Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 6
What happens when a race horse breeder and trainer pairs up with a top-level event rider at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover? For Natalia Neneman and Today’s Tom Sawyer, the result is golden.
Neneman rode “Tommy” to the win in the field hunter division of the Makeover for owner Danzel Brendemuehl. Neneman events at the FEI level and Brendemuehl owns Classic Bloodstock, a Thoroughbred breeding and race operation out of Ocala, Florida.
“I’m really excited for the horse, and I’m really excited for the owner,” Neneman said. “She does wonderful things for these horses, so this is a huge credit to her.”
Neneman, who is also based in Ocala, Florida, met Brendemuehl two years ago.
“I needed a little extra money, so I started galloping horses for her,” Neneman said.
Brendemuehl started sending Neneman horses she retired off the track to retrain. Neneman brought one of Brendemuehl’s horses to the 2017 Makeover, but her victory with Tommy in 2018 marks her first win at the competition.
“It’s just a huge credit to her and what she does for her horses,” Neneman said. “All the horses that come out of her program, whether they go on to be great race horses or are restarted, they are broke and started so well; it’s a huge credit to her program.”
Neneman, who spent five years working with top event rider Buck Davidson, has ridden Thoroughbreds to the top of the sport.
“My first two three-star horses were Thoroughbreds,” Neneman said. “I love their heart. They try incredibly hard; they try to do whatever you want them to do; they’re incredibly smart, not to mention their athleticism. I’m definitely a huge fan of the breed.”
Tommy is now for sale, and with five trials already lined up before his victory Neneman doesn’t think he’ll be on the market long.
“I think he could do anything you wanted; he would do any job, but for me the most important thing is they’re happy and healthy in their work, and he is that,” Neneman said. “So I think we’ve accomplished that goal, and I’m really proud of that.”
While Neneman got the lion’s share of prizes and money for her division win, the RRP Makeover is not so much about competition for her.
“I think it’s great for pros and amateurs and kids to get out here and do something that really means something,” Nenemand said. “It’s not about winning; it’s about giving these horses a second chance.”
The RRP Thoroughbred Makeover runs Oct. 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park—check back with the Chronicle for more from the event!