In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella hears a voice, “If you build it, he will come” and creates a baseball diamond in an Iowa cornfield. Pure Hollywood and as hokey as a fairytale, the film nevertheless became a testament to chasing an idea that might otherwise seem irrational or unreasonable.
There will be no movie, but Georganne Hale, Stacie Clark-Rogers and the rest of the team behind Pimlico Race Course’s Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show should all take a bow. Just because they thought it might work, they hatched an idea and carved a horse show out of the infield of a racetrack. And boy did they come for the July 14 event.
Horses, riders, people, volunteers made for a special one-day show that at once showcased the versatility of the Thoroughbred horse and the dedication of the people in the Thoroughbred industry. Hale, Clark-Rogers and company turned an idea into a hit with little more than hard work and enough resources to make it possible.
Nearly 300 horses participated in the show, surpassing the original estimate of 60 tossed out by Hale. The numbers swelled the logistics, but the show came off without a real hitch?–?delighting participants and ensuring a future.
When people talk about second careers for Thoroughbreds and the plight of ex-racehorses, outside agencies (retirement farms, horse rescues and the like) are frequently the first discussion point. Maybe racing should start closer to home. If a horse show at Pimlico can attract 300 Thoroughbreds in its first year, how far could the concept go at other racetracks in other states and in other regions? Thoroughbred classes and shows are popping up at various venues, but half the attraction of the Pimlico show had to be the venue as many riders were infrequent show participants. Trainer Lizzie Merryman rode. Maryland Hunt Cup-winning riders Liz McKnight and John Bosley rode. I doubt they show up for many Thoroughbred horse shows somewhere other than Pimlico.
Beyond the veterans, think about the children who participated. They’ve ridden at other shows, no doubt, but they left Pimlico with a memory?–?they rode at the home of the Preakness. The best part about Pimlico’s show were the horses who reappeared. I watched St. Elias compete on the flat and over steeplechase fences. He won a stakes at Woodbine and started in a Grade 2 as a flat horse, then won three more times as a steeplechaser. In retirement, he became a foxhunter and?–?in July at Pimlico?–?a show horse, at age 22.
Now that’s a horse with a second (or third, or fourth) career.
The challenge will be to build on the concept. Already Thoroughbred shows are gaining momentum, thanks in part to Pimlico’s success. Racetracks can surely get involved. New York’s Saratoga Race Course plays host to a horse show?–?not just Thoroughbreds – each spring. The concept would work at Delaware Park, where a horse show community thrives at nearby Carousel Farm and the track closes its racing schedule for several months every year.
So here’s to the second, third, fourth, fifth and beyond editions of the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show at Pimlico, and here’s to the first edition at a few more Thoroughbred venues around the region.
Hale and Clark-Rogers have already done much of the work so use the blueprint and start building.
The horses will come.