Fist Pump’s closest brush with Kentucky Derby glory was running second in a small stakes race at a backwater track in New Mexico. But by this fall, he might just become the most famous Thoroughbred in the country if he and his Newell, SD trainer can win the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and title of “America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred”.
Previously held at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover moves to horse racing’s epicenter when it takes center stage at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. The event will be held October 23-25, the weekend before horse racing’s World Championships, the Breeders’ Cup, are held at nearby Keeneland Racecourse. But the Thoroughbred Makeover focuses on what ex-racehorses can accomplish after their racing careers end…in Fist Pump’s case, what he can accomplish as a working cow horse. The event is organized by the Retired Racehorse Project, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the demand for off-track Thoroughbreds.
Fist Pump retired from the racetrack in the fall of 2014 when he came into the care of the Colorado chapter of CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses). CANTER is one of the largest and oldest national programs dedicated to finding second careers and homes for ex-racehorses. When CANTER decided to have a training exhibition for newly off the track Thoroughbred at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver, Fist Pump got the call. There he would be teamed with trainer Dale Simanton. Horse and rider first met each other minutes before the exhibition, but clicked immediately.
“I just loved him from the minute I got on,” said Dale. “He was surrounded by chaos-people, other horses, loudspeakers-things that can really unnerve a horse and he still wanted to work with me. I knew then we would get along great.”
It didn’t take long for Dale to decide that Fist Pump might help fill a void for him. He had planned to take three horses to the Thoroughbred Makeover in the fall but one horse needed more time off and wouldn’t make the demanding training schedule for October. Soon an idea hatched.
“I like and respect this organization [CANTER CO} quite a bit and I thought maybe we can help each other out,” shared Dale. “They have to raise all their own funds locally to do what they do and part of that is in the adoption price of the horses they find homes for. I thought if we could get Fist Pump to the Makeover and make a name for him, maybe he could bring a price that could make big difference to them.”
And so a partnership was born. Fist Pump would become Dale’s third Makeover entry and would be sold at the end of the Makeover, benefiting CANTER. Fist Pump will compete in the working ranch horse class, where he will be asked to use all the cow working, roping and ranch work skills he will spend the next several months learning at Dale Simanton and Dorothy Snowden’s ranch near Newell, South Dakota.
“We are thrilled that Dale Simanton from Gate to Great has chosen to work with CANTER Colorado’s horse, Fist Pump, for the 2015 Thoroughbred Makeover event in Kentucky,” said CANTER CO Executive Director Jamie Girouard. “We anticipate these two will do great things over the next six months. We are very appreciative of Gate to Great’s support for CANTER Colorado and look forward to watching one of our Thoroughbreds show off on a national stage.”
Trainer Dale Simanton is no stranger to the Thoroughbred Makeover, having been a competitor in the national event since its inception in 2013. In last year’s event, he placed fifth aboard Rikim, competing against two former Olympians and professional trainers from ten separate riding disciplines. This year, the Gate to Great program hopes to bring the big prize home to South Dakota via one of their three entries–Jaded Lover, Thirsty Soul and Fist Pump with Dale and Painted Forest with partner Dorothy Snowden.
“At any time in my life, I would have felt extremely fortunate to have any one of these wonderful horses,” said Dale. “I can’t imagine the good fortune of having them all the same year!”
Retired Racehorse Project President, Steuart Pittman, shared “Organizations like CANTER Colorado need professional trainers like Dale Simanton to secure the futures of the horses they place. When a horse gets a good education it can find work. If it finds work it is taken care of. Dale’s Gate to Great program offers a good education.”