A unique event held at the Cambridge Raceway on Saturday showcased the versatility of former racehorses from both codes.
Touted as the ‘Battle of the Breeds’, thoroughbreds were pitted against standardbreds across three classes held between races at the Cambridge Horse Festival race meeting.
Richard Otto and Vanessa Everton were tasked with judging the competition where the eight horses, four from each breed, and their riders competed in the three classes of Conformation/Presentation, Paced and Mannered and Round the Ring Jumping.
“Dave Branch (Cambridge Raceway CEO) wanted to hold something between races and I thought that a standardbred versus thoroughbred event would be cool as it isn’t done a lot,” event organiser Jo Stevens said. “There is the Ex-Factor competition that showcases thoroughbreds and a few around for standardbreds but they don’t often compete against each other.
“I wanted to have off the track horses and showcase them at the race meeting so people could see them out there and the difference between the breeds and also how both are as versatile as each other.
“I tried to choose four very different horses for the standardbred team with a variety of experience so people could see how cool it is that a horse that is only 10 months under saddle was out there competing.”
The thoroughbred team was compiled by Gina Schick who is well known for her work with off the track thoroughbreds through her business Event Stars and Beyond the Barriers.
“This was my second time being involved in a Battle of the Breeds competition,” Schick said. “I put it up on the Beyond the Barriers Facebook page for people to apply to take part and from there we selected a good range of horses.”
The thoroughbred team included three-time Group One winner Start Wondering, ridden by Reese Payne, who was named as the best performed thoroughbred across the three events.
“It was a fantastic event, very well run and had a good standard of competition,” Schick said. “The thoroughbreds represented the breed really well and the crowd seemed to enjoy it as well.
“I think it is a great idea for showcasing the breeds off the track and their lives after racing.”
The thoroughbred team took out the honours as overall winner though Schick was equally impressed with those representing the standardbreds.
“It was neat to see the standardbreds, there were some lovely horses. Like thoroughbreds there was a real range between the bred. There were some talented horses among them,” she said.
Stevens was overwhelmed with the support given from event sponsors meaning each rider and horse that competed received feed donated by Dunstan Horsefeeds and goods donated by Southridge Equine, BetaVet, gavelhouse.com and the Cambridge Raceway. Category winners also got prizes from Garrards Horse and Hound, Brogden Horse Transport, TFS Horse Transport and Mortgage Link Waikato. Ribbons were donated by Anything Equestrian.
“Everyone I contacted was keen to support it and thought it was a great idea,” Stevens said.
“There was positive feedback from everyone and I was stoked with how many people donated prizes, it was amazing.
“The crowd seemed to love it, particularly the jumping phase, they really got into that. They really got behind the riders and you could hear their reactions which was really cool.”
Stevens is already eyeing a return of the event in 2022 and looking to develop the Battle of the Breeds concept further.
“It was pretty successful and it would be great to bring it back next year,” she said. “Whether we have it on a supporting day of the meeting or have open entries, I’m not sure, there are a couple of ideas floating around.
“I had so many riders message me after the event saying how cool it was and that they wanted to be involved next year.” -Amie Best, NZTBA