Jen Roytz is the executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP). She is also the co-owner of the Lexington, Ky.-based marketing agency Topline Communications and a writer, regularly covering topics related to Thoroughbred aftercare and equine health for publications such as the Paulick Report, Thoroughbred Daily News and Practical Horseman, among others. Get to know Jen in this fun Q&A.
What you do for a living: I am the executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project and co-owner of Topline Communications, a boutique marketing and communications agency in Lexington.
How and when you were introduced to Thoroughbred racing: Growing up near Cleveland, Ohio, I used to watch the replays from Thistledown each evening (because it was horses and I was a horse-crazy kid). My dad took me to the track one morning for morning workouts when I was 14 or so and I thought it was the coolest place I’d ever been. A trainer (Joe Shuman) invited us to come to his barn and showed us around. He told me I could come back any morning I wanted and he’d find something for me to do, and from then on I was there every morning I wasn’t in school – weekends, vacations, holidays. He “let me” clean stalls and tack, and eventually I learned to hot walk, gallop and take horses over to the paddock for races.
What do you love most about retired racehorses? That they were racehorses! They were bred, raised and cared for to be professional athletes and they have an innate desire to work. It makes them super-versatile and adaptable to a new career after racing.
What’s the biggest misconception about off-the-track Thoroughbreds? The biggest misconception I hear often is that they’re high strung. Sure, at the track many of them are, but if you took a Belgian plow horse and put him on the same feed plan, speed-based exercise regimen and limited turnout that the typical racehorse gets, I’d bet money that he’d be high strung too. Once they’re away from the track, their feed program is adjusted down from that of an elite athlete and they are given more opportunities for turnout and socialization, and then they are typically quite laid back.
Do you own a retired racehorse? If so, what’s his/her name? Currently I have two retired racehorses and one retired almost-racehorse:
I’ll Show Them (Smarty Jones – Top Rung, by Seattle Slew) 47-14-7-7; $243,909
Pendulum (Songandaprayer – St. Lucinda, by St. Jovite) 85-18-6-16; $248,498
Lucky to be Wild (Wild and Wicked – Puff O Luck, by Run of Luck) 0-0-0-0; $0
Your favorite Thoroughbred racing event: I love the Breeders’ Cup because it’s a different venue/experience from year to year and you get to see the best horses in the country, if not the world, race after race. Plus, you see so many people (and horses) having milestone, career-making moments for two days straight. That’s something very special.
Your favorite racetrack: Saratoga – I love the park-like, family-friendly vibe throughout the facility (that’s also why I love Delaware Park’s paddock) and I love the variety of training options on the backside (main track, Oklahoma track, turf works, etc.)
Other sports/teams you follow: Cleveland Browns, University of Kentucky (football, basketball)
What you would like to see more of in Thoroughbred racing: More going on between races to keep casual spectators more engaged, especially on major race days.
What you would like to see less of in Thoroughbred racing: Less infighting and segmentation. Easier said than done, right?
Your personal best moment in the sport of Thoroughbred racing: Getting to do the walk over with With Anticipation (who I was lucky enough to gallop when I was in college) when he ran in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day. He was a beautiful gray gelding that was an absolute joy to ride – calm, confident and classy. After winning five Grade 1s, he went onto be a wonderful fox hunter.
Best racetrack food can be found at: Saratoga – endless options
Favorite trainer: Other than Joe Shuman (I wouldn’t be in racing if it weren’t for him), it’s Rick Schosberg, because he is an unwavering advocate for both the horses and those who care for them.
Philosophy on life: The harder you work, the luckier you are
Best book you recently read: Tik Maynard’s “In the Middle Are the Horsemen”
What’s your favorite app? Twitter
Favorite quote or motto: Always make time for the things that make you happy to be alive.
Favorite animal other than a horse: Dogs (though pigs are a close second)
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite vacation spot: Tie between St. Maarten and South Dakota (strikingly similar, I know)
Favorite TV show: Of all time: “Airwolf;” Currently: “Big Bang Theory”
Marguerite Henry or Walter Farley? Walter Farley
Favorite movie about horse racing: “Phar Lap”
Alma Mater: Brecksville-Broadview Hts. High School; Morehead State University (BA); University of Louisville (MA)
Favorite memento: Win photos from my horses’ racing careers
Favorite dessert: Peanut Butter Pie at Michael Jordan’s Steak House (Chicago)
Favorite drink: A well-shaken martini
Favorite scent: Ambre Essence