Fourth Time’s The Charm in the $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter/Jumper Finals

Kathryn Currey and A Lil Evil, Winslow Photography

Edited Press Release

They say the third time’s the charm, but for A Lil Evil, it took a fourth try to shake off her bridesmaid’s role and win at the $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter/Jumper Finals. The fiery chestnut mare blazed through two clear rounds to best 19 rivals in the Jumper Division of the 2023 TAKE2 Finals at the Kentucky National Horse Show Sept. 24.

“It was a great feeling to finally win,” said owner/trainer/rider Kathryn Currey. “Eve deserved it. She was amazing.”

The $20,000 TAKE2 Hunter/Jumper Finals are the main event for the TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program, which was founded by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association in 2012 to highlight the success of the Thoroughbred in the show ring, and to create second career opportunities for retired racehorses. A record 39 TAKE2 Thoroughbred League members from a dozen states converged on the Kentucky Horse Park for the Finals. Gottobeperfect was nearly so to take home the championship in the Hunter Division.

“The fact that TAKE2 allows us to have a standalone championship is absolutely wonderful,” said Gottobeperfect’s owner, Meghan Carney. “I love showing off my Thoroughbred, and I honestly love watching the other competitors, too. There are so many good ones out there. The other thing I love about the program is that the money for it is coming from the racing industry, it’s so great to see the industry support the horses in their second careers.”

A Lil Evil is proving much more proficient in her second career. Bred in Florida, she raced six times, but without success. She finished last in a maiden test at Thistledown in Ohio in October of 2016, and her connections decided it was time to retire her from the track. In need of R&R and without the greatest conformation, the then four-year-old was not exactly a hot commodity. It was only by chance that she was offered to Currey.

“I purchased a horse from Thistledown and drove to pick that horse up,” Currey explained. “While I was there, the agent showed me A Lil Evil. She was lame, had a long back, was short-strided, and was a chestnut mare to top it all off. The owner asked for $700, I offered $200 and we settled on $400.”

Kathryn Currey and A Lil Evil, Split Rock Photo

Currey did see a few things others might have missed. “It just so happened she had the bloodlines I had been looking for,” she said. “And she shared a birthday with my husband at the time. I figured it was fate. I have had her for seven years.”

The Thoroughbreds that Currey buys from the track are sometimes retrained and rehomed, but A Lil Evil can be a handful, so she was difficult to adopt out and became “a permanent fixture” in Currey’s barn. Both have reaped the benefits of the partnership.

“I remember jumping her over a small course and joking with my husband at the time that one day she would compete at the Grand Prix level,” the horsewoman recalled. “He didn’t believe me, but in 2020 I proved him wrong, competing in several Grand Prixs with her and taking home ribbons.”

Currey, who has been riding for more than 30 years, is from Nashville, where she works for a company called Etalon Equine Genetics.

“We are a DNA testing lab based in California that tests for color, patterns, health risks, and even temperament,” she said. “It is a super cool company to work for as I get to talk about horses all day.”

Of course, Thoroughbreds are her favorite, and she is also a fan of the TAKE2 Program.

“I love that the Thoroughbred is showcased and can compete against other Thoroughbreds,” she said, adding, “I do believe people appreciate seeing a Thoroughbred compete. I know when Eve walks into a Grand Prix, all eyes are on her because she is the only Thoroughbred in the class.”

Gottobeperfect with (from left) TAKE2’s Cinthia Ane McGreevy and Andy Belfiore, owner Meghan Carney, trainer Emily Burniston, and rider Jeff Gogul, Winslow Photography

Gottobeperfect, also 11, was sold for a modest $1,700 at the Keeneland November Sale and never made it to a race.

As Carney explained, “He had been in race training and had an accident during gate training that required a rehab. The rehab was completed and he was clear to go back to the track, but the owners decided to sell him as a riding horse.”

The trainer posted an ad on Facebook, and Carney decided to have a look.

“He was about an hour away and my friend Julia and I went to look at him,” she said. “Julia lunged him in the round pen and we found a bucket and a pole. First time, he trotted right through it. Second time, he sighted in on it and jumped it in just the form you want to see. I had to have him. I’ve had him seven years in November.”

A native of Chicago, Carney has lived in Lexington for 11 years.

“I started an antiques, collectibles, and estate jewelry business in 2016, which gradually became mostly an estate jewelry business, and in 2020 it became my full-time job,” Carney said. “I absolutely love it…it allows me the flexibility to ride in the Thoroughbreds during the week. Shameless promotion…my Instagram is Moneypennylex and it’s where you can find some of my jewels.”

But the most precious gem in Carney’s collection is Gottobeperfect, aka Phoenix.

Gottobeperfect and Jeff Gogul, Winslow Photography

“He’s super fun to jump, he has a very good eye for the most part, and he certainly can take a joke,” she said. “On the ground, he is a character and a half. He’s super personable, loves all the attention, but wants it all his way.”

She added, “All of my horses have been Thoroughbreds. Most Thoroughbreds have been exposed to lots of new experiences at a young age, whether it’s the sales or the track, so they can take to the new experiences at a horse show a little easier. Also, to be honest, they are affordable. I read a lot about how the little people are being pushed out of showing, how it’s just for the elite, and yet, here I am, getting decent ribbons in the Thoroughbreds and Adult Amateurs on a pretty strict budget. It’s not easy, but I think Thoroughbreds are the key to keeping the little guy in the business, and the key to supporting the pipeline of young trainers.”

She believes TAKE2 is helping more people appreciate the breed.

“I think having the year-end TAKE2 Champions and the Championship is huge in creating interest,” she said. “It gives us something special and spotlights the breed to outsiders. Back in the late 2000s when I had another nice Thoroughbred, I was all alone on her in a sea of Warmbloods. I think there are definitely more folks riding Thoroughbreds at the horse shows than 10 years ago.”

The TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program was the brainchild of then New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) President Rick Violette Jr. NYTHA partnered with the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. (NYTB) in 2012 to launch TAKE2, with the goal of creating more second career opportunities and making it easier to find new homes for retired racehorses. TAKE2 sponsors awards and prize money in Thoroughbred Hunter and Jumper divisions and supports Thoroughbred aftercare initiatives nationwide. The program has expanded quickly, from eight shows in three states in its first year to more than 600 horse shows in 23 states in 2023. To date, more than 2,000 Thoroughbreds have participated in the TAKE2 Program. A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, TAKE2 is co-funded by members of the Thoroughbred industry around the country: New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund; Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Associations in Illinois (through Galloping Out), Maryland (through Beyond the Wire), and Pennsylvania (through Turning for Home); and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company. TAKE2 is a 2023 TCA grantee. For more information, go to