The annual Preakness Week sunrise tours at Pimlico this week have a new ending point.
After the barns, the jock’s room, the winner’s circle, and other highlights have been shown and described, race fans who turn out for the second jewel of the Triple Crown will wrap up their tour from 6-to-9 a.m., with a stop at a table manned by eager, fresh-faced equestrians with their own horse stories to tell.
Stories not of racing greats like Kentucky Derby winner Orb, or those glistening racehorses who will arrive on the track this Saturday like prizefighters. These are tales of lesser known ex-racehorses; they are the mares and geldings produced by racing legends, who may or may not have done well at racing, but who have all made great strides as pleasure mounts or sport horses.
The idea, says OTTB advocate and tour guide Fran Burns, is to capitalize on the fanfare during the busy week and to drive home the point that off-track Thoroughbreds can be as great in their new disciplines as those giants that made their fame on the racetrack, and about whom legend and lore have been written.
“Some people who come on the tours have never seen a horse up close before,” Burns says. “And after their tour, they’ll meet young girls who will tell them what it’s like to ride a racehorse, and to teach a racehorse something different, a new career.”
Already on the cutting edge of promoting ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds in new careers, Pimlico last year pioneered the wildly popular, often duplicated Totally Thoroughbred Show on Pimlico’s infield.
The horse show, which drew throngs of participants and attendees, helped boost the image of ex-racehorses by showing the gentle mounts quietly carting around young tykes, dressed up as jockeys, in photogenic lead-line classes. And older, more seasoned riders put Thoroughbred ex-racehorses through several classes, demonstrating the breed’s agility and willingness to perform.
This year, Pimlico is stepping it up another notch with the sunrise tour, Burns says.
“This is a way to show the public that the Maryland Jockey Club is very interested in giving back, and in encouraging people to adopt off-track Thoroughbreds,” she says. “Adding the OTTB table this year was a first for us, and we hope it will be a successful addition.”
Those with a good OTTB story to tell include Maryland rider Lauren Moran, 23, who purchased ex-racehorse Hat City when she was 17. Ever since, the pair has become very competitive in the Show Hunter ring.
Selina Petronelli, 14, of Maryland will describe her joy riding ex-racehorse Deep Threat, who shows under the name Lauren Moran’s Allumination. Sydney Parker, 15, who shows Saratoga Jet, the son of A.P. Jet who earned $100,000 on the track, in the Children’s Hunter Division. And riders Elizabeth Scully, a 7th grade student, will discuss her goals to be steeplechase jockey—she recently purchased Girsruletheworld— and Anastasia Vialov, 15, will talk about her favorite OTTB Pride Land, who she showed in last year’s Pimlico All Thoroughbred Show in the Pleasure Horse Class.
What the young riders have to say about the joy of riding ex-racehorses is some of the best publicity OTTBs can get, Burns says.
“This only helps increase the exposure that OTTBs are getting. We’re seeing a lot more attention paid to them, from the horse shows to events like this,” she says. “My hope is that by meeting these young riders, they will help open up more conversation between racehorse owners and trainers and potential adopters about acclimating racehorses to a potential new career.”