Sunday, January 1, 2012 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, Ky., Jan. 1, 2012 – Trainer April Thorpe earned her first career win Friday at Turfway Park when she saddled her very first starter, a 3-year-old who also was making his career debut.
With Tom Pompell aboard, Cup of Joy set all the pace in Turfway's sixth race, a maiden special, and held off a late bid by Lead Player to win by three-quarters of a length. Final time for the six furlongs was 1:13.58.
Thorpe, 50, got her first experience with horses at age five when her father, who owned a country grocery store in Carroll County, Ky., accepted a Quarter Horse in payment of a bill.
"Dad let the farmers buy on credit and then they'd pay when their crops came in," Thorpe said. "When this one farmer couldn't pay, he gave us the horse instead. He was a toy for us. All the cousins would come over and we’d ride him all over the place."
Thorpe’s exposure to horses continued when her then seven-year-old daughter began showing Saddlebreds. After high school the same daughter decided to try galloping Thoroughbreds, and she signed on as a hotwalker with trainer George McCarty, a family friend, at Louisville’s Trackside Training Center. Mother followed daughter, helping out in McCarty's barn and claiming a horse in partnership with the trainer.
In 2006, Thorpe joined a racing partnership that purchased a couple of 2-year-olds-in-training and sent them to trainer Joe Woodard. The partnership was active at the barn, and in April 2008, when Thorpe retired after 24 years with the Kentucky Department of Corrections at the State Reformatory in LaGrange, Woodard asked her to work for him.
Woodard had installed a hyperbaric chamber at Highpoint Training Center in LaGrange, and Thorpe began by managing that part of the operation. Eventually Woodard's 10 horses at Highpoint grew to as many as 90, and Thorpe became his assistant, responsible for the entire Highpoint operation.
Thorpe left Woodard's operation in May 2011 and in September took out her trainer’s license. She currently trains two horses, one for a client and Cup of Joy, the latter given to her by Woodard when the gelding needed time off. She also still owns her original claim, Untamed, now retired.