Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Starting a New Journey with Stakes Winner Term of Art

Aftercare
Term of Art, shown during his racing days preparing for the Breeders’ Cup, is starting a new career and training for the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover with Kaitlyn Villalobos. (Courtesy of Doug O’Neill Racing Stable)

I’m Kaitlyn, a Maryland native who packed up four years ago and moved to Lexington, Ky. I have always been a horse lover and grew up riding since the age of six. In 2002 I fell in love with horse racing thanks to the beautiful War Emblem. I remember my 13-year-old self crying when he fell leaving the starting gate at Belmont Park, and I cried again this week when he passed away. After that, I was hooked and I have continued to fall in love with many racehorses over the years.

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Villalobos

I wasn’t born into racing, but I thankfully had parents that didn’t think it was weird that I wanted to hang out at the racetrack. My first job in the racing industry was working for Phoebe Hayes at The Maryland Jockey Club. If you knew me then, I was the one running around like a maniac during Preakness Week, or I may have given you a Pimlico “Sunrise Tour” on one of the days leading up to the Preakness. I loved that job. I met so many people that not only shared my love of horse racing, but for the horses as well.

As my involvement in horse racing grew, I knew that I wanted to make it a career. Since I did love horses so much I thought there would be no better way to follow the sport and be involved than to be hands-on raising future generations of racing’s stars. In 2015, I started working at Country Life Farm, birthplace of another great Maryland-bred named Cigar. It was here that Christy Holden gave the girl who “wanted to learn how to foal mares,” but in reality knew nothing, a chance. I spent many long nights absorbing all of the knowledge that I could. Christy taught me so much about horses, foals, and life. Plus, she gave me the gift of getting my foot in the door. That summer I was ready for a change. I felt the urge to learn more and see more things and was encouraged by a friend to move to Kentucky. Young Kaitlyn was going through a “rebranding” (I think most people can relate) and a big change seemed like a great idea. So I packed everything up and moved in January 2016.

Ellen Pons/Country Life Farm

In Kentucky, I was a small fish in a big pond and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard sometimes. Most days I kept my head down and my mouth shut, but I grew and I learned. I worked hard, networked, and ended up meeting my now husband (my wonderful, supportive, never questions how many horses I have, husband). So I guess you could say it worked out.

Over the last four years I’ve delivered stakes winners, graded stakes winners, and even saw one of my foals win the Kentucky Derby. I’ve helped countless foals take their first steps, learned to keep my cool in emergencies, and have had more sleepless nights than most new moms. But my real crowning achievement? I was that girl in the birth announcement for California Chrome’s first foal. Being there when his first foal was born was awesome, especially for this self-proclaimed Chromie, but since I had been up since 2:30 that morning welcoming him into the world I looked a little… rough.

In July of 2019 I decided to take a step back from the breeding industry full time. I have always been a huge advocate for Thoroughbred aftercare and retraining retired racehorses for their second careers, and my schedule wasn’t allowing me to focus on it as much as I have wanted to. I do still work part time during foaling season because I knew I wouldn’t be able to quit cold turkey: I love the babies too much.

I am in a unique situation where my husband (remember that supportive husband?) is a manager for a large Kentucky farm that always has the best interest of their horses in mind. Therefore, I often get the call when one of their horses is ready to retire. What could be better than getting to retrain and re-home horses that I have been able to follow personally through their racing careers and being able to say that I know their dam or siblings? The answer is nothing. So with that being said, drum roll please…

Meet Term of Art

Courtesy of Kaitlyn Villalobos

Term Of Art is a 6-year-old by Tiznow out of the Storm Cat mare Miles Of Style. He was a $220,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Sale and went on to become a graded stakes winner of over $280,000. Despite the fact that he was not bred by the farm, he spent his entire career racing for the farm and I fell in love with him as a 3-year-old when he was on the Derby trail. He is a dreamboat and the kind of horse that I never thought would be mine. My husband and I were having dinner at his favorite “fancy” Mexican restaurant one night when I got the call from his boss. Term Of Art was ready to retire, and did I want him? I told him yes, of course, no questions asked and immediately hung up the phone and started yelling in the middle of Chipotle. This is where it comes in handy having a husband that never questions how many horses I have. He was truly as excited as I was.

Term Of Art has been with us for almost two months now and every day is a new day with him. He is proving to be the most sensitive OTTB I have ever had and is always looking to me for confidence. At this point we are still taking things slow while he learns to take a breath and just relax. Some days are more of a challenge than others, but I have never had a horse that was actually a good racehorse and I’m excited for the rewards and challenges that may come with that. Our end goal for the year will be to compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover, of course. I competed previously in 2018 in the Show Hunters with my horse Cave Johnson and plan to do the same with Term Of Art. I love to read and I love to write (and talk) so I’m exited to be able to share our journey on this platform!

You can also follow our day-to-day journey on Facebook at Term Of Art – RRP Thoroughbred Makeover 2020 (@termofart2020)!

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