Equestrian and racehorse breeder/owner Nikki Fry is as well-rounded of a Kentucky horsewoman as they come. She and her husband own and operate Lexington-based Template Farm, located along picturesque Paris Pike. There, they breed and raise their own Thoroughbreds, and before they make their way to the racetrack, Fry gives them their first lessons under saddle as well.
The foundation she gives their young horses comes from the foundation she received as a rider – an enviable one at that.
“I grew up competing in the 1970s and got to train with great riders [and Olympians] like Frank Chapot, Anne Kursinski and George Morris,” said Fry, who remains active in the hunter/jumper show world competing in both non-rated and rated horse shows. “I always loved showing and racing, and back then Thoroughbreds were king in the show ring.”
Template Farm is also where Fry does the majority of her training on her show horses, and this past weekend at the Kentucky Summer Classic, Fry competed aboard her racehorse-turned-show hunter, Rei, who proved that a Thoroughbred ex-racer can hang with the big boys (warmbloods) and hold his own in their sandbox.
A big, flashy son of Brazilian-bred runner-turned-American champion and stallion Leroidesanimaux, Rei caught the eye of more than a few horsemen during his formative years, selling as a 2-year-old for $490,000 at the OBS March Sale.
Fry and her husband bought into the horse, but his brilliance at the sale didn't translate to stakes-caliber prowess at the track. Racing predominantly at the allowance level, his two wins came at Woodbine in the first and last starts of his 10-race career.
“He just never progressed through the ranks the way we'd hoped,” said Fry. “Deuce Greathouse, who headed up the partnership that owned him and had ridden show horses as a child before getting into Thoroughbred bloodstock, knew I liked the look of him and let me have him when he was done racing.”
In addition to a lovely way of going, what got Fry thinking about his potential as a show hunter was his physique, as he was taller and more robust than typical Thoroughbreds.
She was also a fan of his sire's international lineage, as she has found many European and South American-bred horses to have thicker bone and more substance physically.
“He looks like a Warmblood, with his unusual markings and build,” she said. “They don't have to be tall to be an athlete, but with him that is the case.”
Recently gelded when he arrived at Template Farm, Rei was given several months off before being introduced to his new style of training.
“When I got on him at first, he was very eager, trying to gallop sideways and wanting to go, but it was like one day things just clicked and he figured out what I was asking of him,” she said. “He just has a wonderful rhythm at the canter and loves to jump.”
That wonderful rhythm and big jump have earned the pair accolades and awards in not only the TAKE2 Thoroughbred classes throughout the region but in open competition as well.
“We do the Thoroughbred hunters and the adult hunters. He loves his job and is very intelligent,” said Fry. “We've qualified to compete at the T. I. P. Championships [in the 3' hunter division] next month at the Kentucky Horse Park, too.”
Regardless of whether it is at the track or in the show ring, Fry is simply a fan of the equine athlete. She enjoys going to the Thoroughbreds sales and prospecting not only for the races, but for the show ring, looking past the pedigrees to hone in on individuals with good physical attributes.
It was at the Keeneland January Sale in 2013 that she found Bon Heir, a filly who would become a milestone-maker for the Frys. Purchased under their Template Farm banner for just $1,500, the filly would go onto give Fry and her husband their first win at Keeneland.
“A lot of it is about the topline and hind end,” said Fry. “An athlete is an athlete, whether they'll be racing or jumping. Even as a weanling and yearling, you can tell what their angles will be and can tell a lot by their walk. I really enjoy picking them out at a young age and watching what they become.”
Born: April 13, 2010
State Bred: Kentucky
Sire: Leroidesanimaux (BRZ)
Sale History: Sold at FTKOCT as a yearling for $70,000; Sold at OBSMAR as a 2YO for $490,000
Race Record: 10-2-1-3
Race Earnings: $91,869
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. She is the go-to food source for a dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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