Wednesday 22 November 2017

Caring for our horses

IT'S hard to find homes for retired thoroughbreds

Native Jack is a horse I purchased with the intention of running in banks races here in Ireland. He was 12 years old when I spotted him for sale in England.

It wasn't long before he made himself at home and became one of the characters you just don't forget in a hurry.

Jack had a huge personality and would keep anyone who rode him, at their wits end to control his more than eager, willing to please. Once Native Jack's career came to a close I was eager to find a good home for him. It wasn't long before I realised it might not be so easy to find someone who was willing to take on such an active and enthusiastic animal.

It was at my cousins wedding in France that I met up with an animal loving Scotsman, who under the influence of the fine wine on offer, thought it would be a great idea to have Jack as part of his life, and so the ball was set in motion.

Within two weeks Jack was safely transported over to Scotland. Since then Jack has moved back to Ireland and now resides on a stud farm in Kildare with my Scottish friend.

I took a trip up to visit him and found a very happy, life loving horse, with a big paddock to himself during the day and lamps fitted in his stable to keep him warm at night. I'd say this horse most definitely landed on his feet, to my delight.

While up in Kildare it got me thinking about the challenges out there for the thoroughbred ex racehorse, and this took me on another road trip to the Irish Horse Welfare Trust located just outside of Arklow Town.

I discovered that there were about 80 horses currently on the 63 acre premises, and although this may seem like a lot of horses I was informed that they have to turn horses away at present as it is not possible to cater for the volumes more that wish to be re-homed.

I got a full tour of the different areas of the farm, including a visit with the much loved Colonel Rayburn who won many prominent races in his career including running twice in the Grand National. He is a real flagship for the trust.

There seems to be a huge amount of work involved in the running of the organisation and as it depends on funding from the public as well as the limited Government funding available.

It seems a tough task, especially considering the changes which have taken place in legislation. It is now compulsory that all horses have a passport and are micro-chipped and although this may seem fairly straight forward there is a cost involved which has led to the dumping of more animals.

Some of the stories I was told were less than pleasant and any horse who finds himself in the care of the IHWT is a lucky one.

On the thoroughbred front, I am finding it increasingly hard to find homes for horses that have raced, there seems to be a stigma attached, even though, a huge volume of these animals make for great sport horses.

Thoroughbred horses are, in general, very giving and tend not to be so spooky having been travelled and schooled so well during their life as racehorses.

We know our horses very well and we will only try to re-home horses that are suitable to a different discipline.

So, the question that we have to ask is, how do we change people's opinions? Not just about racehorses but the care and attention that is needed in general.

Having asked this question during my visit at the IHWT, the answer seemed simple, registration, enforcement and education.

Most of these initiatives are currently in place and educating the next generation to me seems a step in the right direction for the future of good equine welfare.

My entries for the week ahead will be kept to a minimal but there promises to be great racing in Fairyhouse, Gowran and Leopardstown including the Thyestes Chase and the BHP Champion Hurdle. It's hard to read at this stage, with only entries to contend with and uncertainty as to what will actually run in the upcoming races.

The Thyestes Chase is the feature race on the card in Gowran on Thursday and it is the Jim Dreaper trained Los Amigos that has my each vote here.

I also think that Rich Revival should get some each way consideration if the ground is to come up heavy on the Chase track.

The last race on the card is the INH Flat race which looks impressive on paper and although the Willie Mullins trained Black Hercules will be the odds on favourite to win, I think that Stack The Deck could run a big race to beat the hotpot with good returns.

King Vuvuzela is my fancy for the Handicap Chase (grade A) in Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Paul Nolan trained gelding won on his last outing in Leopardstown over a distance of 2m1f, I thing he will improve again for the extra 4f on offer here.

I have a couple of fancies in the Hurdle and its Quick Jack who looks likely to head the market from the Tony Martin yard.

Having won at the November meeting in Cheltenham over a distance of 2m1f and proving that he not only has good turn of foot, but can also stay up the hill leaves me with no doubt that he is a superstar in the making.

However, he is only a five- year-old who has to content with older horses here and its Authorization and Sea Light that I think will be his main rivals.

There are two Grade 1 races on the card in Leopardstown Sunday. The first of these is the Arkle Novice Chase. Felix Yonger is my pick here and the horse I would like to follow to the Arkle in Cheltenham in March.

The BHP Champion Hurdle has only seven entries and will most likely thin out by declaration stage on Friday.

I am very much looking forward to this race and am interested to see if Jezki can turn the tables on Hurricane Fly.

I do think that Our Conor will have improved immensely for his run and with only 5.75L to make up; I am hoping that it will be a furiously close contest.

It's not prudent to rule out Annie Power or Un De Sceaux but I am doubtful that either will be declared to run and am fairly sure that Un De Sceaux will run in the Red Mills Hurdle in two weeks' time.

All in all I'd say that racing over the weekend will leave us clearer as to where some of these horses will be headed over the coming months.

Wicklow People

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