“I Like Mike” Fundraiser Supports Retired Racehorses

The “I Like Mike” campaign is raising funds to support the aftercare of retired Thoroughbreds at LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.

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Mike is showing promise as a jumper and eventer with his new owner, Jim Phillips. Photography by Bailini

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People really do like Mike! The $15,000 goal for the “I Like Mike” fundraiser in support of the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society has already been surpassed.

The campaign was launched earlier this summer by Jim Phillips, owner of Mike, an off-the-track-Thoroughbred headed to this year’s Thoroughbred Makeover in October. Phillips pledged to match donations up to $15,000, but now he has upped the ante to $20,000.

Phillips said he’s not surprised how generous people have been. He said, “What has surprised me is the broad support from the Thoroughbred organizations – kudos to Vicki Pappas at LongRun for that. My expectation is that we will raise $60,000 to $65,000 by the time this finishes up.

“Mike’s former owners, Moira Gunn, Marv Chantler and Hugh Sutherland, have been extremely generous, which was a great start.”

He said he decided to increase his contribution in order “to keep the momentum going and to get attention and action from those who have intended to donate but haven’t got around to it yet.”

Pappas commented, “It’s been such a joy to receive this kind of support from Jim and all the donors who have been so generous.”

As for Mike, he’s been busy competing in show jumping and eventing horse trails in the lead up to the Makeover, with the best of help from trainers such as Peter Gray, Cathy Inch, Momo Laframboise, Jay Hayes and Jessica Phoenix. “He has been competing at the Palgrave A shows and doing very well and in several horse trials. At the Glen Oro Horse Trials, he had his best dressage score to date, a 27. He finished fifth there,” said Phillips. “He would have finished second, but I went too slow on cross country. He had no jumping penalties in cross country or show jumping. I have been given a stopwatch so that doesn’t happen again!! All in all, he is coming into the Makeover in very good form, I think.”


When Jim Phillips was gifted with a retired racehorse named Mike, he wanted to share his good fortune. He could think of no better way than by raising money to support other retirees that have given their hearts and souls to the sport of racing. A huge fan of the breed, with several others off-the-track, Phillips also wants to spread the word about how versatile Thoroughbreds are, and encourage others to give them second careers.

“I have always believed strongly that Thoroughbreds can compete with any other breed in equestrian events, particularly hunter/jumper and eventing,” he said. “They respond very well to retraining, and, with patience, almost all of them can be useful and competitive horses.”

Phillips has entered Mike in the 2018 Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover challenge, which showcases the abilities of off-the-track Thoroughbreds, each with 10 months or less of retraining, over three days of competition in 10 different disciplines. This year’s event, presented by Thoroughbred Charities of America, will take place October 4-7 at the Kentucky Horse Park. The winner will be named America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred and take home a share of the $100,000 prize.

In the lead up to the event, Phillips is conducting a fundraising campaign called “I Like Mike” to support the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society. He has pledged to match donations up to $15,000 made between now and the first week of October. The money will support the charity, which is currently caring for more than 50 retired racehorses.

Mike, with his many supporters, in the winner's circle at Woodbine in 2015. Photo by Michael Burns

Mike, with his many supporters, in the winner’s circle at Woodbine in 2015. Photo by Michael Burns

Mike came to Phillips last fall, from owners Dr. Moira Gunn, her husband Marv Chantler and Hugh Sutherland. The namesake colt of the late Dr. Michael Colterjohn of Gardiner Farms, and full brother to superstar Pender Harbour, broke his maiden in his first career start, on November 29, 2015. He raced only eight times, with his final race on June 25, 2017.

Since partnering with Phillips, Mike has shown talent as a jumper and an eventer. As such, he is entered in these two sections of the Makeover competition. This will be the first time Phillips has participated in the event. He is optimistic about Mike’s chances, saying, “He is a very impressive physical specimen that is very well balanced and moves very well – but the best thing about him is his brain and attitude. He is very laid back, he wants to please and responds to training very well. His racetrack trainer John Leblanc did an outstanding job, and he came to us with impeccable manners and extremely well broke.

Phillips says Mike may have a future in the upper levels of eventing. Photography by Bailini

Phillips says Mike may have a future in the upper levels of eventing. Photography by Bailini

“Mike has a home forever with us and our hopes is that he will replace my current show jumper – also a Thoroughbred – and compete at the A shows in the 1.1 to 1.15 metre classes. If he shows exceptional ability, we may put him with a rider to compete at higher levels of eventing. We currently have another off-the-track Thoroughbred named Wabbit with Jessica Phoenix that has reached the one-star and Intermediate level in just his second year of competition. Momo Laframboise had him last year and did very well, and Jessica is doing very well currently.”

Phillips said he proposed the idea fundraiser because, he said, “The owners graciously gave me the horse at no cost I wanted to find a way to give something that recognized their generosity.

“As I was going through the process of applying for the Makeover, I learned more about the Aftercare Alliance and organizations related to racehorse rehabilitation, and it started me thinking of how I could support something in a meaningful way.”

LongRun chairperson Vicki Pappas is thrilled about the campaign. She said, “LongRun is blessed to have so many generous supporters, but to have a gentleman like Jim Phillips step forward with a fundraising campaign that he himself structured is a blessing to us and our 50-plus horses. Not only is he bringing awareness to the versatility and value of the OTTB, through his grand gelding, Mike, he is helping other retired Thoroughbreds enjoy life after racing by matching donations up to $15,000 made to the “I Like Mike” campaign.

“Mike and his brother, champion Pender Harbour, have human connections – Dr. Mike Colterjohn, Denny Andrews, Moira Gunn, Marv Chantler, Hugh Sutherland, Sherry McLean, John and Maggie LeBlanc – who, along with Jim, have been enormously supportive of our organization, and we can’t express our appreciation enough to all of them.”

Learn more and make a donation at: ilikemikehorse.wordpress.com. Donations call also be made:

1. By cheque
Made payable to LongRun at:
555 Rexdale Blvd., P. O. Box 156
Toronto, ON M9W 5L2

2. Credit Card
Contact the LongRun office at (416) 675-3993 ext. 1-3440
VISA and Master Card only

3. PayPal
Go to the LongRun website at www.longrunretirement.com
Click on “Donate Now” on the main page
Click on “Click here for a secure PayPal Donation”