Now that the Cheltenham Festival is over it’s finally time to look forward and concentrate on the flat season ahead. Who will win the classics? Who will be champion trainer, champion jockey and most of all…
Will we ever see another horse as good as Frankel???
Well Toormore certainly seems to have been the most impressive two year old of 2013 and although he will have a tough task ahead, my best wishes go out to him and all his connections. Having worked for Richard Hannon senior, nothing would make me happier than his team winning a classic in their first year with Richard Junior in charge. I know he has been waiting a long time to prove he can follow in his father’s footsteps and I think he has the ideal horse to do it with.
Before we go steaming headlong into the new turf season, there is one issue from last week that I think needs to be addressed. The comments from Ruby Walsh after the tragic loss of Our Conor have been the subject of much speculation. Having grown up in racing I have always heard similar comments about how “People are more important than horses and as long as the people are ok that is all that matters” but I have to say, what a load of rubbish!!!
It makes me sad to think that someone can have as much talent as Ruby, make an enormously successful career benefiting from all the hard work their horses put in and then be ignorant enough to think that one life is worth more than another. Whether it’s animals or people, every form of life is a miraculous gift and can Never be replaced by another!
When I was a 13 year old boy I went to the races with my father like I had done many times before, only this time changed my life forever. On the way there my father told me he was going to let me lead up our runner and I was so excited! My brother spent the day with me showing me how to prepare a horse ready for a race and after all the hard work, Prodeo won his race!
After that day I went on to ride Prodeo every day before going to school and then I came back to the yard to brush him after school, I learned to ride work on him and even jumped over hurdles for the very first time on him. After almost 2 years of me looking after him, he ran in another claimer and his owner had a big bet on him, unfortunately he found one horse too good on the day and finished 2nd.
The owner was so upset about losing his money that he didn’t put in a bid to try and keep the horse so he got claimed by another trainer and was taken away, leaving me to come home without him. I cried non-stop for 2 days when I lost Prodeo and I can promise you that although many other great horses have come into my life since that day, there has been and never will be another Prodeo!!!
Luckily for me I was reunited with him for one summer when his new trainer moved local to us and let me ride him every day during my breakfast break. I never asked for or received any payment, just to be back with him for 20 minutes every day was all I wanted.
I am still that 13 year old boy now and just thinking about this story is making me sad but I will never ever forget Prodeo! I am thankful for every day I spent with him and to think that someone who is at the top of our sport can say horses can just be replaced is a crying shame. I feel sorry for Ruby if he really has no passion for all those horses who have made him so successful, I can guarantee he wouldn’t even complete a circuit of Cheltenham without them!!
We had a fright at Uttoxeter on Saturday when Ossie’s Dancer made a mistake at the 4th hurdle and took a heavy fall. We saw him get up but he didn’t finish with the other horses and one of the girls working on the course told us he was in the horse ambulance. I walked across the course with the owner to find out what was going on and to our elation we found him walking towards us, safe and sound!
We then went to the weighing room to check the jockey was ok and were faced with a similar ignorance that had infuriated so many people at Cheltenham. After keeping the owner and I waiting for 15 minutes, he barely spoke a word to us when he came back and couldn’t get way from us quick enough. He certainly didn’t ask (or care) whether the horse was ok!
Luckily I know from experience that not all jockeys are so heartless towards the animals who pay their mortgages and put their children through school but I think it’s time for the people at the top take a long hard look at themselves and think about the damage they are doing to our sport. Not only do they needlessly infuriate genuine animal lovers but they also set a bad example for young riders who aspire to be just like them!
Have a good week everyone!