The Jockey Club will present a High Point award this week to the top-performing Thoroughbred to compete in the fabled Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, an award symbolizing the achievement of ex-racehorses in new careers and their incalculable worthiness.
For the fourth consecutive year, the top-performing Thoroughbred will receive a fine leather halter with a brass nameplate denoting the High Point Winner, and a long ribbon featuring Jockey Club colors of navy blue, hunter green, and white. The ribbon, says Kristen Lisheney of the Jockey Club, is a visible reminder of the growing backing the Jockey Club is committing to efforts to retrain and re-home retired racehorses.
“Each year we’ve given out a number of prizes and awards to Thoroughbred show horses. In our first year (four years ago) we had 150 Thoroughbred shows. That number has continued to grow, and this year we’re forecasted to support 750 shows, and we’ve given awards to close to 1,800 Thoroughbreds,” she says. “We put the Thoroughbred Incentive Program in place to encourage the retraining of horses after they’ve finished racing and breeding, and we wanted to recognize those horses who excel at their second career.”
And Rolex, as the only four-star Event in the Western Hemisphere, is the apex of its discipline, she notes.
Since receiving permission four years ago to present the award, the Jockey Club has presented High Point Awards to the following horse/rider teams:
• Tsunami (JC: Tsu Tsu Ro) and Sarah Cousins in 2012
• Calico Joe (no JC name) and Andrew Nicholson in 2013
• Mensa G (JC: Merisa G) and Michael Pollard in 2014
The Jockey Club partners with Steuart Pittman and his nationally recognized Retired Racehorse Project—a large-scale effort to inspire race trainers, equestrians, and others in exciting opportunities to retrain Thoroughbreds— as well as New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.
Award presentations will dovetail into the Thoroughbreds for All event, which was spearheaded by Pittman, and which attracted 600 observers last year.
The effort to showcase Thoroughbreds at Rolex is sponsored by Am West Entertainment, Gulfstream Park Thoroughbred After-Care Program, and by Ann Banks of Wild Aire Farm.
For the longtime horseman, equestrian and OTTB enthusiast, Banks sees the effort to reposition ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds into the sport horse world as an idea whose time has come.
“I have always seen the Thoroughbred breed as multidimensional, but somehow, the breed was branded as ‘hot’ and ‘crazy,’ which was so wrong,” Banks says. “This breed is sensitive and gives a rider 110 percent … they are built with an attitude that says, ‘Yes, I can do that.’ They’re purpose-bred to run fast, but they’re capable of anything and everything.”