Icabad Crane, a nine-year-old gelding who ran third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes, returned to Pimlico Race Course on Sunday, Oct. 5, to win the America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred contest sponsored by EQUUS Foundation, taking home the winner’s share of the $10,000 purse.
The contest, organized as part of the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover, paired 10 top trainers with 10 Thoroughbred ex-racehorses and showed their progress throughout the summer on the RRP’s website. Each team represented an equestrian discipline: Polo, Show Hunter, Eventing, Ranch Work, Steeplechase, Fox Hunter, Show Jumper, Barrel Racing, Dressage and Pony Club.
With 10,480 people voting online in a very tight race, Team Icabad pulled out all the stops to win. A series of video endorsements from his former jockeys, past trainer and current owner Graham Motion, current trainer and rider Olympian Phillip Dutton, and Phillip’s 13-year-old daughter Olivia, contributed to his popularity, but the on-track performance sealed the win. Jumping a five stride line of jumps in four, five, six, seven, and eight strides proved just how responsive this great horse has become, but when Olivia got on and showed the horse’s generosity and kindness with some beautiful work on the flat, Icabad truly became America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
“He is very adjustable and such a sensible horse,” Dutton said. “The last time he was at Pimlico was when he ran in the Preakness Stakes in 2008, so to give it a go in front of the grandstands says a hell of a lot about the horse,” he said.
“The whole afternoon was pretty incredibly inspiring watching these off-track Thoroughbreds–where their lives have gone and what the other trainers have been able to achieve with them in all these other disciplines,” Phillip said.
At the end of the day on Sunday, it came down to just 120 votes between Icabad and Pookie’s Princess, with trainer Patrick King demonstrating Western Dressage, a bit of reining, working with a tarp over her head, work with the Garocha pole, and lying down on the track at the end for Patrick to dismount.
Close behind were Discreet Dancer, trained by Olympic show jumper Armand Leone representing New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, and D’Sauvage of MidAtlantic Horse Rescue demonstrating side saddle, show hunter and leadline. All 10 contestants had large followings rooting for them and all went home proud.
“What happened on the track today was a gift from Thoroughbred horses to people everywhere,” said RRP President Steuart Pittman. “They showed us their souls, their generosity and their elegance. We are grateful to our sponsors, our host, our participants, and to all of the racing, equestrian and mainstream local media outlets for spreading this story to millions of readers, viewers and listeners. The demand for these horses after racing is growing and that is our gift back to the horses. ”
The America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred contest was just one part of a weekend-long event celebrating Thoroughbreds off the track. Now in its second year, the RRP’s Thoroughbred Makeover is the national gathering of the farms, organizations and trainers who transition these horses to second careers. Morning seminars covered training, health care, and the business side of acquiring, training and placing horses with new owners. The TCA Thoroughbred Marketplace showcased 48 Thoroughbreds for sale or adoption, giving owners the opportunity to present the horses to spectators and connect with buyers from the region.
The event was streamed live on Bloodhorse.com reaching more than 5,000 viewers during the two days. The video will be available for viewing on the Retired Racehorse Project’s website. Seven hundred people attended the event during the weekend.
The EQUUS Foundation was the presenting sponsor for America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest. Thoroughbred Charities of America sponsored the TCA Thoroughbred Marketplace.
The RRP works to facilitate placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers by increasing demand for them in the marketplace and inspiring an army of equestrians to provide the training that secures their futures. RRP offers online directories, educational resources, and public events. For more information visit www.retiredracehorseproject.org.