LEXINGTON, KY—The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program today announced the recipients of its two non-competition awards, the T.I.P. Thoroughbred of the Year Award and the T.I.P. Young Rider of the Year Award, for 2023.

The Thoroughbred of the Year Award recognizes a Thoroughbred that has excelled in a non-competitive career, such as equine-assisted therapy or police work, and includes a $5,000 grant to the non-profit organization associated with the horse or, if no organization is associated with the horse, to a horse-related charity chosen by The Jockey Club.

The 2023 Thoroughbred of the Year is Kat. Registered with The Jockey Club as Kat’s Hope, Kat is a 15-year-old gelding that works as a therapy horse at Special Equestrians Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit that provides a variety of equine-assisted services for individuals with physical, cognitive, behavioral, emotional or traumatic-stress disabilities.

Kat is one of the most active horses on the lesson roster, working in both the therapeutic riding program for special needs individuals and the Silver Saddles program for seniors with age-related disabilities. Kat’s Hope, by Limehouse out of Sparkling Stream, by Forest Camp, was bred in Kentucky by Steve Bush and raced 37 times with six wins, three seconds and six thirds and earned $118,435.

“He may have been born into the world of racing, but he was destined to be a therapy horse,” ESMHL program manager at Special Equestrians Therapeutic Riding Center Dana Fielding said. “At Special Equestrians, we harness the healing power of horses to transform lives every day and having Kat as part of our program, we have witnessed the profound impact he has had on the clients we serve.”

The young rider award, which recognizes riders 18 or younger (as of Jan. 1, 2023) who own or lease a Thoroughbred for use in 4-H, Pony Club, or other activities, has been awarded to Scarlet Boucher, Eysley Hatfield, Allie Koss, and Anna Szefc.

Boucher is 17 and owns Ellie, registered name No More Fences (Tapiture – Bear’s Molly, by Corinthian), a 5-year-old mare bred in Ontario by Paul Buttigieg that ran unplaced in seven starts at Woodbine. Boucher has aspirations of becoming a veterinarian and plans to put her award toward tuition at University of Guelph for a Bachelor of Science in Animal Biology.

“I am so honored and delighted to be chosen as one of this year’s recipients of the T.I.P. Young Rider of the Year Award,” Boucher said “There is no better feeling than knowing that I, along with so many others, were able to give an off-track Thoroughbred the life they deserve. I am so grateful for everything that The Jockey Club is doing to support ex-racehorses in their future careers. These horses have so much potential, passion and spirit, and they truly deserve the world.”

Hatfield, who turns 13 in January, owns and events Iskra (Rabih – Chinar, by Florida-bred Gilded Time), a 2016 gelding bred in Minnesota by Dr. Rifat Hussain that retired from the track in 2018 after three starts. Hatfield plans to put her award toward Iskra’s dressage training.

“The experiences I’ve had with Thoroughbreds have influenced every part of my life and personal growth, not the other way around,” Hatfield said. “Seeing what Iskra and I have achieved in such a short period of time and how much he has overcome gives me a new appreciation for Thoroughbreds. A partnership with an OTTB is special because they are so smart, spirited, and they have such a strong work ethic you can’t help but grow and learn together.”

Koss, 16, owns and jumps Strive to be Happy (Liaison – Bald N Blue, by Capote), a 7-year-old mare bred in Pennsylvania by Blackstone Farm LLC with seven career starts. Koss plans to use her award for Happy’s training and showing expenses.

“Receiving this award means the world to me! Riding and training Happy hasn’t been easy, but I made a promise to myself and to Happy that I would be patient with the process,” said Koss. “I chose to challenge myself, and working with her has improved my riding immensely. Happy has exceeded of all my expectations and she has truly taught me what it means to ‘Strive to Be Happy.’”

Szefc is 18 and a T.I.P. Youth Ambassador. She owns Tucker, aka Man of the Night (Charitable Man – Windsor’s Lady, by Windsor Castle), a 2017 gelding bred in West Virginia by James W. Casey that raced 19 times with two wins, three seconds, and three thirds, earning $43,415. Szefc plans to put her award toward her education at Virginia Tech as she studies Agribusiness and rides for the Virginia Tech Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association team this fall.

“I’m truly honored to receive a T.I.P. Young Rider of the Year Award. Working with and advocating for Thoroughbreds has been an extremely rewarding experience,” Szefc said. “I began by riding and showing my mom’s Thoroughbred and knew that my next horse would be a Thoroughbred as well. Now I am so thankful to have Tucker. Training my young OTTB reinforces my love for the breed with his intelligence, athleticism, sweetness, and enormous heart. Our journey together has just begun and I’m not sure where it will go — but I do know that I have the best partner I could ask for!”

Return to the Oct. 25 issue of Wire to Wire