Seven Things to Know About the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover

Fairly Obvious competing at the 2019 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in the Freestyle division. (Retired Racehorse Project/Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

Only miles from where this fall’s Keeneland race meet is taking place, a few former Keeneland runners are among off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) lining up for the next phase of competition in their lives – the 2021 Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) Thoroughbred Makeover presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America. It will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park on Oct. 12-17.

Usually just for horses in their first year of training, this year the “Mega-Makeover” will be showing off their 2020 and 2021 classes after it was canceled last year. The classes kick off on Tuesday, Oct. 12 with horses competing for a chance to make it into the weekend’s championship finales to be held on Saturday for the 2020 class and Sunday for the 2021 class.

The competition will also have a livestream for the finale days in addition to fans being able to attend in person throughout the week. The qualifying rounds are free, while the finales are $10/day or $15 for both days. The annual Thoroughbred Aftercare Summit will be held on Tuesday from 1-4 p.m. ET and tickets for that are $10.

Interested in learning more about the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover? Here are seven things to know about the event.

1. This is the Thoroughbred Makeover’s Sixth Year at the Kentucky Horse Park

My Man Sam competing in 2019 Thoroughbred Makeover. (Retired Racehorse Project/Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

The Retired Racehorse Project has been active since 2010 and held its first competition – a 100-Day Trainer Challenge – two years later. The original event had four trainers showcasing 10 horses the following year at Pimlico Race Course. 

In 2015, the Thoroughbred Makeover moved to the Kentucky Horse Park and had 350 applications. Offering $100,000 in prize money, the competition had 185 entries that year. The expansion to the Horse Park also allowed the makeover to add polo, working ranch, and barrel racing to their discipline offerings. 

2. The Makeover is Made Up of 10 Different Disciplines

Showing the versatility of OTTBs, the Thoroughbred Makeover has 10 different disciplines they can compete in: Barrel Racing, Competitive Trail, Dressage, Eventing, Field Hunter, Polo, Ranch Work, Show Hunter, Show Jumper, and Freestyle.

Competitors have the choice to compete in up to two different disciplines and may qualify for the finale in each. The top five horses and riders in each discipline compete and the champion is decided by cumulative scores from both the qualifying round and the finale. The 2020 and 2021 classes will be separated, so in all there will be 10 finale spots in each division – the 2020 class finale will be run on Saturday and the 2021 class on Sunday. 

At the end of the finale each day, the judges of all 10 disciplines will rank the winners from 1 to 10 on who they believed is trained best. The horse who earns the most points from those rankings will be named the Thoroughbred Makeover Champion and earn a cash prize of $10,000. 

3. 525 Horses Entered the Show 

On Feb. 14, 2020, 616 trainers were accepted for the 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover. The following February, 480 were accepted for the 2021 Thoroughbred Makeover.  When trainers for the 2020 and 2021 classes registered their horses for the competition in July 2021 (trainers don’t have to name the horse they plan on showing when they apply), 1,027 horses were considered for this year’s makeover by their trainers. The final entry numbers for the show sat at 525 horses when they closed in August.

There have been withdrawals since the final entry period, but around 500 former racehorses are still slated to show. 

Currently, those still entered include Grade 1 winners Denman’s Call and multiple graded stakes winners Ashleyluvssugar, Imperative, and Page McKenney among others.

4. The Horses Behind the Competition

Feeling Courageous competed in 2019 Show Jumper finale. (Retired Racehorse Project/Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

Of the 1,027 horses who registered for the Makeover, 69% of them are geldings (castrated males) with 30% mares and fillies and only 1% registered as stallions. Horses ranged anywhere from 3-year-olds (the youngest age that can compete to the Makeover) to a 13-year-old. 

Three-hundred and eighty-two horses who registered for the Thoroughbred Makeover were planning on returning “home” for the competition – they were all bred in Kentucky with most coming from the Lexington area. The second most were bred in New York with Florida following in third. 

Just because the horses are moving on to a second career doesn’t mean they weren’t successful in their first. In all, the registered horses won a combined 2,442 times for $67,438,338 in earnings from 20,081 starts. My Charming Clyde was the most raced horse with 125 lifetime starts, Unfortunately, he withdrew from the competition after the final entries. Bluegrass Demon is the most raced horse currently slated to compete – he ran 107 times with eight wins and 37 other top-three finishes. 

To learn more about the horses who were registered for the Thoroughbred Makeover (remember, some have been scratched from the competition phase of the year-long journey), click here.

5. Want to Buy a Horse? The Makeover Can Help

The idea of buying a horse off the track to compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover has helped raise the demand of OTTBs. The term “Makeover Eligible” has become popular when advertising racehorses ready for their second careers. 

The makeover also hosts the ASPCA Marketplace, where those in search for a Thoroughbred can purchase makeover competitors at the event. In addition to watching them compete, RRP has also provided a dedicated ring for buyers to test ride potential purchases and has a veterinarian from Hagyard scheduled to conduct pre-purchase exams. To find out which Mega-Makeover horses are for sale, visit and look for the horses on the entries list with the green horse-head icon. This year, the marketplace catalog also includes 2022 makeover prospects offered by 501(c)3 adoption organizations.

It is worth noting that the average price paid by makeover trainers for this year’s competition was $2,230, up from $1,200 in 2018.

6. This Year Includes the T.I.P. Barrel Racing Championship

RRP has teamed up with the Thoroughbred Incentive Program to offer for the first time the T.I.P. Barrel Racing Championships on Wednesday and Thursday nights. 

The horses running in the championship had to qualify for the T.I.P. Championships in one of three ways – they had to run at a barrel race offering T.I.P. awards between Aug. 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021; enter the barrel racing at this year’s makeover; or have participated in the barrel racing division of the 2020 T.I.P. Performance Awards. There is also a hardship request form for those who didn’t qualify in other ways. 

Both the T.I.P. Championships and the Barrel Racing division at the Thoroughbred Makeover will run together with the top five makeover horses in each competition year also moving on to the weekend’s finale. 

7. Friday is All About Education

An early morning warmup at Kentucky Horse Park in 2019. (Retired Racehorse Project/Melissa Bauer-Herzog)

There is no competition on Friday as competitors prepare for the weekend’s finales, but the day is packed full of educational opportunities in the covered arena.

The popular “TERF Makeover Master Class” takes place that morning in the covered arena to give viewers a comprehensive look at what to think about when looking at a prospective purchase off the track. The trainers participating also talk about how they approach the first few rides on a recently retired racehorse. This year’s trainers are Michael Always and Aubrey Graham with two-time Olympian Dorothy Crowell and 4-star eventing coach Richard Lamb as the commentators. 

Starting at noon is the first of three seminars taking place in the Covered Arena Lounge. It kicks off with a seminar on “Maintaining Performance Horses” at noon ET, followed by “Back Pain and Kissing Spines” at 1:45 p.m. and “Feeding High Energy Horses” at 3:30 p.m.

The Master Class and the seminars will all be livestreamed. RRP asks that you register to attend the afternoon seminars here:

To learn more about the Thoroughbred Makeover, visit

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