More than 60 Thoroughbreds, most of them former racehorses, will be competing April 20-21 in the first Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show at the Mission Viejo Horse Park in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Designed to give ex-racehorses a chance for a second career, the show has attracted such former runners as graded stakes-placed We All Love Aleyna and allowance winners Blaze N Waggin and Living Word.
Nicole Schwartz, board president of Neigh Savers Foundation, which works to find homes and second careers for racehorses, came up with the idea for a horse show series. It evolved out of roundtable discussions held by the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), and the Siegel CARMA Foundation is sponsoring the show.
"Thoroughbreds are smart, sincere, and versatile," said Schwartz. "We wanted to provide a venue that would give these horses an affordable opportunity to get back in the show ring. We wanted to make it accessible for weekend warriors and pleasure riders, but competitive enough for the top trainers. These are Thoroughbreds only, competing against themselves. We also hope that it can increase the marketability of these horses."
The show features a $1,500 Hunter Derby, $1,500 Jumper Stakes, and $1,500 Dressage Challenge. Classes include a full range of hunter-jumper and dressage events, as well as several Western classes and gymkhana events such as a dollar bill class and an egg and spoon class.
Lucinda Mandella of CARMA said that the Siegel CARMA Foundation came about "through a generous gift from Mace Siegel in 2008." Siegel, who died in 2011, campaigned numerous stakes winners in California and nationally and co-founded the Thoroughbred Owners of California. His daughter, Samantha, continues their racing stable today.
Any proceeds from the shows will go toward future shows and to benefit off-the-track Thoroughbreds through CARMA and it's after-care partners. Schwartz and Mandella said that the plan is to offer three shows annually in the series, with the second one slated for late July.
The show includes a unique class called Spirit of a Champion. It is for horses who are either limited to walk/trot classes or are unable to compete due to physical limitations.
"It takes a special person to take on a horse with limitations," said Schwartz. "We wanted to honor and celebrate that with the Spirit of a Champion class."
Susie Harris, owner of Blaze N Waggin, submitted her horse's story for the class. The 2005 gelding is by Cherokee Run—Checkerspot, by Affirmed, and raced seven times before a fractured sesamoid ended his racing career. C.T. Grether Inc. owned him, and Howard Zucker and Steve Sherman trained him in Southern California and Northern California, respectively.
"I think it's important for people to know that even though he had a severe injury, he was able to be rehabbed slowly and has turned into a wonderful riding horse," Harris wrote about Blaze. "I believe we have also developed a deep bond. Although Blaze will never be a show horse, I don't mind. Just being able to lead him into a ring at a trot is a great accomplishment that might not have been possible if not for his previous owner and wonderful trainer who gave him a chance.
"I would like to celebrate his overcoming his injury and celebrate finding the horse of my lifetime."