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Beyond The Racetrack: Gilbertson and California Chrome OTTB Gelding Thrive as Hunters

California Chrome gelding at RRP Thoroughbred Makeover, OTTB
Alexandra Gilbertson and Dippy Evans compete at the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover

In the early to mid-2010s, a brilliant and beautiful chestnut colt named California Chrome took the racing world by storm. This blue-collar bred horse cemented his place in horse racing history when he added his name to the list of horses to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but falter in the final jewel. A plethora of other victories made him one of the richest racehorses in the world, all while his fanbase grew to an astonishing size. 

These fans of California Chrome have nicknamed themselves “Chromies” and since their beloved horse is no longer racing, they now follow and love his progeny. Among the names the Chromies have added to their virtual stables and tracked every movement of is a bay gelding named Dippy Evans. 

Bred by the California Chrome Syndicate and Paul King, Dippy Evans sold for $21,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He began his career with trainer Brendan Walsh but was immediately claimed in his debut race (in which he finished unplaced) at Gulfstream Park. He raced again two months later for Katherine Ritvo’s barn, this time finishing last in a field of eleven horses. It seemed clear that he would not replicate his sire’s ability on the track.


California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)

Alexandra Gilbertson loved horses long before Dippy Evans was even conceived. Born into a horse-loving family, Gilbertson was always drawn to the equestrian world and loved nothing more than spending time in the barn with the horses her family owned. 

“From early on I knew I wanted my career to be in the horse business,” Gilbertson explained. “Sure enough, I worked my way up and now ride professionally in the Hunter/Jumper world, and strongly enjoy teaching riders and horses.” 

As a lover of all things horses, she’d watch the main events in horse racing and always appreciated the athleticism displayed by the Thoroughbred racehorses and their jockeys. Gilbertson had also ridden, worked with, and helped others with their Off Track Thoroughbreds, or OTTBs, and was intrigued by the thought of owning one of her own. 

She soon stumbled upon a Facebook post with a conformation photo of Dippy Evans. Gilbertson was immediately interested. After receiving a blurry video of him jogging, she had a gut feeling that he was the horse she had been looking for. 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)
The conformation photo through which Gilbertson discovered Dippy Evans

“He had several qualities to him that I would look for in a potential show hunter, and something told me I should go for it,” she reflected. 

She was put in touch with Dippy Evans’ trainer Kathy Ritvo and purchased the California Chrome gelding. One week later he traveled from Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida to the Gilbertson farm in Warrenton, Virginia. 

Gilbertson thought about renaming him once he arrived at the farm but soon discovered that his name was a reference to a ‘40s football player that her grandfather went to high school with. “There was no way I could change his name,” she said. “I truly felt like Dippy had been sent my way for a reason.” 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)
Dippy's first ride

Dippy’s transition from racehorse to riding horse went smoothly. After taking some time to adjust and get acclimated to his new life, Dippy began groundwork and eventually got under saddle. Gilbertson quickly realized how laid back, easygoing, and intelligent he was. 

“The first time I cantered him I had the biggest smile on my face as it was so rhythmical and balanced,” she reminisced. “He took to his hunter training beautifully, and we learned he loved jumping!” 

Gilbertson took Dippy to his first show only a few weeks into his transition and he was immediately successful, winning the 3yo Thoroughbred in hand class at the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. “ I took him back to Upperville a year later to compete in the Back from the Track hack class which he did great in for his first ever under saddle class/show. Later in August, I showed him over fences for the first time where he was Reserve Champion at the Warrenton Horse Show in the USHJA 2’3” hunters.” 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)
Dippy with his first ribbon

Like many OTTB owners, Gilbertson also decided to take Dippy Evans to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover. Though initially not sure they would end up competing as she did not want to rush his progress, he had settled into being a hunter even despite Gilberston’s busy schedule preventing her from working with him as much as she would have liked. 

Their plans were almost derailed when Dippy came up lame with an abscess about a week out from the Makeover; Gilbertson thought that it could be a sign that she shouldn’t take him. Nevertheless, her farrier was able to find and pop Dippy’s abscess and he was back to his normal, sound self the following day. She decided to take him to the Makeover and was thrilled with how well he did. 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB), at RRP Thoroughbred Makeover
Dippy and Gilbertson competing at the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover

“Together we ended up on top after the first thirty or so horses went,” she said. “After the 2 days, the Show Hunter division finally completed and he ended up 10th overall out of about 100 horses.”

“The ribbon aside, I was so incredibly proud of his bravery, efforts, and willingness through it all.” 

Gilbertson is not only pleased with Dippy’s success but also with his bright personality. “Dippy is the kindest, sweetest, and smartest soul with the largest character I’ve ever met,” she described. “There’s not a day where I don’t have some kind of funny picture, video, or story when I come in from caring for the horses. He’s a goofball, but also my bestest friend.” 

“He’s a big fan of peppermints, nutter butters, grabbing hats off your head, holding anything he can in his mouth, turnout, neck scratches, and hugs,” she continued. 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)

Dippy Evans has taught Gilbertson just how rewarding the small things can be and that slow and steady can win the race. He’s also intensified the respect she has for the breed. “Thoroughbreds to me are so much more surefooted, smart, able, athletic, and can be so capable of the job being asked of them. Overall to me a good horse is a good horse regardless of the breed, but I will always be a strong OTTB fan.” 

Dippy Evans is a permanent member of Alexandra Gilbertson’s family. She plans to continue bringing him along slowly with goals of getting to the 3ft level in Thoroughbred Hunters and, if that goes well, eventually try out Hunter Derbies. Her ultimate goal is to bring him along to be a successful and consistent hunter at whichever level he’s best at. 

Dippy Evans and Alexandra Gilbertson stand as a testament to the versatility of the Thoroughbred breed. Their story shows that even if a horse does not live up to the hopes and expectations of their connections at the racetrack, they can still thrive in other disciplines. As Gilbertson and her California Chrome gelding continue to progress in the Hunter world, they will almost certainly inspire others to make an Off Track Thoroughbred a part of their life. 

California Chrome gelding Dippy Evans, Off Track Thoroughbred (OTTB)


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About: Champions of the Track works to create new fans of horse racing through entertaining, engaging, and informative content. Made by fans of horse racing, for fans of horse racing. Powered by KPB Media.

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