The Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event organizers and the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' & Owners' Association (FTBOA) have teamed up to announce a new award created to highlight the success of retired racehorses in second careers. The $1,000 award will go to the top-placed Florida-connected horse and rider competing in the Three-Day Event at Ocala Jockey Club on November 15 through 18. The Event presents a stepping stone for Ocala to the world stage of equestrian sports and three-day eventing, attracting world class riders to the Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event as a qualifier for top level competitions, such as the just-completed 2018 World Equestrian Games.
“The FTBOA believes the care and support of retired thoroughbreds is a common sense responsibility shared by all who participate in the racing and breeding industry,” said FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell. “This high profile, award winning event is among several that support and promote the versatility and marketability of retired thoroughbreds.
Kicked off in 2016, the event provided $15,000 in prize funds to participating thoroughbreds, to attract the use of off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) in second careers. The FTBOA was involved from the inception. Staff consulted with organizers, helped connect organizers to community leaders, and volunteered onsite to ensure the 2016 event was a success. The concept worked. The 2016 event boasted that 27% of the horses competing were Thoroughbreds, compared to a 6.5% average for two other Ocala-based three-day events.
Since then, the Event has grown and was recognized with the 2017 Small Market Event of the Year award by the Florida Sports Foundation. The Florida Sports Foundation, the state's leading sports promotion and development organization, created this award as one of six awarded annually to recognize Florida's communities and sports commissions for their outstanding efforts in the state's sports tourism.
“A goal of the competition is to attract equestrian sport competitors' interest to own and value off-the-track Thoroughbreds,” said Pavla Nygaard, the owner and president of the Ocala Jockey Club and Thor-Bred Stables, along with her husband Erik. She continued, “Off-the-track Thoroughbreds need second careers and great owners. It's win-win for both sides.”
The goal of attracting top equestrian sport competitors has been attained. It is a popular destination for top-level riders with four of the five 2018 U.S. Eventing World Equestrian Team members having ridden in one or both of the first two editions of this event. The CIC3* course and newly added CCI3* course is designed by Olympic Silver Medalist Clayton Fredericks, along with Mike Etherington-Smith, former head of British Eventing, and the course designer for the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games, as co-designer. Having this talent onsite means Thoroughbreds are showcased to the elite sports set.
The retired Thoroughbred award is just the latest initiative that focuses on the versatility of thoroughbreds. In 2014, FTBOA began partnering with Run for the Ribbons Horse Shows that promote the retraining of Thoroughbreds in the state of Florida into second careers as hunters and jumpers. Horse show organizer, OTTB enthusiast, and Thoroughbred owner, Laurine Fuller-Vargas, expanded the program to add the Florida Thoroughbred Transformation Expo in 2017 held at the Florida Horse Park and Exposition Center. FTBOA has supported the program since its inception.
Almost two decades ago, the FTBOA partnered with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the Florida Department of Corrections to establish Second Chance Farm at the Lowell Correctional Institute, a first of its kind in Florida and the only in the nation for women. Approximately 15 women are enrolled each session to earn an equine certification degree and upon release are considered for employment on horse farms across the state. Many of the participants had never worked with a horse before starting the program. Part of the experience is caring for the more than 50 retired Florida thoroughbred racehorses at the facility.
The event partnership is a perfect match, since Pavla Nygaard is a strong supporter of retired Thoroughbred opportunities. She serves on the board of the Retired Racehorse Project and the Ocala Jockey Club recently sponsored the National Makeover and Symposium hosting a large-scale silent auction to support OTTB programs.
The third annual Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event will run November 15-18, 2018. $15,000 of the total prize fund will be allocated to top-placing Thoroughbreds in each of the four competition divisions (CCI3*, CIC3*, CCI2*, CCI1*).
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