Several times, Elisa Wallace has come tantalizingly close to winning the top prize at the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, but things have never quite gone her way in the Finale.
This year, she doubled her chances by finishing first and third in the initial round of the Eventing competition and qualifying two horses for the Finale. In the end, it was her third-placed mount, Reloaded, who rose to the occasion and topped the division.
Then it was up to the audience, and Wallace mobilized her many fans on social media to cast their votes for the 2013 gelding (Magna Graduate—Curious Cat, Tale Of The Cat) who earned $20,177 in 19 starts on the track.
As the results were announced, she pumped her fist and took off on solo victory lap.
“I have been pretty good at winning on the preliminary day, but I've lost on the Finale day,” Wallace said. “I knew I had some class horses coming and I thought I had a shot.”
Wallace, of Jasper, Georgia, has already earned plenty of accolades—she and her off-track Thoroughbred four-star event horse, Simply Priceless, have completed the Kentucky Three-Day Event three times, with their best finish being eighth in 2016, and they've also competed at Badminton and Burghley in England.
But Wallace, a professional event rider and trainer who also competes in mustang training competitions, has made time in her schedule to come to the Thoroughbred Makeover every year since she was first asked to judge the Freestyle division in 2015. “I was like ‘Oh no, I need to do this!' ” she recalled.
“I think it's a great place to train—when are you gonna get that atmosphere with a young horse? On top of that, people like to watch the transformation [from racehorse to sport horse] and it gets the word out about the Thoroughbreds,” she said. “It's fun. For me, I never see it as the end is the [Makeover]. It's just another place to go train. And, you know, it's a bonus when the horses do well.”
Wallace competes Reloaded for owner Michelle Chisholm, who also owned her 2017 Makeover mount, Sir Teddy.
“Basically my daughter fell in love with [Elisa and Simply Priceless], and I said I want to see this whole process happen, how you bring one off the track. And Elisa is who I called,” Chisholm said.
“He's a pretty special dude,” Wallace said of Reloaded, whom she competes under the show name Sniper. Kelly Lupton found the horse at the racetrack and Chisholm bought him in September 2017 via reseller Jessica Redman. He had a few months off and went to Wallace in December, and then did his first recognized beginner novice level event after just nine off-track rides.
“He's super talented, very athletic. He can be a handful at times, but you put him to work and he's amazing,” Wallace said. “I have high hopes for him; I think he's really talented. I think he could be a four-star horse, which you don't oftentimes feel that but I think he's got it.
“Thoroughbreds are amazing horses; my four-star horse do anything for me. Give them something to go do, and they take that deep breath and they'll do anything for you,” she continued, her voice cracking. “It's hard for me to talk about without crying; it's just something that they do. People ask me why I deal with mustangs and Thoroughbreds, and that's why. And they're very similar that way. They're always the underdog.”
Wallace and Reloaded also competed in the Freestyle division, where they finished 17th. Their routine included liberty work and also incorporated one of Wallace's mustangs, Fledge.
Popular ex-racehorse and son of Zenyatta Cozmic One finished fourth out of 97 entries in the show jumper division with rider Isabela de Sousa. Retired jockey Rosie Napravnik and mount I'malreadythere finished third out of 95 entries in the eventing division.
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