Strong New York presence at Thoroughbred Makeover

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Aussie Prayer, a 9-year-old mare bred by Michael Shanley who earned $216,441, is among a strong group of New York-breds in the Thoroughbred Makeover. Photo courtesy of Retired Racehorse Project.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Kentucky is facing a New York-bred invasion this week as off-track Thoroughbreds descend on the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington for the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America.

An event created to show off the versatility of retired racehorses, the Makeover has 10 different disciplines for horses to compete in with entrants allowed to choose up to two. After the cancelation of the Makeover in 2020, this year is a “Mega Makeover” combining the 2020 and 2021 classes. To be eligible for the Makeover, a horse had to have worked or raced after July 1, 2018 for the 2020 group and July 1, 2019 for the 2021 group. The event runs from Tuesday through Sunday.

The Makeover concludes Saturday and Sunday with Finale for each respective year. The top five in each discipline go on to the Finale to compete for the title of Thoroughbred Makeover Champion and a cash prize of $10,000. The Finales will be livestreamed on RRP’s website with the class of 2020 competing Saturday and 2021 Sunday.

Want to attend the Makeover? The event is free Tuesday through Friday and tickets are $10 per day on Saturday and Sunday, with weekend passes available for $15.

Before we get to the competition, it’s worth looking at just how big an impact New York-breds have on the training competition this year.

  • 116 retired New York-bred racehorses were registered for the combined 2020-2021 ‘Mega Makeover’ in late July – the second most of any state. Sixty-four of them entered the Makeover when final entries were taken the following month. New-York-breds made up 12.2 percent of all entries at the Mega Makeover. (Four horses have scratched since entries closed but New York is still represented by a large group).
  • 63 different breeding partnerships bred the 64 horses. Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan were the only ones to breed two in partnership, but Christopher Shelli, Dr. Jerry Bilinski, Hidden Lake and Sequel all had their names in various partnerships on two different horses.
  • Six New York-bred Take The Lead graduates are entered in the competition: Excluded, Golden Giant, Hard D S C, Inspector Henning, Ragnar Lothbrok and Win the Shake. As of Oct. 8, all six were still planning on competing. The six won a combined $265,584 when making 52 starts with six wins and 10 other top-three finishes. Excluded provided $140,190 of those earnings. In their second careers, they are showing in four of the 10 disciplines offered with most of them in the hunter/jumper disciplines.
  • Though they’ve moved on to a second career, many of the horses entered were productive racehorses. The combined average earnings for the 64 entered is $52,398. Broken down into the different classes, those competing in the 2020 division averaged $45,306 for 22 horses and 2021 averages $56,113 for 42 horses. Eleven of the horses competing earned $100,000 or more.
  • Build to Suit, champion New York-bred sprinter in 2019, is among ex-racehorses from the Empire State competing in the Thoroughbred Makeover. NYRA Photo.

    The highest earner is 2019 Champion New York-bred Sprinter Build to Suit, who made $352,390 with a record of 10 top three finishers in 13 starts. Bred by Spendthrift Farm LLC, Build to Suit represents the 2021 class with the tough racehorse Aussie Prayer leading the 2020 class with $216,441. Aussie Prayer, a 9-year-old mare bred by Michael Shanley, raced 40 times with seven victories and 16 other top-three finishes.

  • As of Oct. 8, 60 New York-breds were still entered in the Makeover with entries in all 10 disciplines offered. The discipline with the most New York-bred entries is Dressage with 21, followed by 18 each in Show Jumping and Eventing. Show Hunters has 14, while 10 are entered in Barrel Racing, seven in Competitive Trail, six in Freestyle, three in Ranch Work, two in Field Hunters and one in Polo. Forty horses are competing in two events with 20 just contesting one.
  • Wondering which sire has the most New York-breds in the show after scratches? That honor goes to Sequel New York’s Mission Impazible, who has six competing. He has a versatile group showing with his competitors entered for Barrel Racing (three), Show Hunter (two), Show Jumping, Eventing, Competitive Trail, and Freestyle. Freud and Big Brown are tied for second at three each with Honorable Dillion the only other New York-based sire to have more than one entries. In all, 46 different stallions sire the New York-breds in the competition.

NYTB is joined by NYRA and NYTHA in sponsoring the $2,500 Empire State Success Story prize for the competition’s leading New York-bred. Find out more about the Thoroughbred Makeover and the horses entered at

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