The Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) concluded its 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium on Saturday, October 14. The RRP’s mission is to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in equestrian sports and serving the farms, trainers and organizations that transition them. The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is a training competition designed to showcase the trainability and talent of off-the-track Thoroughbreds and inspire equestrians across a variety of disciplines to consider the Thoroughbred as a competitive or recreational partner.
This year’s symposium showcased hundreds of off-the-track Thoroughbreds across 10 different disciplines, highlighting the breed’s dynamic athleticism and range of abilities. In the Polo Division, nine prospects competed throughout for the top spot, which ultimately went to a 3-year-old chestnut mare named Phlox, trained by long-time symposium supporter Buck Schott.
Phlox earned the top spot in the symposium following the mare’s first ever appearance in a chukker, a testament to her natural polo prowess.
Presented by Thoroughbred Charities, the 2023 symposium began on Wednesday, October 11 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Judged by Chris Stratemann and Robin Sanchez, the Polo Division’s preliminary rounds took place on Wednesday, October 11 and Thursday, October 12, on the Secretariat Polo Field, with riders performing a short working session followed by a stick-and-ball session. Saturday’s finale took place in a covered arena and featured short work, a stick-and-ball session and a single chukker.
Third place recipient Gorman, a 4-year-old bay mare trained by Walter and Buck Schott.
First place in the Polo Division was awarded to Phlox, a three-year-old chestnut mare by Dolphus out of Cacahuatita. Bred in Pennsylvania by Dede McGehee, DVM, and trained by Kentucky professional Buck Schott, the 15.2 hand division champion received a final score of 102.5. In a testament to the mare’s natural polo prowess, Saturday’s game was the mare’s first ever appearance in a chukker.
Second place was awarded to Lets Race Ladys, a 7-year-old mare by Sidney’s Candy out of Mahala and trained by Peter Cumming, with a final score of 94.5. Kentucky bred by Kim Nardelli, Rodney Nardelli and Hans Albrecht, the 15.2 hand bay mare also competed in the Freestyle division, where they placed eighth in the preliminary competition with a bridleless stick-and-ball demonstration.
Fourth place recipient A Little Tappy, a 4-year-old chestnut mare trained by Mary Wright and Esteban Matuz.
Third place was presented to 4-year-old mare Gorman, a 15.3 hand bay by American Freedom out of How Nice, with a final score of 94. Also bred in Kentucky by Dede McGehee, DVM, the bay mare was trained by Walter and Buck Schott of River Mountain Farm in Kentucky.
Another 15.3 hand 4-year-old, A Little Tappy, took fourth place with a score of 90. Bred in Indiana by Ledgerwood Farms, the chestnut mare by Tapiture out of Celebration Time was trained by Mary Wright and Esteban Matuz of the Matuz Polo Team in Florida.
Fifth place recipient Bold Empress, a 3-year-old dark bay mare trained by Mary Wright and Esteban Matuz also earned the Best Conditioned Award.
Fifth place went to Bold Empress, a 3-year-old 16.1 hand dark bay mare by Grey Swallow (IRE) out of Charlie’s Angel (FR). Bred in Kentucky by Willard Glenn Atkinson and trained by Mary Wright and Esteban Matuz of Matuz Polo out of Florida, the mare finished with a score of 81.5 and additionally won the Best Conditioned Award.
Sixth place recipient No Eres Tu Soy Yo, a 3-year-old bay gelding trained by Laura McEvoy.
3-year-old bay gelding No Eres Tu Soy Yo took sixth place with a score of 56.25. Also entered in the Jumper’s division, the 16.2 hand gelding by Smokem out of Love Dare was bred in California by Terry C. Lovingier and trained by West Coast professional Laura McEvoy. McEvoy, who has not played polo since her days at Texas A&M University (1979-1983), traveled all the way from California for the symposium and made a quick stop in Texas for a polo refresher with her former coach, Mike McCleary.
To learn more about the Retired Racehorse Project and read the rest of the symposium’s results, visit therrp.org.
All photos courtesy of ©Retired Racehorse Project.