The Thoroughbred Makeover Class of 2018

The final entry deadline for the 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover has passed, and our field of contestants is set! So let’s crunch some numbers and find out more about the Makeover Class of 2018.

Here’s how the field of entries emerged over the last eight months: 

  • Dec. 1, 2017, marked the opening date for trainer applications, as well as the date that Makeover horses could start their re-training.
  • Our field of 794 accepted trainers was announced on Feb. 1, selected from a record-high number of applications and representing a 37 percent increase in acceptances from 2017.
  • Trainers had until Aug. 1 to designate the horse they intended to compete, and some trainers may have started with one Thoroughbred entered and then switched to another. As a result, the total number of horses that have been in training for the Makeover over the last eight or so months is 737.
  • At the close of entries, 560 horses were registered for the competition. Horses (especially green horses!) being the way they are, we anticipate some additional scratches in the final weeks before the Makeover, but expect to have between 400 and 500 Thoroughbreds competing.

With that out of the way, let’s geek out on some data and look at the horses entered! (These statistics were compiled after the horse registration deadline, so reflect the 665 horses that were entered as of Aug. 1; some horses have scratched since then.)


Ten different disciplines are offered at the Makeover, and horses can compete in up to two disciplines.



A full two-thirds of horses entered in the Makeover fall between 16 and 16.3 hands. Our shortest entries (three of them) are 14.3 hands; our tallest entries (four of them) are 17.3 hands.



Two out of every three horses you’ll see at the Makeover will be bays. Those of you on chestnuts and grays will be easy to pick out in a crowd!



Almost three-quarters of our entries are geldings. Five stallions are also entered.


Year Foaled

The minimum age for a Makeover contestant is 3, and we have a fair number entered this year (27), but 4- and 5-year-olds are the most popular age group by far: they comprise over half of the entrants. Our three oldest entrants were foaled in 2005, making them 13 years old as they embark on their second careers! Forty-six horses were foaled in 2008 or later, making them eligible for the inaugural “Iron Horse” award.


Where Entrants Were Bred

As expected, Kentucky again tops the list of states/provinces where Makeover entrants were bred, representing one-third of the entire field. Twenty-nine states are represented and four Canadian provinces, plus Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Mexico.


You’ll likely find many familiar names in the pedigrees of Makeover entrants—many of racing’s top sires, of course, but some lesser-known names also crop up frequently, perhaps indicating that sire is a particularly noteworthy producer of sport horses. One hundred and twenty three sires are represented at the Makeover with more than one entrant.


In addition, 14 of the top 20 leading sires of 2017 are represented.


Seven dams are also represented by more than one entry: Chessie, Douce Expression, Exclusive Hopper, Livermore Valley, Pandora’s Storm, Party Fever and Samantha D. The two entrants out of Pandora’s Storm (Loki’s Revenge and Celes Image) are actually full siblings; both are by Our Celebration.

About 36 percent of Makeover entrants were sold at public auction, with an average price of $12,153.


Racing History

On average, Makeover entrants raced 20 times, won twice, and earned $52,446. In total, entrants started 13,535 times with 1,550 wins, and total earnings of almost $35 million.
Although a horse must have been in training to race and must have at least one published work to be Makeover-eligible, about 4 percent of our entrants never actually broke from the gate. Of those who raced, entrants break down into three groups. About 35 percent had 10 starts or fewer, seeming to indicate that they showed enough promise to actually race, but quickly proved not to be particularly suited for the job. Another 36 percent were successful enough to keep running, at least for a little while, notching between 11 and 30 starts. Twenty-four percent raced more than 30 times, earning their keep well enough to have long careers at the track.

About 9 percent of Makeover entrants are “war horses” with 50 or more starts. Interestingly, two horses who made it into the top 10 for number of starts (Musical Flair and Run Binky Run) are by the same sire, Songandaprayer.




We typically think of OTTBs as being horses that weren’t particularly successful at the track, and those numbers hold true at the Makeover, with about 70 percent of entrants earning less than $50,000 over their careers. But even successful racehorses need second careers if they’re not worthy of breeding, so it’s promising to see that 15 percent of entrants earned more than $100,000.


How Makeover Entrants Were Acquired

We’re always interested to see how our Makeover trainers obtain their horses, since this shows where the racing and sport horse worlds intersect and how successfully they’re working together.

On average, Makeover entrants have been off the track for 12 months (as of Aug. 1). About two-thirds of Makeover trainers purchases their horses, paying an average of $1,870. The other third of trainers obtained their horses for free. The average purchase price across all entries was $1,200.

Just over half (55 percent) of horses were obtained directly from the track. Of those entrants, three-quarters of them were purchased straight from their racing connections with no agent. The other quarter were obtained via an off-track listing service like CANTER, Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds, or Amy Paulus. 

Of those horses who were obtained after leaving the track, about half came from a reseller—usually a professional trainer with an eye for sport horses, who markets the horses with or without additional retraining. The other half were obtained via rehoming groups, either independent non-profit organizations (such as New Vocations) or groups based at particular racetracks (like Turning for Home and New Start). Six horses were reported as being “self-rescues”—obtained from feedlots or auctions.


It’s always interesting to see the tracks Makeover entrants retired from; as expected, they are primarily lower-tier tracks populated by less successful runners and those reaching the ends of their careers. The numbers also show where programs like New Start (based at Penn National) and Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds are having an impact.



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