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Horse inside ... and Kicking King shows a clean set of heels

HE has such impeccable manners that he even removed his shoes before setting foot on the marble tiles.

The €380m National Convention Centre on the banks of the Liffey has already played host to a queen and yesterday it welcomed a rather more unusual visitor as Kicking King attended an insurance brokers' conference.

The racehorse stepped into the lofty hall minus his metal shoes, which could have scratched the polished floor.

Such a venture for the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner at the prime of his racing career would have left the audience of brokers at the Lloyd's Ireland event aghast.


Nowadays, it was a slightly less risky move as the mellow 14-year-old gelding, along with his companion, a pony named Argus, has left the track behind for a more sedate 'new career' as a show horse.

Trainer Tom Taaffe, who had the horse at his stables for 13 years, said it was important to the family that Kicking King, who retired from the track in 2008, was "kept active, interested and living in a good hotel".

"He is living in a five-star hotel and has been most of his life. Now, he is living in another one and is being prepared for a show in the RDS. The care and attention that these horses get is second to none," he added.

Brendan McArdle, whose voice will be familiar to many from commentating at racecourses around the country, explained to the crowd of brokers that Kicking King had amassed more than €1m in prize money during an illustrious career which saw him win two King George VI Chases in 2004 and 2005 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005.

"He was a high-class horse, he always wanted to take on his fences," jockey Barry Geraghty said. "As a child you dream of having the chance to even ride in a Gold Cup, let alone win one. For the purists, that is the one to win."

Eamonn Egan (48), the Lloyd's country manager for Ireland, borrowed the champion from the Taaffes earlier this year to aim him at this summer's Dublin Horse Show 'racehorse to riding horse class', created to show that racehorses can be retrained for a 'second career' after leaving the track, with horses parading around the ring showing off their obedience before the judges.

As a man used to judging risks, Mr Egan also brought along his wife Sara and two children Eddie (12) and Emma (10), who were equipped with a shovel and bucket just in case the champ deigned to leave a pile on those marble tiles.


Eddie brought along Argus as a companion for Kicking King during the journey from their Maynooth home and to keep him calm before the crowds.

Mr Egan admitted some eyebrows were raised when he initially suggested bringing the former champion into the multi-million euro building.

"There's never been an animal in the convention centre before, so I'm delighted it went so well and he behaved so well," said a relieved Mr Egan.

After the RDS show, the gelding will be kicking up his heels during his retirement under the watchful eye of tourists at the Irish National Stud, alongside other track stars, Moscow Flyer and Florida Pearl.

Irish Independent