East Dorset, Vermont — After Joe, ridden by Aaron Donnan, and Rio de Janeiro, ridden by Sophia Morrell, were crowned champions of the TAKE2 Thoroughbred divisions during the first of six weeks of competition at the Vermont Summer Festival, running through August 13 at Harold Beebe Farm in East Dorset, VT.
After Joe, an 11-year-old gelding by A. P Jet, claimed the tri-color ribbon in the $1,000 TAKE2 Thoroughbred Jumper division on Saturday, July 8, while Rio de Janeiro, a seven-year-old gelding by Golden Missile, topped the $500 TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter division on Thursday, July 6.
“The TAKE2 program is what got us involved in showing in the first place,” said Charity Donnan who owns and trains After Joe with her husband, Aaron, at their A&C Stables in Piffard, NY. “We started participating a couple of years ago and we absolutely love it. It was the perfect opportunity for us to get our thoroughbreds into the “A” shows and we are having so much fun.”
Aaron and Charity Donnan purchased After Joe at a Fasig-Tipton yearling auction in Maryland and raced the horse as a three- and four-year-old with the help of trainer, Joseph Raposa. When After Joe stopped racing, they pointed him toward show jumping.
“Thoroughbreds can do anything and the TAKE2 classes gave us the opportunity to hold onto him and ride him ourselves,” said Charity Donnan. “After Joe has raced, jumped, and fox hunted, and he’s great at all of it.”
Aaron Donnan piloted After Joe to two wins as well as second and third-place ribbons to earn the TAKE2 Thoroughbred Jumper Championship. They also kept the Reserve Championship title in the family, as it was claimed by their 20-year-old daughter, Ingrid, riding another one of their Thoroughbred horses, Lenny.
In the hunter ring, 16-year-old Morrell was first, first, second, and third over fences before winning the under saddle to claim the TAKE2 Thoroughbred Hunter Division Championship riding her own Rio de Janeiro.
After one start racing under the name Country Riley, Rio de Janeiro was reinvented as a hunter. Morrell’s trainer, Linda Orton, first spotted the gelding at a horse show in Stockade, NY, and was quick to make him part of her barn.
“He’s very brave, naturally talented, and, for a small horse at under 16 hands, he has a large stride and can cover a lot of ground,” said Orton, who is based at Honor Own Farm in Hoosick Falls, NY. “It has become a lot harder over the years to compete with the Warmbloods, so the TAKE2 divisions provide a nice starting point for the Thoroughbreds with great prize money.”
Speaking about her affinity for Thoroughbred horses, Orton noted, “I like how smart they are, and the good ones are very forgiving. You can put a kid on them and they will help teach them how to find distance with their natural rhythm. If you can win their hearts, they will walk into the show ring and try to do well for you every time.”
The TAKE2 Second Career Thoroughbred Program is committed to promoting and developing second careers for racehorses once they have retired from the track. Launched in 2012 by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) in collaboration with the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. (NYTB), TAKE2 funds prize money and awards in hunter and jumper classes restricted to Thoroughbreds that are eligible to be registered with The Jockey Club. In addition to the Vermont Summer Festival, TAKE2 events are offered at more than 300 horse shows in ten of the 12 USEF zones across 23 states.
For over 20 years, the Vermont Summer Festival has attracted exhibitors and their families to the Manchester region in southern Vermont for great competition in an ideal summer setting. Offering more than $750,000 in prize money over the course of its six-week run, the Vermont Summer Festival is New England’s largest hunter/jumper competition as well as the state’s richest sporting event based on purse. Outside the show ring, exhibitors are immersed in the charm of Vermont's shopping, dining, and outdoor activities.
Competition at the 2017 Vermont Summer Festival runs weekly from Wednesday through Sunday, beginning each day at 8 a.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children from Wednesday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children with 100% of all gate proceeds benefiting the Manchester Community Library, Meals on Wheels of Bennington County, and the Rotary Club of Manchester.