JN Exclusive: Behind the Scenes with Some of the T.I.P Champions

Earlier this month the Kentucky Horse Park hosted the 5th annual New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show, hosting more than 450 horses competing in a variety of disciplines, from driving to western trail and everything in between. Horses traveled across all across the nation for a chance to compete with their Thoroughbreds in the Kentucky bluegrass.

On Saturday, September 7th, riders competed in The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P) Championships. The teams competing in the Championships qualified during their 2019 competition year. We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the 2019 T.I.P Champions, to show our readers that Thoroughbreds really can do it all!

Sarah Ayer and M.I.A. 

Thousands of Thoroughbreds are bred every year with the goal of hitting the track, running fast and winning big. Even if they are successful in this venture, this flat track speed only lasts so long. Sarah Ayer, of Rock River Stables (Wisconsin), utilized that blazing talent to her advantage. I had the opportunity to speak with Ayer about her M.I.A. (Mia in the barn), previously known in The Jockey Club as GambleOnTheDerby, on how she prepared her speed horse to be the best jumper possible.

Sara Ayer and MIA finishing up a clear-round in the 3’3” Junior/Amateur Training Jumper. Photo provided by Sarah Ayer

“I have been working super hard on the flat with her. Especially lengthening and shortening her strides, as that is what we tend to struggle with. [Also] I always show Mia in her white fly bonnet. It’s the bonnet she has worn at every show we have gone to!”

As they say, give the girl the right shoes (or in this case, bonnet), and she can conquer the world. And that is exactly what Ayer and M.I.A. did to win all three classes and earn the T.I.P 3’3″ Junior/Amateur Training Jumper championship.

M.I.A. aka GambleOnTheDerby had 26 starts in her racing career, earning three wins, two 2nd place finishes, and six 3rd place finishes, earning nearly $20,000 in her racing career.

Kate Sharkey and Lucky Tiger 

I was not lying when I said competitors traveled across the country for an opportunity to compete in The Jockey Club T.I.P. Championships. Kate Sharkey and Lucky Tiger traveled 2,500 miles to the bluegrass, from Seattle, Washington, and brought their A-game, earning the championship in the T.I.P. Very Green Hunter division. Sharkey describes Lucky Tiger as a gentle soul. Sharkey had her eye on Lucky Tiger before he even retired from the track! She and her students went to watch his last four races, and after playing with him on the backside of the track, they knew they had to have him.       

Kate Sharkey and Lucky Tiger showing off their top prizes from the Very Green Hunter division. Photo provided by Kate Sharkey.

There are many lovable things about Lucky Tiger, but when asked what her favorite thing is about her mount Sharkey didn’t skip a beat!

“His brain. I buy them all for their brains, every time. He also happens to come in a handsome, but small, package!”

Although short in stature at just 15.2 hands, Lucky Tiger proved it was heart that was necessary to be the best Very Green Hunter! After a successful 2019 season, Lucky Tiger can be found being piloted by his junior owner in the show ring in 2020.

Lucky Tiger ran 25 times, finishing in the top three spots eleven times, and earning $21,280.00 for his then owner, JMSW Race Stable.

Amy Hacker and Old Grandad 114

Not all of the competitors were fresh off the track. Amy Hacker’s Old Grandad 114, referred to as Rion and known by The Jockey Club as Leading the Trix, had a taste of jumper life before she found him. Although affectionately known as Old Grandad 114, he is anything but your typical grandfather figure! Rion never hesitates to show off his superb jumper style and regular shows in the 3’6″ jumpers.

Each competitor had to overcome some hurdles when preparing for this year’s championship. For Hacker, her biggest hurdle was time.

“As a working adult ammy rider, I struggle to find time each week. Luckily, Rion is my ride-or-die mount with his great OTTB brain and can-do attitude. He walked into the [Rolex] ring with absolutely no prep, as he does every show, and was ready to conquer the world…or at least the biggest oxer on course!”

Amy Hacker and Old Grandad 114 taking on a big oxer on the Open Jumper course. Photo by Winslow Photography

In spite of her busy work schedule, Hacker brought Old Grandad 114 prim and polished to be crowned champion of the T.I.P 3’6″ Open Jumper division and finished second in the Jumper Stake. With only three starts in his racing career, Old Grandad 114 did not hit the winners board once. He found his speed along with his hops! Keep an eye out for Hacker and Old Grandad 114 blazing around the 4′ jumper ring this winter!

Belle DeVault and CallMeTony   

Belle DeVault had outgrown her previous pony and was on the search for a new mount when she stumbled across her mount CallMeTony. When she was shopping, DeVault was given five guidelines to follow: no Thoroughbreds younger than 20, no Thoroughbreds off the track, no green horses, must have a lead change and no bigger than 15.3hh. 

DeVault shared with a laugh, “So I very reasonably found a 16hh, 16-year-old, off-track Thoroughbred, who raced until he was 11 years old. Tony was extremely green and only had half of one lead change.” 

DeVault’s mother and trainer ultimately bought Tony for her, but warned her that he would either kill her or teach her how to ride. DeVault had intentions of competing in the hunter ring, but Tony quickly showed her the impressive versatility of the Thoroughbred. At the 2019 New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Horse Show, DeVault and Tony won the War Horse Walk, Trot, Canter, a second in the Beginner Novice Test of Choice and a third in the 2’3″ Open Equitation. CallMeTony is an extraordinary boy, earning the title of warhorse. Warhorses are special horses with over 50-starts or earning over $100,000 in prize money during their racing career. CallMeTony had an impressive 85 starts, 21 firsts and over $666,000 earned during his time as a racehorse.

Belle Devault and CallMeTony showing off their top finishes after a successful T.I.P. Championship Show. Photo provided by Belle Devault. 

Despite Tony not intitially meeting the criteria DeVault was instructed to follow, it is apparent the duo are the perfect match.

“Tony has a lovely jump and has no problem with leaving a stride out if he’s asked to go long,” DeVault shared. “I have never had a problem with a fence being too big for him to physically clear, or a rollback too tight for him to turn. He is so honest, and there is nothing he would not do to please.”

DeVault explained 2019 was a year of trials and tribulations for both, her and Tony. Tony had a set back last summer, which resulted in the pair starting over completely from cross-rails. DeVault’s patience and determination paid off, and she has the ribbons to show for it!

Clara Dendtler and Quintessential    

Chestnut mare stereotype, be gone! Clara Dendtler’s Quintessential, better known as Quinn, is a sweet and social redheaded girl who has every necessary element to be a top hunter. After practicing balance and flatwork, to best prepare to strut her stuff, Dendtler and Quinn earned the championship title in the T.I.P. 3′ Low Hunters.     

Quintessential and Clara Dendtler showing prime hunter technique in the Low Hunters. Photo provided by Clara Dendtler

While the pair appeared to be flawless at this year’s show, they have had to overcome their own share of hurdles along the way.

“We have only been showing in the 3′ since June. Quinn had colic surgery less than two years ago, which meant that we spent most of last year rehabbing her and showing in a few local shows in the 2’3″ towards the end of the year,” Dendtler shared with JN.

“Due to post-surgery complications, Quinn stayed in the hospital for over two weeks and had to be brought back into work slowly, so she didn’t show much last year. I knew that going into the Championships we lacked the experience that some of the other horses had in that division, but I was confident Quinn could hold her own.”

The team has come back better than ever! Dendtler and her right-hand lady, Quinn, can be found showing at their local and rated shows in preparation for T.I.P. Championships 2020! 


It is never too early to start planning for the 2020 New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Show and T.I.P. Championships. Join us for the celebration of the versatile Thoroughbred!