The Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series
by Jennifer Sponseller Webster
(first appeared in the May 2013 issue of The Equiery)
Whether you or your Off-The-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) have ever been to a horse show, whether he just finished racing last year, or whether you have been competing at recognized hunter/jumper shows with your OTTB for years, there is a Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series (TASS) show for you. From leadline to cross rails to speed classes for jumpers to hunter derbies and hunter trials to dressage and event horse classes, TASS has it all. Generous sponsors for each show have helped management keep costs affordable. This is not a series designed just for the top 1% of wage earners. The Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series is for everyone; anyone who ever cared enough to rescue a Thoroughbred horse from a bad situation or to offer a pensioned runner a second chance at a new vocation. This is your chance to give back to the next generation of racing Thoroughbreds who still need rescuing, adopting, and retirement opportunities. So, Go Baby, Go to the Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series!
Brand new this year for owners, riders and fans of the Thoroughbred horse, TASS is the brainchild of Beverly Strauss, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Rescue, together with Maryland Racing Secretary Georganne Hale and Thoroughbred advocate Fran Burns. The series offers a first-time opportunity for OTTBs to compete for year-end prizes and recognition among their own kind and combines both new and existing Thoroughbred-only shows in Maryland and Virginia.
Off to a Great Start
First on the calendar was the three-day Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show at the prestigious Virginia Horse Center in Lexington on March 15-17. Thoroughbred Celebration held its first show in June 2009 and will host two other TASS events in June and October. Show manager Krista Hodgkin says that entries in these hunter/jumper shows have grown every year and jumped forward again this year since joining TASS. Her focus, she says, is to “listen to her customer” and give competitors what they are asking for in terms of expanded class offerings and competition opportunities for riders and horses of other disciplines. Her June show will include a Hunter Trials event on the cross-country course at the Virginia Horse Center, a facility Hodgkin describes as “world class.” In addition, she will offer dressage classes at future shows.
Next in the series came the inaugural Thoroughbred Festival at WinterPlace Park on April 6 at the Wicomico Equestrian Center in Salisbury, Maryland. The facility exists on what was once the Caine family’s opulent Winter Place Farm, home to many a famous Thoroughbred show horse in the 1970s, including Jet Run and Gozzi. Primarily a hunter/jumper show, WinterPlace Park offered a division for Thoroughbred dressage horses, an idea TASS Coordinator Fran Burns calls “brilliant.” This first-time event followed the success of Thoroughbred-only shows before it, with large entry numbers and numerous sponsorships. Inspiration for the show came from manager Tami Tritapoe’s love for and dedication to her own OTTB show horses.
In its second year, the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Rescue Horse Show, held at Heavenly Waters Park in Bel Air on June 1, will build on last year’s success by adding more classes for jumpers and a “Sale/Adoption Division” to showcase OTTBs presently being offered for sale or adoption, as well as an Event Horse division, in which eventing tack and attire will be legal for competition. About her show’s involvement in the Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series, Bev Strauss stressed the charity component of the series as being most important part of the organization. Each show donates some or all of its proceeds to groups dedicated to helping OTTBs find new careers and homes once they retire from racing. Fran Burns agreed, adding, “What we are doing is all about the horses.”
“If you build it, they will come” could have been the trademark for the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show, held for the first time last year in the infield at Pimlico Race Track. Georganne Hale was in no way expecting in excess of 800 entries to pass through her in-gates that day in mid- July, and spent the final days leading up to the show constructing an additional ring, finding a third judge and hustling more prizes to be given to the winners of her only six classes offered, some of which had to be divided into three sections. Judges Rodney Jenkins, Steuart Pittman and Lenny Hale had their work cut out for them, but must have enjoyed themselves, as they have agreed to judge again this year, along with Wendy Davis, a Thoroughbred horsewoman hailing from Arizona. The Totally Thoroughbred Show management team has “tweaked” this year’s class offerings, still keeping them simple (just eight this year) but adding a $500 In-Hand class as well as the $5,000 Hillwood Stable LLC Jumper Classic at the July 13 show.
Loch Moy Farm has become a household name to eventers and jumper riders throughout the region, but it will be a pleasant surprise to hunter riders and trainers who attend the Loch Moy Thoroughbred Hunter & Jumper Show on August 10-11.
Located just south of Frederick and convenient to Interstates 70 and 270, this equestrian paradise nestled among rolling hills has been in operation for over eight years but has never before hosted a hunter show. Not new to keeping internationally renowned competitors such as Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin happy and coming back, Loch Moy owner Carolyn Mackintosh knows how to make a competition successful…you bring in the best management team possible. “I have been chasing Bev Abbott for years!” Mackintosh exclaimed about the person she chose to run her show. Beverly Abbott, from Taneytown, is a highly sought-after show secretary and manager, well known around the Maryland horse show circuit for several decades. Alan Lohman joins the Loch Moy team this summer as Course Designer, and judges include Streett Moore, Mike Rooks, and Pamela Landis. When asked about why she chose these judges in particular, Abbott described them all has having “grown up on Thoroughbreds” and felt they would know best how to choose the entries that exemplify the qualities of a fine Thoroughbred show hunter. Abbott is excited to be part of an effort which has encouraged more Thoroughbreds to get back into the show ring, and has included classes and divisions for the more advanced hunters in her prize list, in hopes of attracting top professionals to support the show.
Down the Stretch
Furlongs to Fences competed against Hurricane Sandy last year and won by several lengths. Manager Penny Woolley said they had some scratches, but that not many competitors were deterred by the threat of incoming weather. Its second annual event takes place this year on September 7-8. The venue, Fair Hill in Cecil County, needs no introduction; it has been entertaining top-class equestrian sports since 1934. When asked why they would host a Thoroughbred-only horse show, Woolley said, “a team of us at the [Fair Hill] Training Center have been talking about it for a long time.” Concerned about and interested in where Thoroughbreds end up after their racing careers are over, they wanted to create an event that would showcase the talent and athleticism of the OTTB and help bring back the awareness of the Thoroughbred as an other-than-racing competition animal.
Only those who showed in the mid-Atlantic in the ‘60s and ’70s remember when the Maryland Pony Show (now the Maryland Horse and Pony Show) was held in the infield of the racetrack at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. So it is fitting that one of Maryland’s oldest and most prestigious hunter and jumper events has joined the Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series. Now in its 69th year and held at the Prince George’ s Equestrian Center in mid- September, it is the only show in the series not just for Thoroughbreds, but offers a Thoroughbred Hunter division and a Thoroughbred Hunter Classic, from which points for the winners will count toward the year-end TASS awards.
Series Eligibility & Year-End Winners
“We did hit a bit of a stumbling block,” TASS co-founder Bev Strauss said, about how year-end points would be awarded. “Every show liked what they had to offer and everybody liked what other shows had done differently,” Fran Burns explained, “so we needed a way to group overall performance in some way other than by division.” The result is a series of twenty-one awards that will be given at a series end event, for which details are not finalized, but will likely take place in early 2014 at Laurel Park. Fourteen of the awards are for the horses, broken down by sex, breeding, and experience. Six awards are given to riders, based on age and status (amateur versus professional). One award, The Equiery Overall Maryland Resident Owner/Rider Award, will be given to the highest point-earning Maryland resident who owns and rides the horse he or she competes. Finally, the Richard Bennett Memorial Sportsmanship Award will be awarded in memory of the long-time manager of Woodstock Farm in Chesapeake City, who died recently, leaving a legacy of kindness, good humor and horsemanship.
According to the TASS website regarding series award eligibility,“horses must be shown under their registered Jockey Club name. While each member show may have different requirements as far as entering non-tattoed thoroughbreds, in order to be eligible for TASS Year End Awards, horses must be tattooed or have proof of registry according to Jockey Club TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program) guidelines.” In addition, “horses must compete in two or more member shows, and must be nominated prior to the first show in which they are entered.”
Additional information about eligibility and nominations, as well as nomination forms for both and horses and riders, can be found at www.thoroughbredalliance.org. It is important to note that an actual Jockey Club TIP number is required for eligibility in the TASS.
Pride in the Thoroughbred horse and in giving back to the Thoroughbred horse is what grew these shows, and also what grew them into a points series, and a great sense of camaraderie and like-mindedness among the management teams, volunteers, competitors, and sponsors are what have kept them growing. Who knows if the American Thoroughbred will ever be the dominant breed in the show ring again– but maybe that isn’ t the point. The tide has turned. People are investing in the Off-The-Track Thoroughbred. They are researching their new partner’ s bloodlines and boasting about numbers of starts and monies earned. They watch race videos online and buy win photos from their pensioner’s day in the sun before age, soundness, or lack of speed brought his racing career to a halt. They honor their pasts. They delight in their presence. And best of all, they have given them a future.