Adam Newman’s Diplomat, a Grade 1 steeplechase winner in 2017, has excelled in a new discipline and won the Thoroughbred Makeover’s field hunter division on Saturday at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
He was trained to his championship by Sara Katz, who also is a licensed steeplechase jockey.
The Kitten’s Joy gelding, bred approximately 20 miles away from the Horse Park by one-time steeplechase owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, was one of approximately 450 Thoroughbreds transitioning into new competitive careers at the Thoroughbred Makeover.
Also competing were 2017 Lonesome Glory Award winner Mr. Hot Stuff and 2015 Eclipse Award winner Dawalan, who did not advance in their divisions. Mr. Hot Stuff was entered as a show jumper, and Dawalan as a show hunter and dressage competitor.
Under Katz’s guidance, Diplomat concluded the first day of competition on Thursday in the lead for the field hunter title and maintained his advantage on Saturday to secure the championship.
The Thoroughbred Makeover, now in its fifth year in its current format, is a creation of the Retired Racehorse Project, a nonprofit charitable organization that showcases off-track Thoroughbreds who have found new avenues for their talents.
The Thoroughbred Makeover is sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America and also included educational seminars on strategies for helping Thoroughbreds make the transition from the track to new endeavors.
Ten different categories of competition were offered, and the horses had to be in training for their new disciplines. Rules for the competition required that the horses raced or had a workout after mid-2017 and began preparations for their new careers no earlier than last Dec. 1.
Multiple careers for steeplechase horses are by no means a new development. Most were on their second careers when racing over fences, and an informal NSA survey in 2016 found that three-quarters of more than 400 retirees were involved in some other sporting activity, led by hunting.
The remaining 23% were retired to pasture. Steeplechase horses train in the country, and they often retire on the same farms where they were trained.
Diplomat secured his top-level victory with an upset of Saratoga Race Course’s 2017 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). He made one further start, a Suffolk Downs flat race in July 2018. Claimed by Adam Newman and his brother, Richard, from a 2015 Saratoga optional claiming hurdle, he was trained by Kate Dalton and ridden by her husband, Bernie Dalton.