Each week a different expert ranks three OTTBs in terms of their suitability for a specific discipline. This week features 2012 RRTP Makeover trainer Billie Rae Croll.
This Week’s Evaluator: Billie Rae Croll, a 2013 RRTP Makeover trainer and owner of BRC Stables, a full-service facility specializing in the retraining and reselling of OTTBs for the hunter/jumper market.
This Week’s Thoroughbred Placement Organization: New Vocations
Chosen Discipline: Hunter/Jumper
Favorite Thoroughbreds: Go For Wand, John Henry, and of course Holy Bull!
Horse #1: Pearl Girl
- Foaled in Kentucky on March 22, 2008
- 15.3 chestnut Thoroughbred mare
- By Najran and out of Pearl E by En Tete
- 21 Starts: 1 firsts, 3 second and 3 thirds with earnings of $17,708. Last raced on September 4, 2013.
Horse #2: Restore the Shore
- Foaled in Kentucky on January 30, 2010
- 15.3 bay Thoroughbred gelding
- By Lemon Drop Kid and out of Secondary School by Honor Grades
- 2 Starts: 0 firsts, 0 second and 13 thirds with earnings of $4,100. Last raced on June 23, 2013.
Horse #3: Pentagirl
- Foaled in Florida on March 27, 2009
- 15.3 bay Thoroughbred mare
- By Scorpion and out of Pentaflor by Pentilicus
- 4 Starts: 1 firsts, 0 second and 1 thirds with earnings of $6,155. Last raced on June 17, 2013.
Criteria: A lot of the horses I have sent to me for retraining are sent by their racing owners. I do not get to “pick out” my horses; rather, I have to take the time to appraise them both physically and mentally as to what discipline they may excel in. When I have a client looking for a prospect I have certain things I may look for, but nothing is for certain. I tend to look for turf horses when looking for a future show hunter. Turf horses tend to have the “daisy cutter” movement we look for: a low, flat knee movement with plenty of step. I also look for an attractive head and big eye with nice alert ears (the bigger the better!) I like a strong shoulder with a good angle; too upright usually means a shorter stride. I like a neck that fits the horse’s head size and comes nicely out of the shoulder. A shorter back is usually a stronger back, but I take proportion into account as well. I like a strong hind end that is not too straight from the hip down to the foot. I also look to see if a horse is offset at the knee. Personally I would prefer a horse who is a little over at the knee versus behind the knee.
With feet, I look to see if they match, and I prefer a bigger foot with nice pastern angles. Of course you can never judge a book by its cover. I worked with a horse who won every in-hand futurity. He was one of the nicest put together horses I have ever seen. When it came time to putting him in training, he just didn’t stay sound. He ended up being a pasture puff at 5. Likewise we had an old hard-knocking claimer named Advanced Word. He was a conformation nightmare: pigeon-toed, long-backed, sickle-hocked and double-bowed up front by the time we got him. “Howie” raced until the ripe age of 8 with over 50 starts to his name and was one of the nicest movers I had ever seen! I think it is important to not only look at the “picture” but also to watch the horse and see how he actually moves. There are no “sure bets” when it comes to horses!
How I ranked them: 3-1-2
Third Place: Restore the Shore
On paper this is a horse I would be interested in looking at. He is by an Eclipse Award winning stallion and is the best bred in the group. Lightly raced and campaigned he should have plenty of years left in him.
His neck is slightly underdeveloped which is not untypical of an OTTB since they are never asked to bend or flex. His back is a little long for his size, which could change as he matures and finishes growing. He is definitely higher at the hind end than the withers right now. This is not unusual in a younger horse; however I tend to steer away from a horse that is higher behind than upfront. It often creates more soundness issues and I personally prefer a more uphill build. He has a nice shoulder with a good angle. His pastern angles are slightly upright, but they do appear to match.He also has a more upright foot and heel than the first horse. He has a sweet eye, but is a little thick in the jaw for my liking.
In the video he strikes me as a horse who just needs some time to let down and develop. He is a little uncoordinated and I wonder if his shoes have recently been pulled. He definitely seems sweet and willing, but needs more time to figure out his body. As a resale I think this guy needs some time to grow into himself. He would be my third choice right now. I would like to see how he grows and develops in the next six months.
Second Place: Pearl Girl
Her profile pictures gave me the initial impression of a nice athletic-looking horse. She has a good weight and the “chrome” everyone loves. Her neck could be a little longer for my preference. Her shoulder is also a little bit straighter than I prefer, which could affect her canter stride and her ability to get down the lines. She has low slung heels, typical of most horses off the track, but not desirable. Pearl Girl also appears to have two different front feet, which can become problematic when jumping higher fences. Sometimes horses with different angles hit the ground harder–this needs to be watched closely as it can develop into unsoundness issues. Pearl looks a little “tight” to me in her hind end. I would like to see her standing more square behind to determine if she stands under or behind her hip.
In the video Pearl strikes me more of a jumper prospect than a hunter. She definitely looks like she would become a little powerhouse with some training and conditioning. She was a little “hocky” behind which could make her unsuitable for the hunter ring.
Due to stereotypes, this smaller, chestnut OTTB mare would be a tough resale prospect. Personally none of these things bother me, but I do have to take them into consideration when looking at a horse from a business prospective. Pearl Girl is my second choice.
First Place: Pentagirl
Her head is a tad big for her neck, but she has a kind expressive eye. Her neck is fairly weak and a little “upside down,” again not unusual in an OTTB and can be fixed with proper training and conditioning. She has a very flat back with almost a horizontal croup. Her hind end is underdeveloped compared to her front end and she appears very straight behind. She looks to have a longer pastern and the same low slung heels as the first horse. While in the pictures this one was one my least favorites, I liked her video the most.
When looking for a trot I like to watch a horse after they canter. When Pentagirl comes into a downward transition I like her instincts. She looks like she wants to stretch and reach down into the bridle. Her step is much looser and more “swingy” after the canter. I think with some time you could teach her to get her hind end under her more and open up her trot step. I liked her reaction to obstacles placed in her way. She was cautious and alert, but not over-reactive. In the one video she walks over a small log and rubs her hind end. I thought to myself, “She won’t do that next time.” Sure enough they turned back around and she thought about the last time. She approached the log differently and made sure her feet were clear without overreacting or “jumping out of her skin.” While not the fanciest of horses I think she could go on to have a nice career as an amateur mount. She does not have the movement for a top show hunter, but I could see her excelling on the local circuit and becoming a nice all-around mount for someone.
She would be my top pick out of the three for a resale and retraining project. Sometimes it is a case of “pretty is as pretty does.” While she may not be a stand-out in the crowd, she appears to have a wonderful mind, which is something money cannot buy!
If you think an off-track thoroughbred might be right for you, no matter what the discipline, find out more information on what to look for, how to purchase and get re-training tips at retiredracehorsetraining.org
New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program was founded in 1992 to offer retiring racehorses a safe-haven, rehabilitation, and continued education through placement in experienced, caring homes. Most of the horses arriving at New Vocations are injured and thin, suffering the normal occupational hazards of racing. Without a useful skill to offer their previous option was often a one-way ticket to the local livestock auction.
New Vocations provides a safety net for these horses matching them with qualified individuals and following up on their rehabilitation and vocational training to ensure a successful transition. Our focus is on adoption versus retirement, believing that each horse deserves to have an individual home and purpose.
About our Evaluator: Billie Rae Croll is the granddaughter of Hall of Fame Trainer W.A. “Jimmy” Croll.He campaigned many top class racehorses such as Holy Bull, House Buster, and Mr. Prospector (whom he picked out as a yearling for a racing/ breeding prospect). Her mother Anne Russek and her father William Croll trained racehorses as well. Growing up in a racing background helps Billie Rae understand the thoroughbred “mind” and the transitioning process these horses go through once off of the track.Her first horse was a 4-year-old OTTB trained by her mother. A Virginia-bred by an obscure stallion named Iron Curtain, “Curtis” took Billie Rae from the beginner crossrails all the way to the “A” rated 3’9″ jumpers.Along the way they also won a 30-mile endurance ride, fox hunted, and did numerous hunter paces.She now operates her BRC Stables out of Sunrise Farm located in Lexington, Va., a full-service facility specializing in the retraining and reselling of OTTBs.She currently has between 12-15 OTTBs in various stages of training and showing.Her horses compete on both the local and newly formed “OTTB circuit” as well as “A” rated shows.More information may be found at brcstables.com.