Demonstrating just what retired racehorses can do, Sterling captured first- and second-place finishes in the TAKE2 Jumper classes at the Kentucky National Horse Show last week, surging to the lead in the last event on the program's schedule to earn the TAKE2 High-Score Thoroughbred Jumper Award for 2013.
“I'm so proud of him!” said his owner, Megan Northrop.
His stellar performances at the Kentucky National brought Sterling's point total for the year to 82. Tied for second in the TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Jumper standings were Catherine Cullen's Isabella G. and Carol Traver's Incanto, who ended the season with 50 points apiece. As the High-Score Thoroughbred Jumper, Sterling was awarded $1,500 in prize money, a dress sheet and the tricolor high-score sash.
Now eight, Sterling was a solid racehorse, making 35 starts and winning seven races under his Jockey Club name, Roman Silver. When he showed signs of slowing down, Megan's husband, Dr. Foster Northrop, stepped in to find him a new career.
“My husband is a vet, he works primarily on racehorses at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, and at Palm Meadows in Florida in the winter, but he also cares for show horses when time allows it,” Megan explained. “A colleague knew about this horse—he'd done well at the track, but he started racing at lower levels. It was time to find him something else to do.”
The initial plan was to sell him as a show horse prospect. There were no takers, so he joined the small Northrop string.
“My background is three-day eventing, so I've re-schooled Thoroughbreds almost all of my riding career,” Megan said. “Now that I'm married and have three small children, I concentrate on getting them started off the track, and finding the discipline that best suits them, whether it's fox hunting or eventing or jumping. I work with a couple of young horses at a time on our farm [outside of Louisville], and I really enjoy it.”
Sterling adapted easily to the change in lifestyle.
“He needed a little time off, so we turned him out and gave him a chance to just be a horse, then started light work with him,” Megan said. “He didn't go into full training until just this past winter, but he needed to be back at work. Thoroughbreds really like to have a job.”
￼The horsewoman did the groundwork before reaching out to trainer Debbie Stephens for help.
“His training has been a joint effort,” Megan remarked. “He comes home with me and I keep him schooled when Debbie is busy at the horse shows in Lexington. But Debbie shows him, and she has been so generous with her time and her talent. She's put so much into him. This is the third Thoroughbred I've brought to her, and she has been amazing with each one. I can't thank her enough.”
Kudos also go out to Northrop Equine, which has sponsored Sterling's second career.
“It's not just my husband, it is everyone in the practice,” Megan said. “It's what they are all about. They focus not just on keeping the horses sound to race, but on providing them with longevity, so they can have careers after the track. They are dedicated to the welfare of the horse—they want to give the horses every opportunity for long, useful and happy lives.”
The TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program, created by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, New York Racing Association and New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., offered Sterling the perfect venue for showing off his new skills. In its second year, TAKE2 was expanded from eight shows in three states in
2012 to more than 50 shows in 18 states for 2013. The classes are designed as a launching pad for retired racehorses just getting started in the show ring.
￼“I'm thrilled about TAKE2,” Megan said. “It's wonderful that someone took the time and effort to get Thoroughbred classes back into the A-level show circuit. TAKE2 has taken the reins to promote the return of the Thoroughbred to the show ring at this level. I hope more people will see that Thoroughbreds can do this, and that you can make a little money and have a good time with them.”
She added, “The three-day eventers know these horses work for them. TAKE2 will help encourage the show jumpers and the professional hunter people to take a chance on them. You don't have to make a large investment to get a Thoroughbred off the track. It takes a very, very small investment and a bit of time and attention—it's a great way to have a nice horse in your barn.”
New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association President Rick Violette Jr., who spearheaded the creation of the TAKE2 program, agrees. “The whole idea behind TAKE2 was to show people that retired racehorses are a valuable commodity,” Violette said. “Sterling is a prime example. He raced until he was six and made 35 starts, but still had so much left to give when he left the track. And he is no exception. The two horses that tied for second in the standings, Isabella G. and Incanto, made more than 20 starts each. Thoroughbreds are born athletes, and they are ideally suited to second careers as hunters and jumpers. TAKE2 is helping to get that message out there.”
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