First Day of Preliminary Competition Wraps at Thoroughbred “Mega-Makeover”

The long-awaited “Mega-Makeover” is officially under way and the first day of competition has come to an end. Find out who leads the pack so far!

A horse and rider on the Horse Path at the Kentucky Horse Park. Photo courtesy Bethany P Photography.The first day of preliminary competition is in the books at the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, with Dressage and Show Jumper taking the spotlight as the competition’s two most popular classes this year.

The 2021 “Mega-Makeover” includes separate competition years to accommodate horses from the postponed 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover, as well as the scheduled 2021 event. While both 2020 and 2021 horses competed side-by-side in arenas today, their scores are ranked separately.

2020 Dressage: Elbow Room, trained by Helen Pianca

Helen Pianca and Elbow Room. Photo courtesy CanterClix.

Elbow Room (d’Funnybone – Show Me the Carats, by More Than Ready) and Helen Pianca danced across the Rolex Arena into the overnight lead in the 2020 competition year for Dressage, earning a 77.414 on their test plus a 48.00 for their demonstration ride, for a combined score of 125.414. (The demonstration ride allows trainers to showcase their horse’s strengths and any advanced maneuvers they may be developing not already demonstrated in the test).

“He handled the atmosphere like a professional,” describes Pianca, a professional from Granville, Ohio. “We had one little bobble in our demo ride, but other than that he felt pretty flawless. We lost some training time when I had a baby, so he had a few months off in the earlier part of this year, and I think he would have been just as good last year, honestly — he’s been a professional since I got him. He’s my first ‘me’ horse — now that I have kids, I want a horse for myself! For me personally, I can’t beat a Thoroughbred.”

Elbow Room is a 2014 16.0-hand chestnut gelding, bred in New York bytt EKQ Stables Corp. He sold as a weanling at Keeneland November in 2014 for $40,000, then sold again as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Preferred New York Bred Yearling Sale for $75,000. He went on to make 23 starts with four wins, retiring in July of 2019 from Finger Lakes with earnings of $36,970. He’ll return in the Freestyle on Thursday.

2021 Dressage: My Dad Louie, trained by Jaclyn Schellhase

Jaclyn Schellhase and My Dad Louie. Photo courtesy CanterClix

Stepping out in western tack in the second year western dressage was available as an entry option in the discipline, My Dad Louie (Regal Ransom – Indigo Girl, by Leestown) and Jaclyn Schellhase top the overnight standings for 2021 Dressage. The pair earned a 72.500 on their test and a 50.00 on their demonstration ride, for a total score of 122.500.

Primarily a barrel racer, Schellhase, a professional from Canton, Georgia, applied My Dad Louie’s flatwork foundation from barrel racing to a new-to-her discipline. “He’s a great mover and he’s very responsive, so I thought he could help me step out of my comfort zone and we could do this together,” she describes. “In our demo, we started with just the same maneuvers as the test, but then added in some extended canter, which felt like it went beautifully.”

Schellhase has already connected My Dad Louie to new owners, who have come to the Thoroughbred Makeover to cheer their new horse on, with plans to make him an all-around horse. He is a 2015 16.0 hand dark bay/brown gelding, bred in Louisiana by Randy Davis & Associates Inc. He made 21 career starts with three wins, earning a total of $47,610. His last race was in August of 2020 at Louisiana Downs. He’ll also compete in the Barrel Racing on Wednesday and Thursday, and roll his times to the T.I.P. Barrel Racing Championship.

2020 Show Jumper: Canton Comet, trained by Samantha Fawcett

Samantha Fawcett and Canton Comet. Photo courtesy CanterClix.

Canton Comet (Shanghai Bobby – Katie’s Ten, by Rock Hard Ten) and Samantha Fawcett have a nearly nine-point lead on the rest of the 2020 Show Jumper discipline after the first day of competition, receiving marks of 175.50 and 175.00 for a round score of 175.25.

“I purchased her as a three-year-old from Kentucky with the goal of sending her to the 2020 Makeover; my intentions were actually to sell her then. I’m very glad that did not happen, because we’ve decided to keep her to develop her further in show jumping,” describes Fawcett, a professional from Alton, Ontario. “We kept everything really straightforward with the extra time and focused on her dressage. She really grew into herself and really started to blossom over the past winter. She’s exceeded our expectations!”

Canton Comet is a 2016 16.3 hand black mare bred in Kentucky by Kirby Chua. She sold for $80,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September in 2017, and went on to make nine starts with one win. Her final start was in August of 2019 at Arlington, where she retired with $20,698 in earnings. She’ll return in the Show Hunter on Wednesday.

2021 Show Jumper: Absolute Drama, trained by Emily Clayton

Emily Clayton and Absolute Drama. Photo courtesy CanterClix.

Absolute Drama (Big Drama – Perfect Charm, by Charismatic) and Emily Clayton outshone the rest in the 2021 competition year for Show Jumper, earning scores of 152.25 and 155.75 for a round score of 154.00

“I’m shocked, actually,” describes Clayton, a professional from Lafayette, Louisiana. “He’s only four — I just wanted to give him a good ride. We focus on flatwork a lot at home, and a lot of work went in, but he’s pretty easygoing and level-headed. Our first round was our best round.”

Absolute Drama already has a new home lined up after the Thoroughbred Makeover and will head to his new owners once he and Clayton return home. A 2017 15.3 hand dark bay/brown gelding, Absolute Drama was bred in Louisiana by EPIC Thoroughbreds, LLC and made four starts, never breaking his maiden. He retired with $450 in earnings from Evangeline, making his final start in July of 2020. He’ll return in the Show Hunter on Wednesday.

Around the Park

A horse receives his blue bridle number sticker that indicates he has passed the Arrival Exam. Photo courtesy of Bethany P Photography.

Arrival Exams continued to take place, representing an important part of the Makeover process and ensuring that every horse in attendance is fit and healthy to move around the Kentucky Horse Park. The team of Hagyard veterinarians and veterinary students all led by the RRP’s consulting veterinarian Dr. Shannon Reed processed Arrival Exams, sponsored by Keeneland with support from After the Finish Line, Foundation for the Horse, and Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for over 370 horses today alone.

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit took place this afternoon in the TCA Club Lounge, with approximately 40 participants both in-person and virtually via stream. Panelists talked through challenges faced by aftercare organizations, with several great collaborative discussions and idea sharing between participating organizations. CANTER PA was the recipient of the random donation awarded to an attending organization.

The other competition arenas, including Stoneleigh (Show Hunter), Murphy (Eventing Show Jumping) and the TCA Covered Arena (Barrel Racing, Freestyle, and Ranch Work) were busy all day long as competitors prepped for Wednesday’s full preliminary competition schedule.

With two full days of preliminary competition yet to go, standings are likely to shift. For updates, entry lists, social feeds, links to ticketing information, live stream, and more, please visit