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Life After Racing – Star quality

There are some horses with a presence that demands your undivided attention. Givenchy is one of those horses, writes JO MCKINNON.

Givenchy is one of those breathtaking show hacks. When he strides into the ring you can’t take your eyes off him. His colour, his movement, his elegance, and his presence all come together to form the perfect looking Thoroughbred. Add his regular rider Greg Mickan into the equation and you have the epitome of a top show combination.

At this year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show, Greg and Givenchy took out the most prestigious event for Thoroughbreds, the Pope Cup. It was the crowning glory in what has so far been an illustrious career in the ring since being retired from the racetrack in 2018.

A son of the former champion racehorse and coveted Darley sire Lonhro, Givenchy was trained by Mick Kent and raced as Data Point. He was handy enough on the track and in 24 starts he won two races and amassed prize money earnings of $151,000.

Greg remembers catching a glimpse of him on Racing.com while he was still racing, and said he immediately noted him down as having potential as a show horse. “The Racing.com app notifies me when there’s a horse I like racing, and when they’re not doing so well I contact the trainer. I saw him trotting to the barrier and liked the way he carried himself. He’s a very good mover and sat in a nice frame. We have come across three or four horses by doing this. It’s a good way of spotting them if you can’t go to the races,” Greg says.

Data Point, as he was then known, sat in Greg’s little black book for a while until his trainer’s vet happened to come out to Greg’s property and gave him the tip that he might soon be available. “His vet said he had a nice horse and I looked it up on my phone and there was his name. He said you better get down there and look at him, there are a few showies after him. Sue Thompson went down and ended up buying him.”

Winners of the 2022 Sydney Royal Pope Cup (Image by Rodney’s Photography).

Soon after the horse arrived at Romsey Park, Greg’s picturesque property in Victoria, he knew Data Point had what it took to make a good competition horse. “We did a month’s work to make sure he was what I wanted. From day dot he always sat in a frame and is one of the easier Thoroughbreds we have trained off the track. He’s beautiful and very uncomplicated to ride and probably came up better than we thought.”

Greg, a show jumping rider when he was younger, specialises in producing show horses and works with all types of breeds including Warmbloods. He says, for various reasons, that he enjoys working with Thoroughbreds the most. “They’ve been exposed to a lot before we get them. They’ve been to the races, been in stables, so when you take them to shows they are forward thinking compared to a Warmblood, which will stop and spook. With Thoroughbreds they continue to go forward because after their training on the track, their initial instinct is to go forward.” Greg adds that although he loves Thoroughbreds, he’s of the opinion that a good horse is a good horse, no matter what their breeding, and that they’re not easy to source.

Not all prospects turn out to be stars like Givenchy, now in his third showing season, and are simply unable to transition to life on the show circuit. “It’s hard because you don’t know until you get them out amongst other horses and see how they cope in the atmosphere. You can sometimes think you have a star in your own arena at home, but you never really know until you get them out,” Greg explains.

Givenchy, a good mover with a very nice frame (Image by Lorelle Mercer).

Givenchy was taken to seven agricultural shows within three weeks in his first stint, enough to make or break any horse. “They have to tie to the truck and work in a team environment. He was always very good even at his first few shows, he has a good temperament and accepted it very well. In temperament and trainability, he’s up there with one of the easier ones we have had to produce,” Greg says. “What he is at home is just about what he is at the shows. He doesn’t get there and get too bright or silly.”

Greg and Givenchy’s next big targets are the 2022 Melbourne Royal followed by the Grand Nationals in Sydney at the end of the year.

And with so many off the track events offering great prize money popping up all over Australia, Greg plans to aim Givenchy at more of those shows, because, as he says, that adds up to a whole lot of incentive.

Feature Image: Greg and Givenchy, the 2022 OTT New Star (Image by Lisa Gordon).