A recent show jumping showcase is just another example of how the careers of off the track racehorses are being supported, writes AMANDA MAC.
If you’ve been reading our Life After Racing articles for any length of time, you’ll have gathered that the horse racing industry, both at State and national level, has been working hard to ensure that the lives of off the track racehorses are safe, secure and fulfilling. You’ll also have noticed that many of these horses shine in their new careers, with Shenae Lowings’ eventer Bold Venture, and Alanna Richard’s show ring success Royal Blu immediately springing to mind.
And how do they fair as show jumpers? If the inaugural Queensland Off-The-Track (QOTT) Program Showjumping Showcase, held at last month’s Royal Queensland Show, is anything to go by, very nicely, thank you!
With $50,000 in QOTT-funded prize money up for grabs, the new competition offered what is currently Australia’s largest purse for a show jumping class exclusive to retired racehorses. First place attracted a prize of $10,000, while, in a move designed to acknowledge all competitors and support every OTT horse competing, the balance of the pool was payed down to the very last place getter.
Kim Duffy, Racing Queensland’s Senior Animal Care Manager, is delighted to see the competition up and running. “As an industry, we need to be much more proactive in educating the general public about our fantastic aftercare programs and the support available to retired racehorses,” she says. “Unless you are connected to racing, many people are unaware of the wonderful work being done to support our horses as they transition into second careers, and that’s why events like this are so important.”
The event, open to any registered Thoroughbred or Standardbred in Australia (as per Racing Australia or Harness Racing Australia records), is one of a number of new QOTT initiatives. “It’s vitally important that QOTT supports retired racehorses, as well as the owners who look after them for the duration of their post-racing lives,” Kim says.
When QOTT approached the Queensland branch of the RNA with the idea of running the Showcase at the Ekka, the Association couldn’t have been more supportive – and this year’s event was a spectacular success.
Held in the main arena before a capacity crowd, Queensland’s Emily Patterson made history as the inaugural Showcase winner. Emily, an experienced show jumper, partnered with retired racehorse Libertarian (a galloper who raced as Liberty Shopper) in what was a hotly contested 30-strong field that included a number of former Group race runners.
With Wayne Crompton riding the Gerry Harvey bred Double Impact, who scored over $520,000 in prize money during a 75-race career, and Olympian Ron Easey aboard Prince of Darkness (who raced as Smart Devil) in the running, the competition was always going to be fierce. Nevertheless, the ladies held their own with second and third place going to Maleah Lang-McMahon, riding Ned O’Reilly for second and Royal Talisman for the third in a nail-biting contest that kept spectators on the edge of their seats
In a strange twist, it was a chance conversation that prompted the Showcase winner to enter Libertarian into Australia’s most lucrative show jumping event for retired racehorses. “I honestly didn’t know about the event straight up, but he’s the only Thoroughbred in Australia jumping World Cups at the moment, which is the highest you can jump,” Emily explained.
Given that Emily is passionate about Thoroughbreds, she was immediately on board and wanting to support the Showcase. She believes that this and other similar events play an important role in showing that Thoroughbreds are just as talented in the show jumping arena as Warmbloods.
Emily is understandably delighted with her win. “I’m absolutely ecstatic, I can’t believe it. We only ride as a hobby but he’s taken me around two World Cups, he’s literally just the best horse ever. His original racing owners from Victoria are here watching him today and it’s just amazing for him to win this class. He’s quite mischievous, he likes getting into anything but he gallops up to me in the paddock and we just have the best bond and I love him so much.”
Victory for the Queensland-bred son of Statue of Liberty and Bonnie Shopper came ten years after his last race in a 21-start career that netted three wins.
Kim Duffy hailed the Showcase a huge success. “We knew the quality of show jumping would be high, and this inaugural event certainly did not disappoint. A huge congratulations goes to Emily and Libertarian, as well as to all of our competitors who made it a memorable afternoon in the Main Arena. I also want to thank Racing Minister Grace Grace who was in attendance and had a fantastic afternoon cheering on the competition.”
Earlier in the day, nearly 200 retired racehorses had competed in a range of led and ridden classes for Thoroughbred and Standardbred Day. “It was fantastic to see so many retired racehorses thriving in their lives post-racing,” Kim added, “and we cannot wait to bring the event to life again in 2024!”
And if this has you thinking about the 2024 competition, or wondering whether an OTT horse might be the right choice for you, you can find out more about the QOTT program at Queensland Off the Track.
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