Teenagers And Thoroughbreds, A Winning Combination: Teens from IL & VA Honored with TAKE2 Awards

by | 09.26.2019 | 8:15am
Alyssa Paulette and Always Drama, Paulette Family Photo

Thoroughbreds are tough to ride? Tell that to the two teenagers who guided retired racehorses to win the 2019 TAKE2 High-Score Junior Rider Awards, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA). Alyssa Paulette of Virginia picked up 593 points with Always Drama in the TAKE2 Jumper division, and MacKenna Bochnak of Illinois topped the TAKE2 Hunter division with 100 points on Heart of Gold.

The TAKE2 High-Score Junior Rider Award, presented by TCA, was created to recognize the junior riders competing on Thoroughbreds in nationwide TAKE2-affiliated Hunter and Jumper classes, and to encourage young horsemen and horsewomen to consider the Thoroughbred when looking for their next sport horse. The award is yet another example of the many ways TCA supports the racing industry and retired racehorses.

“We are proud to support TAKE2 in their efforts to encourage sport horse owners to consider a Thoroughbred as their next mount,” said Erin Crady, executive director of TCA. “Thoroughbreds are incredibly versatile and can go on to a multitude of different disciplines after the track. The High-Score Junior Rider Award highlights some of the success that Thoroughbreds can find once their racing days are over. We congratulate Alyssa and MacKenna on their hard work and outstanding accomplishments.”

MacKenna Bochnak started riding at day camp when she was just six years old, and was instantly hooked.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “That was 10 years ago, and I'm still with the same trainer (Andrea Hendricks). I would love to have a career in the sport horse world – what that career would be I have no idea, but probably a trainer or a judge.”

The high school junior is dedicated to her sport, despite a chronic shoulder injury that might prevent her from participating in some athletics, but has not slowed her down in the show ring.

“The injury restricts the movement in my right shoulder, which made it hard for me to excel in other sports,” she explained. “That, in combination with my love for horses, made joining this sport a very easy decision.”

Pennsylvania-bred Heart of Gold, who raced as Rome Is Freezing and is known as Spencer around the barn, made 11 starts in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, winning once and earning $35,366. He was retired from racing at the end of his 3-year-old season in 2012.

“My trainer saw him and thought he had a good brain and a kind eye,” MacKenna said, adding that the bay took some time to acclimate to his new career, but, “Over the course of a little over a year, he moved along pretty well.  He calmed down and about that time I started leasing him. That was almost six years ago.  Now, Spencer is quite literally my best friend, and the most amazing horse a girl could ask for. He is the kind of horse that will do everything you ask him.”

Heart of Gold, bred by Dr. D. W. Frazier, is a half-brother to 2019 TAKE2 Jet Run Award winner Wise Son, who earned the honor for the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association's Turning for Home Program this season. Read more here.

MacKenna will head off to college in a couple of years to study science or engineering, but she will be focused on schools in the Chicago area. “College needs to be relatively close to home, so I can be near my horse,” she explained.

Alyssa Paulette is a 15-year-old, homeschooled honor roll student from Ashland, Virginia. She kicked off her riding career four years ago, and has excelled on hunters and jumpers.

“My mother has almost always had a horse and has shown hunters herself, so it was easy to get started riding,” she explained. “I currently am a working student at the farm where I board with my trainer, Luanne Johnson, who has been instrumental in my success with Drama and my other Thoroughbred, When in Rome, in the jumper ring.”

Alyssa's first love was the hunters, but her trainer convinced her to make the switch to show jumping to accommodate her horse.

“When I started riding with Luanne I had no aspirations to ride jumpers,” she explained. “However, we found out Drama was better suited for the jumper ring. and I was unwilling to sell him. Luanne guided me through the world of tables, jump offs, speed classes and learning a new way of riding my horse.”

She learned her lessons well. In addition to taking the TAKE2 Junior Rider Award in the division, Alyssa and Always Drama finished fourth overall against adults and professionals in the TAKE2 Thoroughbred League standings.

The 9-year-old Always Drama had limited success in racing, making two starts at Charles Town in West Virginia, with one win and $9,700 in earnings. A minor tendon injury ended that career.

“He came to us from David Walters Racing and Ellen Walters, his breeder, in August of 2015,” Alyssa said. “He remained at the track during his recovery from a mild bowed tendon and lived the life of luxury, with carrots anytime anyone passed his stall. He loved his grooms.”

He made the transition to the show ring seamlessly. “His name definitely fits him,” Alyssa said with fondness. “He is opinionated, and guaranteed to look at the first fence of any course, but has become a great kid horse. He served as a leadline mount for a six-year-old, a stand in for a young teen during local equitation finals and took an 11-year-old to her first horse show, all the while competing in the TAKE2 Jumpers.”

Would Alyssa prefer to ride Thoroughbreds or Warmbloods?

“I have been blessed with riding two very nice well-trained Warmbloods owned by Luanne,” she remarked.  “They are fun, but I still prefer the sports car ride of a Thoroughbred.”

Top 4 – TAKE2 Hunter Division
Rider                                 Horse                             Jockey Club Name
MacKenna Bochnak         Heart of Gold                  Rome Is Freezing
Clara Dendtler                  Quintessential                Go Star
Madison Elliot                   Stargazer                       Impy's Star
Alexa Winston                   Lucky Charm                 Lucky Fifty Three

Top 5 – TAKE2 Jumper Division
Rider                                 Horse                                  Jockey Club Name
Alyssa Paulette                 Always Drama                     same
Olive Bethke                     Fast and Furious                  Little Timmy
Lindsey Rogers                 Lark's Tune                          same
Fiona Donnelly                  Drinkin' Song                       same
Charlotte Wiese                Nada Capulet                       Barrion's Vision
For the complete standings, go to: http://www.take2tbreds.com/take2-junior-rider-award/

The champion junior riders will receive trophies, with TAKE2/TCA jackets for the top five junior riders in each division. All junior riders who are enrolled for the award and compete in TAKE2 classes are also eligible for a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship grant from TAKE2. The grant can be used to pay tuition and expenses for higher education anywhere in the U.S. Claire Wheeler, a 15-year-old from Maryland, won the drawing for the 2019 scholarship.

The 2020 TAKE2 Thoroughbred League season is already underway, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. For more information, or to register for the 2020 TAKE2 High-Score Junior Rider Award, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, go to http://www.take2tbreds.com/take2-junior-rider-award/. Enrollment is free!

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