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When the stars align – Life After Racing

Sometimes things, just like the partnership between Trina Crawford and Seventy Seven, are meant to be writes JO MCKINNON.

Competition continues to open up for off-the-track Thoroughbreds with a raft of events popping up all over Australia.

Last month, Equestrian NSW staged the Inglis Thoroughbred Classic during the Southern Cross Show Horse Spectacular, where retired Thoroughbreds were given the opportunity to enter one of two events, either the New Stars (horses with one to three years showing experience) or the All-Stars (horses with four years or more of showing).

I had the honor of being invited to join New Zealand trainer and equestrian Richard Otto, and NSW horsewoman Lyn Holgate as one of the three judges.

Combinations were required to perform a set workout and were ranked first through to last by each judge, with the winner determined on the highest number of votes. Each winner took home $1,000 along with trophies, a magnificent garland, and a wool rug.

Some of the best-performing horses and riders in the country took part and coped admirably with the cold, windy, and wet conditions on the day. Darkness had fallen by the time the All-Stars class got underway and an absolute stand out under the lights of the Sydney International Equestrian Centre was Trina Crawford’s flashy chestnut gelding Seventy Seven.

Son of champion sprinter Choisir, he raced as Gold Seventy Seven when trained by Kris Lees at Newcastle. He was unbeaten in only three starts but tendon issues put an end to what was shaping up as a very promising career on the track.

It was during his racing career that Trina, who was working as a horse physio at the time, spotted the future show star while on a visit to the Lees’ stable. While waiting to treat a horse, she took a stroll through the barn and saw Seventy Seven’s head over his stable door. “I thought, wow you’re cute. So I took a photo and noticed his name the door,” she says.

Returning to the stable where she was treating horses, she asked the yard manager about Seventy Seven. “He asked why I was interested and I said he’s one of the nicest babies I’ve seen in a long time,” recalls Trina.

Judge Jo Mckinnon with Best Presented winners Heidi Pickstock and DP Choir (Image by Lisa Gordon, Equinet Media).

When she returned home that night Trina, a devout Christian, couldn’t believe what happened. “I was reading my bible and opened it to where I’d bookmarked it. The page I was about to read had Seventy Seven written on the top. I wrote ‘wow’ next to it and the date.”

Four years passed after that serendipitous moment and then she got a phone call to say Seventy Seven had been retired and would she be interested in taking him on.

The decision wasn’t straightforward. A few years prior Trina had suffered a nasty fall from a horse that took fright at the Canberra Royal Show. She suffered a serious head trauma and neck injuries and was hospitalised for a month.

Having made good progress in her recovery, she decided to go out to view him. “I drove in, spotted him in the paddock and said ‘I’m taking that horse home’.”

Trina told her parents Seventy Seven was for someone else, but after a while, her mother asked why the horse was still in the paddock. “Well it goes like this,” Trina told her. “I had an accident, I didn’t die and he’s my new project.” Unable to ride herself, Trina gave Seventy Seven 12 months off to let down from his racing life. Once he became more settled and relaxed her twin sister Trinette, a professional show rider, began training him under saddle.

Right from the beginning his career in the show ring was a success, with an early win in his novice hack class at the Royal Easter Show. The journey has been uplifting for Trina who assists with all his groundwork and preparation for events. “He’s my heart horse. He’s been the drive for me to want to keep going even though it’s exhausting sometimes. When it’s really hard I focus on him. He needs me.”

Winning the recent All-Stars class at the Great Southern Show Horse Spectacular with Seventy Seven was a great thrill for Trina and Trinette, who rode him superbly and applauds events like this for providing pathways for Thoroughbreds after racing, and for keeping people interested in getting off the track horses

The New Stars class was won by the beautiful black Lonhro gelding Givenchy, ridden by Greg Mickan. He previously raced as Data Point when trained by Mick Kent and in a career spanning 24 starts won two races, earning just over $150,000 in prize money.

Just a week after the Inglis Thoroughbred Classic, Racing NSW launched Equimillion, an exciting new event for off the track Thoroughbreds with a minimum of $1 million in prize money. The first event is scheduled for the 2023 October long weekend. We’ll keep you posted.

Feature Image: Trinette Crawford and Seventy Seven after winning the All Stars class at the Southern Cross Show Horse Spectacular (Image by Lisa Gordon, Equinet Media).