Ex-Racehorses Prove They Can Do It All Off the Track

Jazz Napravnik on Legend’s Hope. Photo by Bethany P Photography

By Natalie Mayrath/StreamhorseTV

If you’d asked Lindsey Partridge how her day was going with Thunderous Affair (aka “Lissy”), she would not have suspected it would end with the pair being named 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover Champion, sponsored by Churchill Downs. “I literally fell off,” she says, explaining that it was a “rough morning” at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Mega Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, an event that fit two years into one, displaying highly competitive and talented groups for both the 2020 and 2021 classes (read further to experience just a taste of the magic).

Lissy, who had made it into the finale in two divisions (Freestyle and Competitive Trail) and went on to earn blue ribbons that day in both categories, is highly sensitive to the energy of other horses around her. While riding at a walk that morning, they encountered another horse, and Lissy reared and sprung into the air.  Partridge tried a quick abandon-ship dismount but didn’t quite land squarely on her feet, lost hold of the reins, and Lissy proceeded on a free gallop through the cross-country area before somebody caught her.

Partridge laughs now that running loose may have contributed to her 4-year-old’s calm composure in the show arena that afternoon. “She was extra-tired after galloping through the horse park in the morning… Maybe that’s everybody’s new plan, is to let your horse loose in the morning!”

Lindsey Partridge and Thunderous Affair (Credit: RRP)
Lindsey Partridge and Thunderous Affair. Photo by RRP

The horse’s – and rider’s – dominance in the 2020 Makeover is impressive in many regards, beyond the mare’s “wild side.” Partridge gave birth to her second child in July, missing training during pregnancy, and then finding herself on the fast-track preparing a horse who she says cannot be rushed or pressured. “I didn’t do anything with her while I was pregnant, so when we went back to our first show in the beginning of August, she was leaping in the air on all fours, and I could only get her calm enough for someone to lead me around the trail course.”  There were moments, where I was like, ‘Do I have to pull this horse from the competition?’” 

But Lissy has what Partridge calls “all the good qualities” of a Thoroughbred. “She’s so athletic, she’s so talented and she’s wickedly smart.” At the end of the day, the horse won the hearts of the judges, spectators, and commentators with her obedient and relaxed attitude in the ring. “I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it could go pretty darn amazing or it could be a catastrophe,” Partridge explains.

“She’s been so hard. She didn’t trust me in the beginning. We would literally just go places and hang out… she was so calm and relaxed here and able to trust me to do everything,” she said while holding back tears during the presentation ceremony.

In taking Championship honors, Partridge reasserts that she has plenty of talent herself in bringing retirees along in new disciplines. She has competed nine horses at various RRP Makeovers throughout the years, capturing the overall title back in 2015 with Soar. Her Harmony Horsemanship method puts a singular focus on the human-horse relationship as the ultimate goal. 

The 16.2 hand gray/roan mare never made a start, but did train to race. Thunderous Affair is by Liaison out of the Thunder Fan (Thunder Gulch). Partridge, who says she always buys her horses sight-unseen, bought her off of a picture, with placement help through CANTER Michigan. Partridge says this precocious mare only showed a tiny little bit of what she’s actually capable of during this show. “She can do so many things, we only got to scratch the surface in her freestyle,” Partridge says. She hopes that Lissy will be her new demo horse accompanying her on the road for many years to come.

Napravnik Family Tradition: Winning

If they wanted to keep the Makeover Eventing title in the family, there was only one possible result for Jazz Napravnik and Legend’s Hope (“Chester”). They delivered and then some, winning the Eventing division to make it back-to-back Makeover Eventing blue ribbons for Jazz and her sister, former jockey Rosie Napravnik, who won the Eventing division at the 2019 Makeover on Sanimo. For a family who is used to winning, Jazz described the moment as “pretty freakin’ special” for their family. “My sister and I have a special bond.  We are always there, one for the other, rooting each other on, so for her to win, and then me to come win, is a special moment. My sister, my mother, they shed a tear, and I shed a tear during my pinning before exiting the arena,” she recounts. 

Jazz and Chester also won the People’s Choice award, sponsored by Achieve Equine, which is decided through text-voting by fans for their favorite horse of all the discipline winners.  Jazz shares the sentiment for a horse she says is full of talent. “I always fall in love with the horses that nobody likes, but I’ve finally fallen in love with a horse everybody likes,” she said while accepting the honors. She said that this horse must’ve “learned to jump in the womb” considering his natural ability. “He’s an example of everything a Thoroughbred can be, and I wouldn’t want to sit on any other horse.”

Jazz Napravnik on Legend’s Hope (Photo Courtesy: Jazz’s Facebook)
Jazz Napravnik on Legend’s Hope. Photo from Jazz Napravnik

Jazz brought three mounts to the Makeover this year: Crazy Bernice (“Bernice”), her promising Dressage prospect, Page McKenney (“Page”), a war horse she helped break and train as a youngster, and Chester, who proved himself as expected. “He came out of racing on the flat, and was briefly considered for the Maryland Hunt Cup,” she says. “But everyone collectively decided that he would be better-suited as an eventing horse,” Jazz recalls. She was eager about his future, especially on the heels of her sister’s Makeover Eventing win. “Rosie had just won at the 2019 Makeover. So I published a Facebook post asking who would sponsor me winning the Thoroughbred Makeover on this horse full of ‘brawn, beauty, brains, boldness’ and within less than 24 hours his current owner came to see him,” she says.  The rest is history, and Jazz is grateful to Barbie Horneffer for giving her the mount through his training. “I’m pretty sure she hopes that he walks back into that Rolex Arena (at the Kentucky Horse Park) again in a few years,” she quips, referencing the Kentucky 3-Day Event.

Legend’s Hope is a 2013 Gelding By Not For Love, out of Lunar’s Legend (Polish Numbers).  He additionally finished in the top three in the Jumpers division, and Jazz also hit the top three on Page in the Field Hunters. For Bernice, “it wasn’t her day,” Jazz explains, as she “brought the crazy in the wrong ways,” but she is full of confidence in a successful Dressage career for this well-bred mare. 

Tear-Jerker Moments

It was an emotional moment that honored her late employer when Laura Sloan and Forthegreatergood were crowned 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover Champions, sponsored by Churchill Downs, after a victory in the Field Hunter division. 

Laura Sloan on Forthegreatergood (Photo Credit: Canter Clix)
Laura Sloan on Forthegreatergood. Photo by Canter Clix

She got choked up recounting the death of Richard Verrilli, a Master of Fox Hounds. Upon his passing his widow, Donna, told staff members, “Go take a horse.” Sloan immediately chose this horse, and she hasn’t looked back. With the support of Donna, Sloan brought the horse along to a Makeover appearance honoring Richard’s memory.  “It means a lot, I am just speechless. I’m just so happy to be able to do this for the lady I work for, and for Moore County Hounds!”

Sloan had originally found Forthegreatergood while simply “looking for something over 5 and calm,” she explains. “A friend called me and said ‘I just got this horse in….’ I just wanted something sane, I didn’t know he was gorgeous.” As it turns out, she got the looks and the temperament, and now a Makeover Title. 

Zapper poised for the Field Hunters competition with Cameron Sadler aboard
Zapper poised for the Field Hunters competition with Cameron Sadler aboard

Cameron Sadler, 2020 Field Hunter winner, was overwhelmed with joy at making the winner’s circle in her third try at the Makeover. “He does all the things,” she says of her mount, Zapper. “He’s the coolest little dude. Zapper has been a wonderful challenge, and so much fun because he has such a big personality,” Sadler says. “He loves his job… he’s an easy keeper… I love the way he sees any obstacle, locks on and goes bravely.” In her 50th season hunting with Moore County Hounds, Sadler recognizes Zapper as a special horse, and she looks forward to seeing all he will do in the future. Sadler likes OTTB’s for field hunting because “they’re agile enough to cover tricky ground, and smart enough to stand quietly when required.”

Zapper catches a nap in his stall during a Makeover break (Photo Credit: Cameron Sadler)
Zapper catches a nap in his stall during a Makeover break. Photo by Cameron Sadler

Another tear-jerking story came from Meghan McNamara, who showed her OTTB Pied N True, the last horse who ever raced for her grandparents’ syndicate. When Pied got claimed, Meghan’s mother claimed “Pied” back so they could retire her as a family member. Meghan chronicled the lead-up to the Makeover in a blog series. “So many tears shed this week, purely for how much I love this horse,” she posted on Facebook during the competition.

Meghan McNamara with Pied N True (Photo Credit: Canter Clix)
Meghan McNamara with Pied N True. Photo by Canter Clix

People’s Choice for 2021, sponsored by Achieve Equine, went to Alexandra Beckstett and Icarius, who she says made her break her own rule that all of her horses are for sale. “This horse,” she said during the awards ceremony, “is not for sale.”

Park Hill Diamond and Makeover Crew (Photo Credit: Marble Hill Farm Equestrian)
Park Hill Diamond and Makeover Crew. Photo by Marble Hill Farm Equestrian

Notable horses in the bunch for their connections or racing careers included Breeders’ Cup runner Ashleyluvssugar, Multiple Grade 1 Winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic entry Imperative, and the 2020 Show Hunters Champion Still Dreaming, a half brother to Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.

Breeders’ Cup Runner Ashleyluvssugar in the RRP Makeover
Breeders’ Cup Runner Ashleyluvssugar in the RRP Makeover

New Addition: TIP Barrel Racing Championship

RRP teamed up with the Thoroughbred Incentive Program to offer for the first time the T.I.P. Barrel Racing Championships during the Makeover Project. Floo Powder won with Layne Shaffer aboard.

Dakotah Rowel and Tip Top Diva are your 2021 Makeover Barrel Racing champions, with Czraina Maria taking 2020 Champion honors, ridden by Jessica Frederick.

After her win Rowel said, “This horse is just worth so much to me. She has a heart of gold and she’s been such a pleasant and easy horse to restart. She’s so talented — far beyond just barrel racing, she’s talented in everything she’s done. The Thoroughbreds are so versatile, they can do anything! She has more heart than anything I’ve ever sat on. This is my first Makeover, but I think I’ll be back! It’s a great way to get them restarted.”

Through tears, during the winners’ presentation Frederick called her mount her “best friend.”

If you haven’t experienced the magic and inspiration of this program and its marquee competition, which has become the largest Thoroughbred retraining competition in the world, we encourage you to learn more, participate, and spread the word. Trainers are incentivized to bring these horses along in their first year off the track for $100,000 in prize money, enriching the exposure and value of racehorses in second careers for the equine sports marketplace as a whole. Applications will open for the 2022 Makeover at the end of 2021.  Keep an eye out on RRP’s website for more information on application process and eligibility requirements.

As RRP Executive Director Jen Roytz said at the close of the Mega Makeover, “This is an incredible line-up of horses, top to bottom and front to back. They were born to be athletes, and if that didn’t show up on the racetrack, it can express itself in so many other ways as we’ve seen here by this exceptionally talented group.”

See the full list of winners at the Mega Makeover below:

2020 Thoroughbred Makeover Discipline Champions (in order of go):

Eventing, sponsored by Tipperary Equestrian: 

Legend’s Hope, trained by Jazz Napravnik

Show Jumper, sponsored by Excel Equine: 

Canton Comet, trained by Samantha Fawcett

Show Hunter, sponsored by Beyond the Wire: 

Still Dreaming, trained by Charles Hairfield

Field Hunter, sponsored by Masters of Foxhounds Association:

Zapper, trained by Cameron Sadler

Dressage, sponsored by PTHA’s Turning For Home: 

Elbow Room, trained by Helen Pianca

Polo, sponsored by United States Polo Association: 

That’s My Bertie, trained by Willowbrook Polo Team

Freestyle, sponsored by New Start: 

Thunderous Affair, trained by Lindsey Partridge

Barrel Racing, sponsored by SmartPak: 

Czraina Maria, trained by Jessica Frederick

Competitive Trail, sponsored by Godolphin: 

Thunderous Affair, trained by Lindsey Partridge

Ranch Work, sponsored by MidAtlantic Horse Rescue: 

Aussie Prayer, trained by Raechel Ramsey

2021 Thoroughbred Makeover Discipline Winners (in order of go):

Eventing, sponsored by Tipperary Equestrian: Fleet Stepper, trained by Hillary Irwin

Show Jumper, sponsored by Excel Equine: Raise Em Up, trained by Kristina Aaron

Show Hunter, sponsored by Beyond the Wire: Icarius, trained by Alexandra Beckstett

Field Hunter, sponsored by Masters of Foxhounds Association: Forthegreatergood, trained by Laura Sloan

Dressage, sponsored by PTHA’s Turning For Home: Kubo Cat, trained by Alison O’Dwyer

Polo, sponsored by United States Polo Association: Ramses, trained by Benjamin Lynch

Freestyle, sponsored by New Start: Papa Al, trained by Jody Busch

Barrel Racing, sponsored by SmartPak: Tip Top Diva, trained by Dakotah Rowel

Competitive Trail, sponsored by Godolphin: Super Terrific, trained by Abbey Blair

Ranch Work, sponsored by MidAtlantic Horse Rescue: War Candy, trained by Muri Triantafilo

A full list of results and awards can be found at TBMakeover.org.

Looking to Buy?

The ASPCA Makeover Marketplace expanded their catalog this year to include free listings for non-profit Thoroughbred rehoming and retraining organizations who have 2022 Makeover-eligible prospects for sale or adoption.

“Creating opportunities for more equine enthusiasts to find their Right Horse is a vital component of our work,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, Vice President of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “The RRP is an instrumental partner in shifting the perspective of who a retired racehorse is and showcasing the incredible potential they will bring to their next homes. While their racing careers may have ended, these retirees still have much to offer as they transition into new and varied careers.” 

The catalog will feature each horse’s Jockey Club name, basic details, and contact information for the trainer or non-profit organization. Sign-ups for a free catalog are now open at tbmakeover.org/catalog. Visit the digital marketplace here.

About the Retired Racehorse Project

The Mission: The RRP exists to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers, and organizations that transition them.

The Impact: Since its 2010 founding, the RRP has inspired thousands to choose an OTTB. Thanks to 160,000+ Facebook followers, 3,000,000+ website hits annually, constant press coverage, and sell out crowds at horse expos, the popularity and value of OTTBs are on the rise.

Learn more at www.retiredracehorseproject.org 

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