Quarter Horse Challenge Championships
We arrived at our hotel in Indianapolis at midnight and had a 5AM wake up call to head to the track. We were tasked to shadow a trainer in conjunction with the AQHYA National Racing Experience. Two RTIP students were paired with one youth from the AQHYA. I was assigned to trainer John Stinebaugh, a very successful Quarter Horse trainer. He showed us what steps it took to prepare a Quarter Horse on the day before the races. For John Stinebaugh, this consisted mainly of gate schooling and hand walking.
We drove back and forth from the barns to the starting gate to watch the horse’s school while others who were scheduled to race at later date were breaking from the gate. John Stinebaugh’s son was there too. He introduced us to their six contenders for the Challenge Championship races. While in the barn, we met Armando Rivera, a representative of the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund (PDJF). He explained what the PDJF does and the fundraising efforts that would be taking place at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
After morning training, we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest and change of clothes. Next on the agenda was the AQHA Board meetings that were held at our hotel. There we were able to meet people from the Quarter Horse industry. Their passion for the racing was evident and their goal was to keep growing the sport. The AQHA Chief Racing Officer, Janet VanBebber was in charge of the meeting, and talked about the ways they were improving the sport and serving the membership. They talked about finances, sponsorships, and future goals. I was really happy to hear that the quarter horse foal crop was increasing. It was evident that the quarter horse industry was on the right track. We had a lunch break, where I was able to meet the owners and Annise Montplaisir, the Co-Founder of Amplify Horse Racing. Amplify is a program that educates and teaches people about the thoroughbred industry. At the end of the meetings, RTIP students were able to ask questions and talk about some concerns that we have about the horse racing industry. It was an honor to be invited to these meetings by Ms. VanBebber. We gained valuable insight into quarter horse racing.
Our second and final morning at Horseshoe Indianapolis followed a similar routine as the first morning. Another 5AM wake up call, heading to the track to watch how horses were being prepped for the races. This time it was race day! Since they are quarter horses, none of them trained, but we watched how they were walked and bathed in preparation for the day. We also had more time to see morning thoroughbred training. It was a great experience to watch horses trained by Brad Cox and Steve Asmussen. Eric DeCoster and I were even able to go to Steve Asmussen’s barn and meet a two-year-old horse by the name of Phantom Ride who had just broken his maiden and is owned by MyRacehorse
After training, we met with a state vet, who explained to his daily routine. We also learned how the new HISA rules changed their daily operations. The vet showed us what they look for during a pre-race exam. He also mentioned he was going to be one of the main vets at the 2022 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. We then met with the two of the three racing stewards. They also explained what changes were brought about with HISA and how it has changed how they look at races, specifically pertaining to crop use. It was a great experience meeting the various officials. We returned to the hotel room to eat, rest, and get ready for the big night of racing – the AQHA Challenge Championships!
We arrived at the track a few hours before the first race and were greeted by Horseshoe Indianapolis GM (and RTIP alum) Eric Halstrom. He gave us a tour of the entire racetrack! Eric took us to the grandstand, champagne rooms, the jockeys’ room, the paddock, and the clubhouse where we would be watching the races. We had the perfect view of the racetrack from our table on the finish line. We were invited to head down to the winners’ circle for to watch the third race. We took a winners’ circle photo and students were interviewed about their experience. We stayed the whole night watching races and admiring these amazingly talented horses. The last race was the feature race which went off at 11:30PM. One of the top quarter horse’s in the country, Danjer, was competing -- and we did not want to miss a second of it. Not to our surprise, he won easily, and we were all just in awe of his performance. After that, and a long, tiring day, we headed back to our hotel to get some rest before heading back home on an early morning flight.
Overall, it was a great experience, and there were great feelings all around. I would like to thank the RTIP team, Janet VanBebber, Eric Halstrom, and many others for letting us be a part of this great program. It provided us a meaningful hands-on experience that will help us achieve our goal of working in the racing industry . –Aldo Pedroza