by Melissa Bauer-Herzog
A regular on the stakes circuit, when it came time for multiple graded stakes winner and Canadian millionaire Tower of Texas to retire his connections knew he’d always have a home with them. But after letting down, his connections decided he’d also be a perfect ambassador for off-track horses, so “Tower” headed to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance-accredited Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center to team up with the program’s trainer Kara Toye.
“I visited him at Stockplace farm with the rest of his gelding buddies and he was already let down, barefoot, sassy and in great flesh,” Toye said. “I hadn’t ever heard a bad review about him from multiple people along his career. I figured it would be a slam dunk … But the biggest rookie mistake I could make is thinking anything involving horse training is easy.”
Tower arrived at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center on May 22 and Toye quickly made the decision to enter him in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover. A Canadian-bred by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and with a ‘good ol’ American name,’ she felt he had everything needed to become as popular on the Makeover trail as he had been when racing over six seasons.
Her biggest struggle when it came to the Makeover came from trying to figure out what disciplines to enter the gelding in, finally settling on Field Hunters and Show Hunters for the graded stakes winner.
“I figured he would be a good foxhunting horse with his good brain,” she said. “The biggest initial challenge was getting him to pick up a nice balanced canter. Since I also exercise racehorses, I didn’t care about the speed, however Tower did not feel the need to canter much on less than a groomed racetrack. So as soon as that got lined out we added some jumps, and poof! He went from a hack pony to a hunter pony.”
While Tower has proven in some ways to be easy to train, as he gets back into shape he is showing a more challenging side that has reminded Toye she needs to be patient while training him.
“It’s like teaching an athlete used to doing crossfit the concepts of ballet. Meanwhile, he’s physically getting close to being fit, and we’re molding and shaping that energy he’s used to expending at speed. He had a few bucking fits when he was at the New Vocations All-Thoroughbred show and when I’ve hauled him out to field trips. He’s an opportunist about it, and Roger Attfield’s assistant Aly Walker told me, ‘He was always the smartest horse in the barn. He would be a saint and I would get my irons up and as soon as I couldn’t give him a good boot with my heels anymore he would buck!’ I found this out the fitter he gets! I’d love to say that it all sunshine and roses but I found this out while trying to ride him with my fractured arm this summer.”
But while the show was a challenging experience for Tower, the pair left with a blue ribbon and Tower with a greater understanding of his new role as a show horse.
“I am proud to get through the New Vocations show with a blue ribbon! The whole experience for him was nearly mind blowing but he ended it with so much greater understanding for what we are asking of him,” Toye said of the show. “He’s a competitive horse to the umpteenth degree, so even the warm-up ring was confusing. I could feel him eyeballing each horse as they passed.”
While Toye is doing the retraining in Tower’s new career, his racing connections are still extremely involved in his life, including his daily care.
“The Van Meters, the Dilworths, and the Andersons have all stepped in to cheer him on in multiple ways,” Toye said. “The best is that they are involving themselves in his daily care and overall well being. As a child of the racing industry, I’m proud to tell anyone that will listen how well loved this horse is! Renee Daily and Allegra Lee were the original plotters and deliverers and helped to put all the pieces in place.”
With only 133 days to get Tower ready for the Makeover, Toye has felt the pressure of preparing a horse on a deadline, but she is ready to show the world what the fan-favorite can do in the show ring when he heads to the Makeover on Oct. 1 – 5.