Horowitz On OTTBs, Presented By Excel Equine: OTTBs Inspired Fawcett To Jump Into Racehorse Ownership - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Horowitz On OTTBs, Presented By Excel Equine: OTTBs Inspired Fawcett To Jump Into Racehorse Ownership

Canton Comet and Samantha Fawcett – CanterClix Photo

The Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover has led more people to find their next sporthorse at the racetrack, providing more homes and new careers for OTTBs. It also goes the other way, and the off-track Thoroughbreds are inspiring new people to head to the racetrack.

Like Samantha Fawcett, a lifelong equestrian from Ontario, Canada, who won the Show Jumper discipline for the class of 2020 at last year's Mega Makeover with Canton Comet. In 2021, Fawcett also decided to breed the first OTTB that she ever sourced from the racetrack. Rather than taking Talize to a Warmblood stallion as she originally intended, Fawcett opted to mate the unraced Ontario-bred chestnut Thoroughbred mare with Ontario-bred Thoroughbred stallion Passion for Action. She said her goal is to learn more about horse racing by having her own racehorse before the foal eventually transitions to show jumping.

“This is really jumping into the deep end,” Fawcett said with a laugh.

Fawcett is an example of how participating in the Thoroughbred Makeover has led to trainers with sporthorse backgrounds wanting to become more involved in racing. While the Thoroughbred Makoever primarily focuses on racehorses' viability to transition to new careers, it also sets up a potential for sporthorse trainers to transition to new careers in racing.

This new pipeline can grow the horse racing industry. It can bring the racehorse and sporthorse worlds closer together, united by how incredible Thoroughbreds are as athletes overall, whether that athleticism happens to feature best in racing, eventing, jumping, polo, or any of a number of careers in which the breed can excel.

“Racing has a potential to attract the next member of the industry because of their love for these horses,” said Kirsten Green, executive director for the Retired Racehorse Project. “It could be your next track vet. It could be your next marketing and PR person that works at your farm. It could be any of these people that are out here riding Thoroughbreds and love them. They are all primed to join the industry in some way, shape, or form, whether as a fan or actively working in the industry.”

In November 2017, Fawcett, whose primary sporthorse disciplines are hunter/jumpers and dressage, started training her first Thoroughbred off the track after the connections of Talize decided to forgo a racing career for her following an injury. Until this point, Fawcett's exposure to racing included occasionally attending Woodbine Racetrack as a fan.

She intended to take Talize to the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover but said her plans changed after her father passed away that year.

However, Fawcett was in Kentucky in 2019 for her first Thoroughbred Makeover with Hemmin and Hawin, a grey Ontario-bred gelding, finishing 13th of 94 in show jumping.

Fawcett was then part of the class of 2020 at last year's Mega Makeover with Canton Comet and won the Show Jumper discipline as part of a field of 38.

Being part of the Thoroughbred Makeover and embracing the racing background of her OTTBs led Fawcett to rethink her original breeding plans for Talize.

“I thought that I would breed her to a Warmblood and cross her to have a nice jumper,” Fawcett said. “I kind of got talking and was like, 'You know, it might actually be interesting to breed her to another Thoroughbred and bring up our own racehorse.' And, I also was really thinking that would be an interesting way to get a different perspective on the racing industry.”

Talize and Samantha Fawcett

Fawcett bred Talize to Passion for Action with the vision that the foal would become a show jumper after racing. Fawcett can cite several racehorse breeding lines that she believes produce strong sporthorse prospects, like Storm Cat, Stormy Atlantic, and Speightstown. Speightstown is the sire of Passion for Action. There's a potential market for racehorse stallion owners to promote their horses as sporthorse sires as well.

In addition to breeding Talize, Fawcett acquired the stallion Muskoka Storm with the idea of introducing prominent racehorse lines for breeding sporthorses.

“We purchased [him] for the Makeover,” she said, “but we were also thinking of being able to offer him as a stallion to cross with Warmblood mares as a way to bring in a very high-quality breeding line into the sporthorses in a way that you're not going to spend $150,000 to breed your Warmblood mare to Medaglia d'Oro.”

Muskoka Storm sold for $235,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in 2018. The bay stallion is a grandson of Medaglia d'Oro by Violence.

Fawcett is an example of how the racehorse and sporthorse worlds can come together. She advocates for understanding horses' racing careers, what they learned on the track, and their race record with the belief this can help people decide which OTTB is right for them. She also believes cross-training in other sports can benefit a racing career.

“That is an intriguing aspect of breeding our own Thoroughbred racehorse that interests me,” Fawcett said. “How could some of that cross-training help them? I've heard of a couple horses, not so much recently. On the offseason, we could bring them home and play around. They really start to condition in a different way, and if you can have the Thoroughbreds have a difference in conditioning and you're not always working the same muscles and joints, maybe that helps with some longevity.”

From purchasing her first OTTB from the track less than five years ago, Fawcett said that now 10 out of the 12 horses in her barn are former racehorses. Fawcett will compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover in 2022. In 2023, she will start to undergo her own “makeover” to a racing career.

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