By Anne Russek

The Virginia Horse Center hosted the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show, showcasing Off the Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB’s) on June 13-14, 2009. The weekend was inspiring and magical with more than forty former race horses who traveled from as far away as Georgia and Pennsylvania. This inaugural hunter/jumper show for OTTB’s is certain to inspire a series of similar events throughout the year.

One of the many crowd pleasers was the oldest horse at the show, 21 year-old chestnut gelding R. Huey, owned by Julia Wendell, and ridden by Hannah Ong. This pair successfully competed in the Jumper Divisions and placed second in the Triple Crown Jumper Stakes. Another crowd favorite was 8 year-old Well Spent, formerly All Game, a grey mare that qualified and placed in both the Hunter and Jumper Stakes with her owner Krista Hodgkin. This mare also carried the youngest competitor at the show, 11 year-old Sarah Vest, to a second place finish in the Blue Horse Charities Walk/Trot Pleasure class.

The W.A. “Jimmy” Croll Jr. Memorial Class was won by the late Hall of Fame trainer’s granddaughter, Billie Rae Croll, riding her OTTB, Simon Says Jump, formerly Speedominator. Billie Rae and Simon Says Jump were also awarded the Bobby Hale Memorial Championship, sponsored by Georganne Hale, for the Laurel Hunter Division.

Another special presentation was made to Bob and Diane Keadle who have provided the funds for the rescue of many thoroughbreds from kill pens across the country. One of the thoroughbreds they rescued two years ago, Lil Orphan Kris, competed at the show with her new owner, Rosanna McMillian, who was also a class sponsor.

The quality of horses and the sportsmanship of the riders, owners and trainers is an indication that OTTB’s offer the racing industry a secondary market for their horses. Let us hope that future OTTB shows will receive even more support from within the racing industry so that these shows can evolve into a yearly series.

Generous sponsorships from the Virginia HBPA, Georganne Hale, Mrs. W.A. “Jimmy” Croll, Jr., Diana Pikulski (TRF), Colonial Downs, and the Maryland Jockey Club, along with others assisted the Virginia Horse Center in presenting this event. The 21 classes consisted of a variety of levels such as Walk/Trot Pleasure, Hunter Over Fences and Power and Speed Jumpers. All events were named after Mid-Atlantic racetracks, and culminated with a $1,000 Colonial Downs Hunter Stakes and a $1,000 Triple Crown Jumper Stakes.

Highlights of the weekend included prizes for competitors in all classes donated by DOVER Saddlery, Stomach Soother, TOBA, CharlesTown Races and Slots, Leather Therapy, Winsome Stables, Hounds Cry Farm, White Rock Farm, and the Chestnut Hill Health Care Foundation. A special Hunter Style Award, sponsored by Sarah Starr and her OTTB Wedonit, was chosen at the judge’s discretion and presented to Ali’s Pal, owned by Jackie Clement and ridden by Sarah West. They received a beautiful Walsh engraved halter along with a $100 donation in their honor to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

The event also featured a delicious Exhibitors’ Dinner on Saturday night and a lunch on Sunday sponsored by VHBPA. There were several Silent Auction items including an 8×10 Watercolor Portrait by artist Sue Simon of Richmond and a day capping with the Rockbridge Hunt. All of the proceeds from the Silent Auction, and a portion of the proceeds from the Blue Horse Charities Pleasure Walk/Trot and Walk/Trot/Canter classes are going to support Blue Horse Charites

Special thanks to our official photographer: Danny Young /Action Shots Photography (540) 574-3207 Harrisonburg, VA

(Editor’s Note: The VTA did not sponsor this event due to lack of resources. We apologized to Anne for our lack of liquidity and did our best to help them promote this worthwhile event. Hopefully, we can be more supportive next year.)