Twenty-eight days. That’s how early Willi’s Sweet Girl went into labor. The delivery was quick but complicated, and into the world came a filly by Showing Up. She was tiny, nearly bald, weak, cold and at risk.
Get out the megaphones, head to the rooftops and start shouting. You can breed, raise, sell, buy, train and race a Grade 1 winner in the Mid-Atlantic. You probably knew that, but it sure helps when you’re trying to make the point with someone else.
Thank you, Cathryn Sophia.
When 5-year-old Kelly Ryan used to come to the Maryland racetracks, she wasn’t looking for a job. She just liked petting the horses. Little did she know that several decades later she would be a MedStar doctor and one of the key elements in the new Horsemen’s Health System.
The Retired Racehorse Training Project has run successful challenge and makeover projects since 2009, pushing for more Thoroughbred competitions beyond racing and shining a light on the need for more efforts to help horses find careers beyond the racetrack.
It all moves another step forward next month with the first Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium at Pimlico Race Course Oct. 5-6. The event will provide the public appearance of the latest crop of Thoroughbreds to dive into the RRTP, 26 horses chosen by 26 trainers to teach, convert and showcase in a variety of disciplines from polo to eventing to steer roping. We will be highlighting the Makeover's Mid-Atlantic connections (bothhuman and equine) in the weeks leading up to October 5 and 6.
Makeover Trainer: Jessica Bortner-Harris of Thurmond, NC
Jessica Bortner-Harris, a native of York, PA, rescued her first event horse off the track in 199, a 7 year old named Mr. Lincoln. Her love of Thoroughbreds, though, began as a teen when she visited the great Seattle Slew at Three Chimneys Farm. "It was like meeting your favorite sports player. I was in awe." From then on, Jessica knew Thoroughrbeds would play a central role in her life as a rider. In 2005, Jessica bought Win the War from Charles Town Racetrack. She has retrained him, and he is currently successfully competing at recognized events at the Advanced/CIC*** level with hopes of going CCI*** this fall.
"Almost all of my own horses have been OTTBs." Jessica retrains and Events from her base at Rocky Start Stables in North Carolina, and is also a popular writer for the blog Eventing Nation, where she discusses the dominant role of Thoroughbreds in the eventing world. "I love how quickly most of them catch on to their new jobs and give it their all. They have huge hearts and are such try-ers. Because of this, they make excellent candidates for Eventing. Speed, endurance, scope, and heart are some very important things needed in Eventing."
Thoroughbred in Training: PrettyHippHopHotty ("Hotty")
2007, CH , M, Bowman's Band-She's Pretty Too, by Housebuster
Bred in Pennsylvania by Toni M. Kirwan & Edward Hipps
Last Raced: Penn National, 6/6/2012
Jessica began the Thoroughbred Makeover with a West-Virginia bred mare named Horizontal Love, but "Sexy's" hooves were not holding up to training right off the track. Despite doing everything she could for Sexy, Jessica finally realized that her new off-the-track Thoroughbred just needed a little extra time off her feet. "I just don't want to take shortcuts and push her if she isn't ready." Wtih 34 days until the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, Jessica chose PrettyHippHopHotty from her own stable with Steuart Pittman's blessing, a big chestnut mare that has only been in serious training for 10 months. "She has come a long way, and is currently eventing at the Novice level with the hopes of moving up to Training by the end of this season." With "Hotty", Jessica hopes to showcase what an ex-racehorse with a bit more training can do at Pimlico in October.
Watch: Jessica and PrettyHippHopHotty school at home
Buy tickets to the Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium and receive free general admission to Jim McKay Maryland Million Day, October 19, 2013 at Laurel Park!