MAKEOVER GIVES RETIRED RACEHORSES CHANCE FOR SECOND CAREER

by Mike Henry
Losing a well-liked horse via the claiming box is part of Thoroughbred racing.

But that didn’t make it easier for Chelsey Moysey to handle when a rival trainer took her beloved gelding Determinate from the barn of trainer William “Buff” Bradley for $16,000 near the end of the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Downs meeting.

Chelsey Moysey and Determinate take a jump
Assistant trainer Chelsey Moysey and Determinate take a jump during a recent practice session at Copper Creek Stables in Oldsmar

“I broke him and took him to the yearling and 2-year-old sales, and I was even grooming him. We don’t usually get attached to them, but there was always something special about that horse,” said Moysey, one of Bradley’s assistants. “He bit me every chance he could, but I really liked him.”

Moysey kept close tabs on Determinate, which was claimed last May at Gulfstream Park for $12,500 by Tampa Bay Downs trainer Sandino R. Hernandez, Jr., for client Amaty Racing Stables. Four races later – including a victory Sept. 3 at Gulfstream at the $8,000 claiming level – Moysey received the call she had been hoping for.

“Luckily, I was good enough friends to tell Sandino that when the horse was done racing I wanted a chance to take him back,” she said, “and Dennis (Amaty) called me at the end of September to give me the first chance to buy him.”

The biggest stumbling block was the cost, but Moysey managed to scrape together the $3,000 purchase price by selling one of her ponies. She had relocated by then to Churchill Downs with Bradley’s stable, so she enlisted a friend to pick up Determinate in south Florida and transport him to Ocala, where Moysey’s mother, former trainer Dawn Coffman, resides.

Since returning to Tampa Bay Downs last fall, Moysey has brought the now-5-year-old Determinate along gradually, working with him on her off days to transition him into a show horse.

Moysey and Determinate are entered in the 2016 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, a four-day event organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP). The Thoroughbred Makeover will take place at the Kentucky Horse Park Oct. 27-30.

The event was created to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds and to inspire trainers to secure the horses’ futures with the education they need for a second career. Makeover horses must be registered with The Jockey Club and have a lip tattoo, must have raced or had a published workout after Oct. 1, 2014 and must not have started training for a new career before Jan. 1, 2016, other than a maximum of 15 allowable rides.

The 22-year-old Moysey and Determinate will compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover in the Amateur Division. She has chosen the Show Hunter Class as their Primary Discipline and Show Jumper as their Secondary Discipline.

Moysey participated in last year’s Makeover with another former Bradley racehorse, Fourosixoone, which suffered a fractured sesamoid in training that hastened the end of his racetrack career.

After rehabilitating for more than a year at Bradley’s Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Ky., the now-5-year-old Fourosixoone began training with Moysey last May for the 2015 Makeover. Despite their late start, Fourosixoone and Moysey finished ninth in the Show Hunter division among 60 original entrants. More important, he is back at Indian Ridge preparing for a summer of horse shows.

“We know several big trainers on the ‘A’ circuit who love him, but he won’t pass the vet test, so we can’t sell him,” said Maria Kabel, another Bradley assistant. “I don’t want to sell him at this point, anyway, so we are going to be showing him all summer.”

On typical off-days from conditioning members of Bradley’s string at Tampa Bay Downs, Moysey and Kabel will make the short drive from the backside to Copper Creek Stables to continue Determinate’s lessons. Copper Creek is owned by Scott Letts, whose 16-year-old daughter, Stephanie, is an accomplished show-horse competitor.

On a recent outing, Moysey and Kabel were joined by trainer Mandy Ness and Kasey Jean, the assistant trainer to Mandy’s husband, Jamie Ness. Mandy was working with Conecuh, a 10-year-old gelding who also serves as a pony horse for her husband (Mandy plans to select another horse for the Thoroughbred Makeover).

Jean is teaming with Master of Humor, a 6-year-old gelding which retired at the outset of the current Tampa Bay Downs meeting with 10 victories from 39 starts and career earnings of more than $130,000.

Mandy, a former jockey, will compete in the Amateur Division, with Show Hunter as her Primary Discipline and Freestyle as her Secondary Discipline.


Assistant trainer Kasey Jean with Master of Humor















Assistant trainer Kasey Jean with Master of Humor

Jean and Master of Humor will compete in the Professional Division, with Show Hunter their Primary Discipline and Freestyle their Secondary Discipline.

Kabel plans to enter Myositis Dan, a 5-year-old graded stakes-placed horse previously trained by Tom Proctor. Myositis Dan will be ridden by one of Kabel’s protégés from Kentucky, 16-year-old Maggie O’Bryan.

Also participating at Copper Creek during a recent informal session (although they are not entered in the Makeover) were jockey Janelle Campbell with her retired racehorse, 10-year-old gelding Primal Humor, and Savannah Henry, a daughter of retired jockeys William Henry and Lisa Misiewicz, with 20-year-old My Best Man.

Members of the group also participate in monthly “Run for the Ribbons” horse shows at the Cedar Lock Farm in Morriston, Fla., managed by Laurine Fuller-Vargas.

On this day at Copper Creek, Kabel, who works with young show-horse riders at Indian Ridge when she returns to Kentucky, tells Campbell to have faith her horse, “Homie,” will pick up jumping on his own. The bars are set at about 2 feet to instill confidence.

“Let him figure it out. Just keep a nice, solid leg. … keep him steady, steady, steady, now … OK, don’t be mad. Just turn around and if he stops at it again, I want you to stop and let him see it.” Homie stops again, but after one of the two bars is removed, he handles the jump easily.

“Good! Now tell him how much you love him and he’s great,” Kabel tells Campbell.

As they put their horses through their paces, the emphasis is no longer on what they accomplished on the racetrack. Finding a suitable second career is the objective, and RRP and the Thoroughbred Makeover give racehorse owners another option to ensure their horses’ long-term happiness and usefulness.

Thoroughbred Makeover
Thoroughbred Makeover entrants Master of Humor, left, and Determinate (photo courtesy Joelyn Rigione)

“Whenever we have a racehorse that looks as if it’s done running, we try to turn them into a pony horse first,” Mandy Ness said. “We did that with Master of Humor, and he did well. Then we move them into the show ring, where Kasey has a lot of training.

“Jamie, Kasey and I believe in trying to place these animals that are so good to us in good homes when their racing careers are done,” she added. “They are our babies.”

Jean, a 28-year-old Massachusetts native, competed in the show arena as a youngster with hunters and jumpers, and in college she branched out into ground eventing and dressage. When Ness approached her about entering the Thoroughbred Makeover, she jumped at the opportunity.

“We spent a lot of time looking at candidates, horses that were either tailing off or had an injury that was going to limit them as racehorses,” Jean said. “I had liked riding ‘Max’ (Master of Humor) as a racehorse. He’s real sweet and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.

“I was in Delaware when Mandy called after he ran his last race and told me he had just kind of galloped around the track. I agreed he would be a good RRP horse because he is tall with long legs and he is brave about going over obstacles. And he is interested about learning new things,” Jean said.

Master of Humor victory























Master of Humor drew a throng with his victory last April at the Oldsmar oval (photo courtesy SV Photography)

“With all of our horses, it’s always in the back of our minds about how we are going to place them after they’re done running,” she added. “The Thoroughbred Makeover is a way we can help educate people that these horses are brave, they’re smart and they can perform just as well in the show ring as the big European warm-bloods.”

Ness says her learning curve in the show ring is just as steep as that of the former racehorses. “As a jockey, I never jumped anything on purpose,” she said, grinning. “I’ve jumped the inside fence and the outside fence, and whatever was flying across the track, but to do it on purpose. … I’m learning and getting comfortable with it, and Kasey and Maria are really helping and encouraging me.”

Moysey, whose parents both worked in the sport – her mother as a trainer, her father John Coffman as a jockey – also has an extensive background with show horses. She was an English rider until she was 12, then competed as a junior barrel racer for a few years. She also worked in cutting-horse events and dressage before returning to hunters and jumpers when she joined the Bradley team three years ago.

About six weeks ago, Moysey took Determinate to a show in Morriston at Cedar Lock, where he won a first-place ribbon in the Beginner class over 18-inch vertical jumps. “It was very exciting, and I was very proud of him because I hadn’t had much time to work with him,” she said.

Determinate victory
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Assistant trainers Chelsey Moysey, pink, and Maria Kabel, sunglasses, below, celebrate a victory with Determinate (photo courtesy SV Photography)
 
“A lot of people don’t understand how athletic and versatile Thoroughbreds are. They can do anything that any other breed can,” Moysey said. “We train them to race, and they are naturally athletic animals who have a lot of groundwork underneath them; think how many people handle them every day. Thoroughbreds can be used not only for jumping and eventing, but for Western events and cattle work. I had friends growing up that had barrel-racing horses that were Thoroughbreds.”

Ness and Jean are also advocates of the Thoroughbred breed’s versatility. Last summer in Delaware, they used two pony horses, both retired Thoroughbreds, to herd cattle during a team sorting competition. “We try to expose them to everything we can, so that when it is time for a horse to move on, we can say ‘This is what this horse has done,’ ” Ness said.

“Our plan after the Thoroughbred Makeover is to sell Master of Humor, because I think he has the potential to be a wonderful show horse,” Jean said. “We want to show him off and find the right person to continue his career forward.”

Thoroughbred Makeover disciplines include Barrel Racing; Competitive Trails; Dressage; Eventing; Field Hunter; Freestyle; Polo; Show Hunter; Show Jumping; and Working Ranch. The environment at the Kentucky Horse Park will be brand-new to many of the Thoroughbreds brought in to compete.

“It’s like a little country kid making his first trip to the city,” Moysey said. “It can be very intimidating, especially for horses coming from the racetrack. On the track, we tack them up, get on them and train them, then they cool off and go back to their stalls. At the shows, you have to come back after performing and wait for eight other horses before you go back into the ring.”

One of the 10 discipline winners will be chosen by the audience as “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred,” based on the readings of an electronic applause meter. The connections of that horse will receive $10,000. There will be $100,000 in total prize money distributed, with the top five finishers in each discipline and the top junior and amateur in each division earning prizes.