Past the Point making his mark in TAKE2 program
Four years ago, 40-1 shot Past the Point battled his way to a second-place finish behind two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga. It was the pinnacle of a solid racing career for the bay, who was on the board in 12 of his 22 starts and earned $418,025.
Past the Point retired from the track in 2010. Where is he now? The 8-year-old gelding is still stabled at Saratoga, but he is enjoying a second career as a show horse. He made his second-career debut in the Skidmore College Saratoga Classic Horse Show, held in June, and competed under saddle in the TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter division.
"He was very good for his first show, I have to say," said his new owner, trainer and rider, Trish McLaughlin. "He pranced by the racetrack every day on the way to the show ring, and once we were in the ring you could tell he was thinking, 'Why are these horses in front of me...why aren't we going faster?' But he settled down and, even though he didn't win, he did really well for his first time out."
The TAKE2 program also made its debut this year. Sponsored by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the New York Racing Association and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., TAKE2 offers prize money in classes restricted to Thoroughbreds at top-level horse shows. The program is designed to highlight the success of retired racehorses as hunters and jumpers, so that there will be more opportunities to find new homes for Thoroughbreds in the horse show community when their racetrack careers are over.
Past the Point, who carried the silks of the famed Darley Stable on the track, was with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin when the decision was made to retire him (he was originally with another of Darley's U.S. conditioners, Eoin Harty, who guided him to his runner-up finish in the Woodward). Trish McLaughlin, married to Kiaran's brother Neal and an assistant trainer in the barn, had had her eye on Past the Point for some time.
"I have been taking retired racehorses and retraining them since I started working for Kiaran about 12 years ago," she explained. "Past the Point is gorgeous, and even when he was still a colt, his demeanor in the barn was something special -- he was so nice and so quiet. I let it be known, if he was ever available, I would love to take him."
Originally from Canada, Trish is a born horse lover. "My first word was probably 'horsey.'" she said with a laugh. She started riding at five, worked on a horse farm as a teenager, then studied to be a veterinary technician and was based at Woodbine in Toronto before joining Team McLaughlin. She had already retrained five racehorses for new careers when she set her sights on Past the Point.
In the two years she has been working with him, Past the Point has adapted well to his new vocation.
"The majority of racehorses can learn to be show horses," Trish said. "It takes time and it takes patience, but it is well worth it. You can't get a better horse than a Thoroughbred."
Trish had high praise for the TAKE2 program as well.
"I think it's great that NYTHA, NYRA and NYTB have gotten together to promote second careers for Thoroughbreds coming off the track," she said. "It's an amazing idea. I think the more programs we have like this, the more Thoroughbreds will be showcased and the more people will want them. There are many Thoroughbreds that need new homes and new jobs, and this will create an outlet for them."
"Thoroughbreds are born athletes, and they love to compete," added Kiaran McLaughlin, a member of the NYTHA Board. They have all the qualities needed to excel at second careers in the horse show world. The TAKE2 program is a great way to get the word out, and to make sure that there are plenty of opportunities for our racehorses when they are retired from the track. It's only in its first year, but TAKE2 has gotten great reviews, and you are already hearing people say, 'I think my next horse is going to be a Thoroughbred.'"
As for Past the Point, his future is assured. While Trish found new homes for the first five Thoroughbred she retrained, Past the Point will be staying put.
"I call him my 'forever horse,'" she declared.
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