Dec 19, 2022 5:00 PM

Ramses, trained by Benjamin Lynch was crowned the 2021 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Polo Champions. ©Jessica Ogden
Ramses, trained by Benjamin Lynch was crowned the 2021 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Polo Champions. ©Jessica Ogden

The Thoroughbred Makeover is a training competition designed to showcase the versatility and athleticism of the Thoroughbred horse. The most lucrative of any training competition of its kind, the event offers at least $100,000 in prize money, distributed across top finishers in 10 disciplines. Riders (referred to as “trainers” regardless of professional status) first apply to participate based on their demonstrated riding ability. Once accepted, trainers then register a recently retired racehorse and prepare it over the course of the year, culminating in competition in October in the heart of the Thoroughbred racing industry at the iconic Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Formats for competition are designed to test the quality and progress of each horse’s training.

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park on October 11-14, 2023. It includes seminars, a vendor fair, a horse sale (the Makeover Marketplace), and the Thoroughbred Makeover competition itself.

The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is organized by the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to facilitating placement of Thoroughbred ex-racehorses in second careers.

The RRP created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds, and to inspire trainers to secure the futures of these animals through correct and thorough re-training. In addition to benefiting the horses, the Thoroughbred Makeover is intended to help trainers establish themselves professionally or as amateurs in their respective disciplines. Without good trainers, Thoroughbred racehorses cannot become great riding horses.

Learn more at


A webinar detailing all of the information needed to get started on the 2023 Makeover journey was held on Thursday, December 15. It is available for on-demand viewing below.

Webinar Panelists

  • Kirsten Kovatch Bentley - Communications Manager, Retired Racehorse Project (RRP)
  • Rayna Erasmus - Thoroughbred Makeover Secretary, Retired Racehorse Project (RRP)


When do I have to apply?
2023 applications were opened for preview and drafting on December 15, 2022. Applications will open for submission on January 2, 2023, through the end of the business day on January 20. Accepted trainers will be announced on or before February 15, 2023. This application process only assesses the trainer; there is no need to have a horse registered at this time.

What prizes are available to the winners?
The RRP guarantees a base prize money pot of $110,000 for the retraining competition. Here’s the breakdown of prize money for each discipline:

  • Winner: $5,000
  • Second: $1,000
  • Third: $700
  • Fourth: $500
  • Fifth: $300

Additionally, each discipline awards $500 to the top-placed amateur, junior and team. Private donors and sponsors may also elect to fund special awards for causes that support their own initiatives; special awards are not guaranteed from year-to-year and are still being determined for 2023.

Finally, the Thoroughbred Makeover Champion is the overall winner of the event, chosen from the 10 discipline winners by the judges from all disciplines. The Thoroughbred Makeover Champion receives a cash prize of $10,000!

In its pilot year, the Former Broodmare division will compete for a separate pot of $10,000 in prize money based on preliminary competition results. Read more about the new division below.

Who is eligible?
Any individual in good standing with the RRP aged 12 or older may submit an application! That includes professionals, amateurs, or juniors, as well as team entries which can consist of any mix of statuses — perfect for polo teams! Team entries work together to prepare their horse(s) for competition, and any entry status may be involved with up to three horses.

When do I have to select a horse?
Horses can be registered with the trainer application, or registered any time after trainers are accepted, through July 28, 2023. The RRP encourages trainers to register their horses as soon as they are acquired in order, but trainers may swap horses throughout the registration period as different horses enter or exit their training programs. After July 28, only horses with an active registration can make final entry to the Makeover event.

What makes a horse eligible?
To be eligible for the 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover, horses must be Jockey Club-registered and have a Jockey Club microchip (or must be registered with a foreign equivalent). Horses must have raced or had a published work on or after July 1, 2021, and cannot have started retraining for a second career before December 1, 2022 other than a maximum of 15 allowable retraining rides.

New for 2023, the Thoroughbred Makeover will offer two divisions of eligibility: the original "Retiring Racehorse" eligibility and a new, "Former Broodmare" eligibility. Trainers will declare which eligibility classification their horse qualifies for on their horse registration. These divisions will compete concurrently, but as the eligibility criteria is different, they will have separate results and prize money.

To be eligible as a Former Broodmare, horses must be Jockey Club-registered and have a Jockey Club-registered microchip (or must be registered with a foreign equivalent). Horses must have one lifetime race or published work, but it does not have to occur in a particular time period for broodmares. Broodmares are not subject to the 15-ride limit and must have a reported foal or cover by a Jockey Club-registered stallion within the previous two breeding season (2021 and 2022 for the 2023 Makeover). This is verified by EquineLine's Mare Produce Record report.

More information is available in the rule book at

How much does it cost?
The application fee is $200 per horse, and trainers may enter to bring up to three horses. For team entry, the team captain pays the $200 application fee, and additional team members pay $200 as well. This fee is non-refundable if the applicant is accepted; this fee includes entry into one discipline at the Makeover but supports the year-round administrative expenses associated with running the event. Horses are billed at the point of trainer application at a rate of $150 per horse in addition to the trainer application fee. Horses may be swapped within the entry as they are registered, but a trainer may only enter as many horses as they’ve applied for.

Additional fees to consider, due with final entry in August, include a $100 second discipline fee, a Makeover Marketplace fee ranging from $60 to $110 for horses marketed for sale during the event, and a $225 stabling fee per stall (or the $60 Kentucky Horse Park ship-in fee for those stabling off the grounds). A full breakdown of fees can be found in the rule book at

When is the competition? How long does it last?
The 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium is October 11-14 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Preliminary competition takes place on October 12 and 13, and the top five in each discipline return for the Finale championship event on October 14.

What if I decide I want to enter after the deadline?
Wait list applications will be available at the close of the regular application period. Wait list applications close at end of business day on June 30, 2023. Applicants will be issued a provisional acceptance within two weeks of their completed application submission, but may not hear anything about their entry status until after the July 28, 2023 horse registration deadline.

Still not sure if the Thoroughbred Makeover is right for you? Check out "Want to Apply?" at!


On Thursday, December 15, 2022, the trainer application became available for preview and drafting at You can work on your application and save your progress within the trainer portal.

Starting on Monday, January 2, 2023, trainer applications can be submitted with all required additional documents (signed waiver, letter of recommendation from a vet, riding videos, and application fee), through end of business day on Friday, January 20, 2023.

2021 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Polo Champion Ramses, trained by Ben Lynch. ©Canter Clix
2021 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover Polo Champion Ramses, trained by Ben Lynch. ©Canter Clix


The 2023 Thoroughbred Makeover Rulebook outlines all rules and information relevant to the competition, with changes for 2023 marked in red and clarifying information marked in blue.