December 1st has come and gone. For most people that means the start of the holidays – it’s finally socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music, gift shopping begins in earnest and the holidays are in full swing. For us Thoroughbred people it means something different – the beginning of training for RRP! Yes, the flood gates have opened and our RRP mounts can finally begin their start of their second careers!
But here I am on December 5th, an absolutely lovely RRP-eligible prospect stands in my barn and I have yet to sit on her. Most other years, I would have been preparing for this day for weeks, getting my makeover mount ready to begin full training. This year feels a bit different.
My friend asked me last week how Late for Taps (2018 gray filly by Anchor Down, out of a Forestry mare) was doing and asked if I had decided to make her my RRP mount for 2022. She seemed a bit surprised when I told her I wasn’t planning on doing the Makeover this year and Taps would likely be a sale horse instead. It felt strange even saying that out loud, as every year since 2016 I have chosen a horse and enjoyed the process of bringing them along for competition in October. But this year, I know I have something even better to look forward to – my 2019 mount.
Yes, rather than starting over with a new prospect, I have my sights set on continuing to develop my 2019 mount Deadly Ruler (2014 gelding by Roman Ruler, out of a Williamstown mare). If you’ve followed my story, you know Deadly. My came-out-of-no-where, client-owned horse that I purchased for myself after the makeover because I saw something in him and just couldn’t let him go. My athletic and talented guy that’s really starting to find his stride in the eventing world. My solidly middle-of-the-pack competitor at RRP. Womp, womp.
But as many have said before me (and I will remind you now) the end of the makeover is just the beginning of the journey. I knew I had something special in Deadly despite lackluster placings at the makeover and 2 years later, Deadly is ten times the horse he was at RRP.
Despite the constant reminders that there’s life after RRP, I constantly see people asking for “Alumni Divisions” at the makeover. Trainers asking for a second shot, a do-over, a chance at redemption if you will. But those posing the question fail to understand that redemption doesn’t come from an RRP mulligan – it comes from rated shows, recognized events, outings with horses of all breeds (not just OTTBs) where we can prove the off-track Thoroughbred can hold its own.
My redemption won’t come from a do-over, it won’t come from developing horse after horse, year after year, with the same goal in mind. It won’t come from an RRP Alumni Division. No, my redemption has come from the ability to be competitive at recognized events, from the remarks of upper level trainers on how nice Deadly is, and from the look of disbelief on the face of one of the top sport horse breeders in the country when I told her Deadly is an off-track Thoroughbred. Because, that is what RRP is truly about.
So despite sitting out the makeover this year, I’ll still be doing my best to fulfill the RRP mission. I’ll be increasing demand for off-track Thoroughbreds by proving they can hold their own outside of the makeover, by moving up the levels and changing minds one event at a time.