TAKE2 High-Score Champions:
Jumper NINE LINKS & Hunter BEYOND COMPARISON
The TAKE2 High-Score Champions for 2021 are Patricia Hurter’s Nine Links, trained by Joe Fargis, in the Jumper Division, and Jaime Gibson’s Beyond Comparison, who repeated in the Hunter Division. The High-Score Reserve Champions are John Beebe’s Gold Label (Jumper) and Kelly Fleming-Bentz’s Purely Grateful. Beyond Comparison, an unraced 14-year-old mare by St. Alydar, dominated her division, winning by 774.5 points, but it came down to the wire in the TAKE2 Jumpers, with Nine Links finishing just 16 points ahead of Gold Label. New York-bred Nine Links was unplaced in seven starts at the racetrack, but has been a consistent performer in the show ring.
Hurter credited the success of “Niles” to riders Christina Severino and Claire Kelley, veterinarians Meredith Boulay and Joe Naranjo, and farriers Jason and Iaian Mulligan, with a special shout-out to “his Thoroughbred-loving trainer Joe Fargis.” She added, “Niles has a huge team behind him. It takes a village to keep a Thoroughbred happy and healthy and fit and Niles has the best team ever. Everyone was super thrilled to hear the news! He has placed in the top 10 pretty consistently in the TAKE2 Thoroughbred League over the past few years, but this is the first time he’s managed to come out on top.”
Hurter would encourage everyone to ride a Thoroughbred. “They are lovely horses, so brave and fun,” she said. “And you can’t beat their incredibly gorgeous fine coats and elegant look. There are so many lovely horses out there looking for a good home, it just seems like a great thing to do, and I love the way they are so sensitive and intelligent and forward. No kicking required!”
TAKE2 Junior Rider Awards, presented by TCA:
Jumper SEA SEA DANCE & Hunter ALYSSA PAULETTE
Maybe it’s their shared youthful exuberance, but the compatibility of Thoroughbreds and Junior Riders is off the charts. Just ask this year’s winners of the TAKE2 High-Score Junior Rider Awards, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA). Alyssa Paulette partnered with Check the Label to win the TAKE2 Junior Rider Award in the Hunter Division, and SeaSea Dance captured the Jumper Division with Dandelion Dust.
This is the second TAKE2 Junior Rider Award for Paulette, who earned the honor with Always Drama in the Jumper Division two years ago. “Warmbloods are fun, but I still prefer the sports car ride of a Thoroughbred,” she said.
Dance, who also finished fourth in the Hunter Division of the TAKE2 Junior Rider standings on Dandelion Dust this year, has nothing but praise for the Thoroughbred.
“I’ve had the opportunity to show and train so many Thoroughbreds in my junior years, and I give these horses credit to helping me become the rider I am today,” she said. “I think every kid should work with this breed for at least one chapter in their journey.
“When you step into the ring with ‘Dandy,’ you feel her change, she truly has a competitive edge,” she added. “The more you challenge her, the better she gets. She’s quick, brave, and has all the heart for this sport. I don’t doubt for a minute that that’s the Thoroughbred in her; they just have this drive in them that really brings so much to the ring.”
The TAKE2 Junior Rider Award, presented by TCA, was created to recognize the juniors competing on Thoroughbreds in nationwide TAKE2-affiliated Hunter and Jumper classes, and to encourage young horsemen and horsewomen to consider the Thoroughbred when looking for their next sport horse. The award is just one example of the many ways TCA supports the racing industry and retired racehorses.
“TCA is thrilled to once again support the TAKE2 program by sponsoring the Junior Rider Award,” said Erin Crady executive director of TCA. “TCA believes strongly in supporting not only the organizations that are rehabbing, retraining, and rehoming Thoroughbreds, but also organizations like TAKE2 that are working to create a demand in the marketplace for off-track Thoroughbreds. We congratulate Alyssa and SeaSea on their accomplishments this year and applaud their support of Thoroughbreds in the Hunter/Jumper rings.”
TAKE2 Executive Director Andy Belfiore said, “We’re really proud to partner with Thoroughbred Charities of America to put the spotlight on the Junior Riders, who prove day in and day out that a Thoroughbred can be the perfect horse for riders of all ages. TCA has been a staunch supporter of TAKE2 for many years, and is helping us to fulfill our mission of ensuring happy and healthy lives for retired racehorses.”
Paulette prefers the Jumpers, but can change gears to compete with success in the more disciplined Hunter Division, and Check The Label has proved to be the perfect partner. In addition to the TAKE2 Junior Rider Award, the two finished fourth overall against adults in the TAKE2 Thoroughbred League this season.
Check The Label raced under the name Cleanse. A $330,000 sales weanling who sold for $450,000 as a yearling, the bay won a maiden race at Keeneland and retired with a victory and two seconds from four career starts at the track. Now a veteran of the show ring, he is, like his rider, 17 years old.
“He’s very opinionated, he likes to be ridden a certain way, and he lets you know it,” Paulette said, adding with a laugh, “He pretty much wants you to sit up there and do nothing.”
Paulette has been riding since the age of 11. Currently a senior in high school, she has been a regular in the TAKE2 Hunters and Jumpers for three seasons, but will be heading off for college in a year.
“I’m not sure where I’ll be going,” she said. “I’d like to go to Sweet Briar College [in Virginia], but there are others I want to look at, too. Eventually, I plan to be an equine surgeon.”
Dance, who just turned 19, also plans to make a career with horses.
“This next year I will be continuing to work with hunters and jumpers in efforts to help them grow to their best athletic ability,” the Texas native said. “I specifically like working with youngsters and the underdog horses who don’t always get the best first chance. Growing with them gives me the same feeling as winning a big class. It’s so rewarding.”
Dandelion Dust is something of an underdog herself. The Texas-bred mare won just one of 17 starts and earned just $7,035 while racing in the Lone Star State. In the show ring, however, she has excelled. Dance is proud to be sharing TAKE2 honors with her.
“I am so excited to be receiving this award, especially alongside Dandy,” she said. “She taught me so many things from patience and perseverance to how to be a competitor. I owe this award to her.”