’ll all do that if they have the opportunity.”

The 2013 Totally Thoroughbred show will benefit Angel Acres Horse Haven and MidAtlantic Horse Rescue. The show starts at 9 a.m. and consists of eight classes that offer nearly $10,000 in total prize money for the classes’ top three finishers. Admission is free for spectators.

The show is part of the new Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series announced early this year. The series also includes eight other Thoroughbred-only shows in the mid-Atlantic area. The remaining shows on the calendar after Pimlico’s Totally Thoroughbred event are the Aug. 10-11 Loch Moy TB Hunter Jumper Show in Adamstown, Md., Sept. 7-8 Fair Hill Furlongs to Fences in Fair Hill, Md., Sept. 11-15 Maryland Horse and Pony Show in Upper Marlboro, Md., and Oct. 25-27 TB Celebration Show in Lexington, Va. The season culminates with a year-end banquet.

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