Catching up with champions: Second careers for two fan favorites

April 17th, 2024

The average life expectancy for a Thoroughbred is around 25 years, meaning that most will spend the majority of their lives off the racetrack. These highly intelligent athletes can pick up any number of jobs once their racing days are done, serving as a stable pony or an equine ambassador, competing in dressage or over jumps, or even becoming a steeplechaser. The goal of aftercare organizations across the country is to find the right next phase for each Thoroughbred, a cause that the sport has embraced.

Kentucky Derby Gives 2024

The horses aren’t just racing for the Garland of Roses in Kentucky Derby 150, with Derby Gives 2024 they are racing for more. Each elite Thoroughbred running in the Kentucky Derby will be paired with a Thoroughbred aftercare nonprofit with a $150,000 purse to be shared. The organization that is paired with the winning horse wins a grand prize of $25,000! Want to help these organizations raise even more? Through Sunday, May 5, make a donation and learn more about the participating organizations. 

Fan favorites Whitmore, 2020 Eclipse champion sprinter, and Finnick the Fierce, the one-eyed gelding who captured hearts on the 2020 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, both demonstrate what second careers can look like and why aftercare should be a focus for everyone who loves the sport of horse racing. 


In his seven years on the racetrack, Whitmore logged graded stakes wins in the Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3), the Forego (G1), and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). His personality and gritty running style earned him a legion of fans who follow the now-retired gelding still. Ron and Laura Moquett share his post-racing adventures in order to show what second careers can look like for Thoroughbreds. 

“He still has a huge fan base, and he is a walking billboard for what these horses can do when their career is over,” the trainer observed. “These horses live 70, 80% of their lives after they run their last race. We need to start thinking about having mechanisms in place to make sure these horses are cared for in the way that they deserve.” 

Since his last start in the 2021 Forego, Whitmore has competed in the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover, accompanied horses walking back and forth to the racetrack, and become Laura’s dressage and jumping partner, all activities that the gelding has enjoyed. “You get a horse that successful like he was, they’re usually intelligent, they usually want a job, and we’re just letting him cruise around and figure out what he’s going to love the most,” Moquett shared. "So far, I haven’t seen anything he doesn’t like.” 

Whitmore and the Moquetts encourage fans to become a part of the aftercare movement. “You can contact almost every racetrack and say you have a desire to donate or help with aftercare and there’ll be somebody there to help you be able to do that,” Ron shared. “There are tons of things you can do and all of them are welcome and needed.” 

Finnick the Fierce

Finnick the Fierce, the one-eyed son of Dialed In, was all set to start in the delayed 2020 Kentucky Derby when a foot issue necessitated his scratch. He had garnered a following as he traversed that year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby and touched the hearts of quite a few fans, including Jackie Barr and Mary Paige Lacy. Barr adopted Finnick after his retirement from the racetrack and took part in the 2022 Thoroughbred Makeover with the gelding. Late last year, she and Lacy collaborated to send this off-track Thoroughbred into the next phase of his second career.

“I actually fell in love with him back on the racetrack. It was, I think, maybe his first or second race. I tuned into the wrong race and stuck around, watched it, and just fell in love with him from that,” Lacy remembered. “So I kept up with his racing career. He was my Derby horse, and I was heartbroken when he didn’t end up in the Derby.” She lost track of Finnick after his retirement until a chance encounter with Barr at the Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington, Kentucky. “She kept referencing the gelding she had and how he needed a job. At the time, I was already casually on the lookout for another horse since my other horse was older and couldn’t be ridden,” she shared. “I talked with Jackie, and we got it all worked out and I took him. He’s training now, just getting some basics put back on him.” 

As Finnick settles into his new home and his new job, Lacy notes that he continues to be a horse eager to please. “Every time you get on him, even if he’s a little confused, he’s giving it his all,” she observed. “He’s the horse who wants nothing more than to be in your pocket and be told he’s doing well.” As he and his new partner build their relationship and look for his next job, Finnick serves as a reminder of what aftercare means for these horses: a chance to find their place in their post-racing years. 

For Lacy, who works for WinStar Farm as a bloodstock marketing assistant and is studying equine science management at the University of Kentucky, aftercare “is crucial. A lot of my job deals with breeding and the care of young horses. For me, I always feel like it’s incredibly important to make sure that we know where these horses are going at the end of the day.” 

To help ensure a soft landing for our equine favorites, she recommends supporting aftercare facilities like the Secretariat Center, New Vocations, and regional organizations. “They’re going to be, I’d say on average, a little less than five years on the racetrack. At that point, they could have over a decade of work left in them,” Lacy shared. “We should help them fall into a nice comfy spot.” 

Whether it is Derby Day or a regular Thursday at your favorite racetrack, it is the right time to support aftercare for our favorite equine athletes. As Ron Moquett observed, “Bet on these horses while they’re running, cheer for them, and then be there to help them support them when their careers are done.”