Lost And Found Presented By LuibriSYN HA: Too Young To Retire, Older Runners Flaunt New Skills At Thoroughbred Makeover

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America began rather modestly in 2013 with 26 off-track Thoroughbreds at Pimlico Race Course. This year’s renewal held Oct. 12-17 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington has attracted hundreds of entrants showcasing the endless skills of the breed. The competition has achieved the original goal of creating demand for former racers that too often were considered one-trick ponies known only for speed. Along the way, the Makeover has brought attention to the value of high-mileage Thoroughbreds for their “been there, done that” attitudes suited for countless activities when properly retrained.

This month’s Lost and Found spotlights three of those so-called “war horses” entered in the Makeover—Granny’s Kitten, Imperative and Talk Show Man.

Granny’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy-Granny Franny, by Grand Slam)

Record: 32-6-5-4 and $480,928

Stakes wins: 2017 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds, 2016 Alphabet Soup Handicap at Parx Racing 

Age: 9

Gail Canan was aware of Granny’s Kitten, thanks to a friend who knew him well during his racing days for breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. The mellow fellow’s pedigree and record made him an attractive stallion prospect but when no deal was finalized, he was channeled to Canan and subsequently gelded so that he could easily transition to life with pasture mates.

Instead of choosing a discipline for Granny’s Kitten, she is going to let him pick. She said he seems to enjoys cross country jumping so she is hoping to reshape him into an eventer.

Canan marvels at his attitude that she describes as “unflappable” regardless of his surroundings or tasks.

“That longevity (of racing) says a lot about the constitution of the horse,” said Canan. “He is always ready for a new adventure. I can take him anywhere (because) he was so well traveled. His first time at a show grounds, he was a little ‘looky’ but not like he was going to be naughty. He was more like, ‘This is interesting.’ He was a little hesitant when I took him cross country as if he was saying ‘I am not sure what you want.’ He looked around a lot, just checking what was going on.”

Granny’s Kitten wins the Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap

Some off-track Thoroughbreds have flashbacks when hearing a public address system for the first time, but Granny’s Kitten was unfazed after racing 32 times.

Granny’s Kitten won his first two career starts at ages two and three and then spent most of the next several years in the stakes ranks. His most profitable triumph was the 2017 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap (G3) at Fair Grounds.

As a former exercise rider who grew up participating in horse shows, Canan said she understands both worlds of OTTBs.

“They know a lot more than you think they know, but you might have to ask [for some things] in a different way than they’re used to, such as with flying lead changes,” she said. “I encourage people to not overlook a horse that might be a little older and has raced a lot. If they have raced for that long, there is something about them. Give them a chance.”

Caban believes that after changing caretakers and barns for years, the workaday racers have a great appreciation for stability.

“It is like they know ‘this is my home and this is my person,’” she said.

Imperative wins the Big Bear Stakes in 2016

Imperative (Bernardini-Call Her, by Caller I.D.)

Record: 50-7-8-4 and $3,302,812

Stakes wins: 2017 and 2014 Charles Town Classic Stakes (G2)

Age: 11

After racing 50 times from coast to coast and earning more than $3 million, Imperative remains eager for any new assignment.

“He has the most incredible work ethic of any horse I have ever met,” said Louise Atkins who acquired him via the National Thoroughbred Welfare Organization. “He is very smart and retains everything he is taught. We started with very small local shows, he was tense and distracted but did his job.”

Atkins said in his early time away from the track, Imperative was aloof and distant but is now so attentive and curious that he has been nicknamed The Mayor. He craves attention and is exceptionally social with equine pals.

“He hates to do anything alone so we kind of cater to him a little bit,” she said.

Atkins said Thoroughbreds that had an abundance of racing are more likely to remain sound in their second careers.

“For someone looking for an OTTB, I recommend going through a reputable agent or a resale organization,” she said. “We take horses from the track and start their turnout and transition them to regular life. We assess their temperament and needs. It takes the guess work out for someone looking for a partner.

Talk Show Man enjoys a celebratory beer. Photo courtesy Lindy Gutman

Talk Show Man (Great Notion-Mark Me Special, by Haymaker)

Record: 40-8-2-7 and $456,556

Stakes wins: 2018 and 2014 Maryland Million Turf Stakes at Laurel Park; 2015 Henry S. Clark Stakes at Pimlico

Age: 11

Talk Show Man made all but three of his 40 starts in his native Maryland and he saw plenty of action on major event days that would prepare him for a new career.

“He’s seen so many things,” said Lindy Gutman who will ride him in the Makeover. “He ran on big race days like Maryland Million Day and Preakness Day when the areas around the track were so different than other days with banners, tents, bands, flyovers and lots of people.”

Gutman opted to enter the ranch division of the Makeover to add to their versatility.

“I really like to try new things and I like to be able to take my horses anywhere,” Gutman said.

Talk Show Man was a bit hesitant around strangers during his early retraining but he has since become exceptionally social.

“He will even poke you with his ear so that you’ll rub it,” Gutman said. “He likes you to jam your knuckle way down in there and rub. It’s really gross, but he will walk up to strangers while I’m riding him and give them one of his ears.  It’s funny to see their expressions when I tell them what he wants and they go to gently rub on the outside of his ear and he keeps pushing it at them. I have to tell them that he wants them to poke their knuckle in there and look for his brain!”

Gutman had four previous off-track Thoroughbreds, but Talk Show Man is her first restart.

“There is an OTTB out there for everyone, but not every OTTB is for just anyone,” she said. “Take the time to find the horse that works for you. I never thought that I’d ride OTTBs again, at age 53, because I’m not a brave rider and I was wrong. Plus, the OTTB people are the absolute best. They are so supportive of each other. I’m happy to talk to anyone about why they need an OTTB.”

Talk Show Man raced throughout his career for his breeder Dr. Michael Harrison, who channeled him to Gutman for the Makeover.

Liane Crossley is a Lexington-based freelance writer who has spent her entire career in Thoroughbred racing-related jobs in barns, press boxes and offices. She has worked for stables from Saratoga to Ak-Sar-Ben and from Canterbury Park to Oaklawn Park and about another dozen tracks in the eastern two thirds of America.  A longtime contributor to Thoroughbred Times, her articles have appeared in Keeneland Magazine, Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Daily News, Breeders’ Cup website, Horse Illustrated, European Bloodstock News, KyForward, Horse Illustrated, Young Rider and other publications.  She is a seasonal member of Keeneland’s media department.

The post Lost And Found Presented By LuibriSYN HA: Too Young To Retire, Older Runners Flaunt New Skills At Thoroughbred Makeover appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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