Thoroughbreds Shine In $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter/Jumper Finals

A little midday rain could not dampen the spirits of the TAKE2 Thoroughbred League members who converged on the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington on Sunday for this year’s $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter and Jumper Finals. A total of 35 horses from 14 states participated in the event, which has been held at the Kentucky National Horse Show since its debut in 2019. In a repeat of last year’s results, MVP took the TAKE2 Hunter Final, and Riley captured the TAKE2 Jumper Final.

“It’s so much fun to see the Thoroughbreds from all over the country competing,” MVP’s owner/rider Tess Fortune said. “This is my third year doing the Finals, and I have a great time every year.”

MVP raced briefly without success under the name Kit’s Captain before retiring through the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s Galloping Out program. He was adopted by Fortune as a 3-year-old in 2014 and the two have been partners ever since.

“He is awesome, I just love him,” said the Kentucky horsewoman, who trains with Chris Bennings. “I started him fresh off the track and have done all the work with him. He’s a horse of a lifetime.”

MVP was on his game Sunday, leading after the first round and remaining consistent through the second to post a total score of 161. The reserve champion in the TAKE2 Hunter Finals was 11-year-old gray Mo Bandit, who was retired through After the Races, a Thoroughbred rehabilitation and rehoming center in Maryland. Mo Bandit is owned and ridden by Melissa Rega and trained by David Beisel. All business in the ring, he has a different personality when he is not competing.

“Mo Bandit, better known as Mobie, would be considered the barn clown,” Rega said. “He has so much personality and he demands attention with his funny antics and playful behavior. Mobie always shows up and tries his best with whatever has been asked of him. He truly has the heart of a Thoroughbred.”

Rega added, “TAKE2 is bringing the Thoroughbred back into the national spotlight by promoting these classes at USEF sanctioned shows. Being part of the League gives us a goal to work towards all year to accumulate points and qualify for Finals. TAKE2 provides the owners and trainers an opportunity to stand out and be recognized.”

There were three in the jump-off for the TAKE2 Jumper Final. Kathryn Currey and A Lil Evil, reserve champions last year, sped around the course with just one rail down to set the pace. Cyanea Robine and Riley also had one rail, but the two were just a few strides quicker and earned the championship sash once again. Robine was also named this year’s top TAKE2 Junior Rider, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, in the Jumper division. She trains with Megan O’Dwyer Thiel.

“I set high standards for myself, so there was an expectation that since we won last year, we could do it again,” Robine said. “It had also been a whole year, and Riley and I have learned so much from each other. I’m a better rider than I was last year, I’ve been riding a lot of different horses, and that helped me to figure out Riley even more.”

Riley, whose Jockey Club name is Pic Me First, had a couple of less-than-impressive workouts at Delta Downs before it was decided he was not cut out for a racing career. The 13-year-old had been on the USEF circuit for three years when he and Georgia native Robine teamed up at the beginning of 2020.

“He’s not an easy horse to ride,” she remarked. “Like many Thoroughbreds, he can be quirky. He’s quick, but you can’t use too much hand or he gets mad. I needed to find that balance with him, and I think I found it this year.”

She added, “I love Thoroughbreds because their personalities are just awesome. They are so sweet. My horse is so cuddly in the barn, he lies down a lot and he’s happy to let you lay down with him. That really gives you the chance to connect with your horse. I’ve been riding Thoroughbreds all my life and they taught me to be the rider I am today. They might not be perfect, but they want to please and they try very hard, and that’s what matters.”

Robine is a staunch supporter of Thoroughbreds and of TAKE2.

“I hope more and more people find out about TAKE2, because it is a great program,” she said.

The TAKE2 Hunter and Jumper Finals trophies honor horseman Rick Violette Jr., who created the TAKE2 program in 2012, but sadly lost a battle with cancer a year before the first Finals were held in 2019.

“I wish Rick could be here to see how the TAKE2 Program has grown, and to see the talent and enthusiasm of the horses and owners and riders and trainers who compete in the Finals,” TAKE2 Executive Director Andy Belfiore said. “Each year, the quality of the competition has been better and more people have the chance to see just how successful Thoroughbreds are in the sport horse world. TAKE2 was created to show that Thoroughbreds are amazing athletes and a lot of fun to ride, and retired racehorses have so much more to give after they leave the track. Our Finals competitors are the TAKE2 mission in action.”

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