Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bentley - The Rogue Racehorse

Bentley was a racehorse at Gary Alexander Racing Stables, where I worked from 1998 to 2014, at Turffontein Racecourse,in Johannesburg.  He is a grey gelding, standing approximately 16.3hh, and was born in 2007, at Summerhill Stud in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands, South Africa. He is by Kahal (GB), a son of Machiavellian, who was a son of Mr Prospector. Bentley's dam is Absolut Star, who was by Salaadim. Bentley's 3rd dam, Perseid, was a daughter of Persian Wonder, who is well noted as a sire, and grandsire, of many international level show jumpers in South Africa. Bentley raced 8 times (7 starts at Turffontein and 1 start at the Vaal), but was never placed, even though he showed a lot of promise in his first start, finishing just 3.75 lengths back.
He was a very angry colt as a youngster - very difficult to break in and exceptionally unruly at the track. Bentley preferred to be ridden only be one specific groom, otherwise he would behave very badly, and regularly bolt blindly towards home. He was thoroughly checked by a top veterinary practice for any problems which could be causing the extreme behavioural issues, but they could findnothing amiss or wrong with him. He used to charge, bite and kick in his box - that was his "territory", and visitors were not allowed inside. He was an absolute nightmare to saddle up on racedays, thrashing about and lashing about in every direction - not so much fun when you have to reach down to fasten the sircingle! He was gelded fairly early on, but it hardly made a difference to his behaviour; he was still 16.3hh worth of explosion waiting to happen at any moment. There was a young student who spent 6 months with us, doing work experience, and she decided to try and win him over. She spent hours standing at his stable door, cooing and soothing, as you do, and she definitely made a little progress with him, but he was never a friendly chap.
One morning down at the training tracks, he dropped his rider over his shoulder during a gallop and proceeded to bolt home. But not on the normal path. He chose the direct route, through all the rails and fences; 4 metal racecourse rails, and 2 post-and-rail paddock fences. He was badly cut up mangled mess when we caught him, and his light grey coat was stained with blood. But after washing him down, and stictching up multiple gashes and wounds, we realised that there were no serious injuries, and the cuts were mostly superficial.

Bentley became very sour after that, and he got a reputation for being a bit of a "rogue" in the jockey room. That meant we battled to get jockeys to ride him in races, as they were justifiably wary of his unpredictable behaviour. He raced 2 more times, where we even tried to soothe him with a "raceday pony", but even that did not calm his wayward antics. We realised at that point, that he just did not want to be a racehorse, and he was retired from racing, but we were worried about where we would place him, post retirement. Difficult horses can often end up being passed from home to home, and can end up in some undesirable circumstances, which we certainly do not want for any ex-racehorse.
On the strength of his pedigree, we offered Bentley to our equine dentist, Wayne Dale, who decided to take a chance on him, due to the proven jumping lines in his bloodline. The idea was that he would be Wayne's new young show jumping prospect, and he was quite excited by the idea. Wayne brought his then-12yo daughter Cara, to the yard, when he came to collect "Big Ben". They arrived with a 2 berth horsebox, which racehorses are notorious for not wanting to load into! (And let me just add here, that we took a very long time to teach Bentley to load into the starting stalls, and getting him onto the treadmill was completely out of the question!)

We were all standing chatting about Bentley's pedigree, next to the horsebox, when out of the barn walked Cara, with an undeniably meek-looking grey gelding on nothing but a halter. Cara knew nothing of his bad behaviour, and when she had taken his lead rein, he'd instantly gotten a soft look in his eye, that tense neck relaxed, and they had a obvious connection immediately. She took him to the horsebox by herself, and we all stood watching in disbelief, as he just walked into the box without even a moment's hesitation! Cara and Bentley seemed to click from the very first instant that they interacted with one another. It was quite a sight to see, I must admit, and I recall the moment often. Wayne realised right there and then, that Bentley was not going to be his horse!

Wayne has reported that he has been a sweet, kind and very agreeable horse, since the day he arrived in their yard, and Bentley has bonded with Cara beautifully! All his negative behaviour and wayward ways have disappeared completely. They go to show jumping shows together, jumping in the lower classes for now, and he is relaxed and very willing to do whatever Cara asks of him.

***This is a very good example of how the intensity and stresses of being in a racing yard, sometimes just does not agree with certain horses. They often lose their aggression and bad behaviour, and even vices, as soon as they are removed from that environment. Please keep that in mind when looking at OTTBs.

This is Bentley posing for some photos on 5 November 2012. He was very difficult and tense, dragging his handler around defiantly! His last race had been on 23 October 2012.
His eyes seemed to tell us that he did not want to be in the racing yard any more

He wanted no part of the silly photo session! 

A week later, on 12 November 2012, with his beloved Cara. His eyes tell the story here... 

In May 2014, Cara and Bentley went to their first show. Her Dad Wayne had this to say:
"Bentley and Cara's first show. Although very green, he is showing good promise."

This is a photo of Cara and Bentley in April 2015. The soft expression on Bentley's face tells you everything you need to know! I am SO proud of what these two have achieved together so far.

Bentley competing at Penbritte Equestrian Centre in March 2017. His form and technique over the fences have improved considerably. They make an incredible team together!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bold Elegance (Elgin Marbles)

I am always really impressed by the wide variety of post racing vocations that Thoroughbreds excel in, and Bold Elegance is no exception. In February 2016, he was a multiple Champion at the South African Horse Of The Year Show. He is just a plain bay, but with his eye catching presence, you can understand why he keeps on winning all those rosettes and sashes, and why he was renamed Bold Elegance. And then to further add to the intrigue of this story, I realized that Bold Elegance is a half brother to one of the most successful, and best looking racehorses, that I have ever worked with personally, Elegant Al, who was trained by Gary Alexander. In the mid 90's I also worked with their oldest half sister, Fashionable Lady (SNL), who was trained by Tobie Spies.

Bold Elegance, current reigning Horse Of The Year 2016
Supreme Adult Show Hunter

The Elegantka Legacy

Elegantka (USA) was, by all accounts, an exceptionally good looking and well conformed mare. She was imported into South Africa by Graham Beck, in the early 90's, in foal to a US based stallion called Local Talent (USA). She was covered to Southern Hemisphere time, and when she arrived in South Africa in 1992, she foaled down a dark bay filly called Fashionable Lady (SNL). The "SNL" stands for: Sired North of the Line. Fashionable Lady was a fair racehorse, winning 3 races in the end, from the Vaal based racing yard of Tobie Spies, where I worked as Assistant Trainer, from 1994 to 1996.

Fashionable Lady was looked after, ridden daily, and immensely loved, by a very good friend of mine, Aldeen van der Walt, who was doing her practical year for her Equine Sciences Diploma, at the time. She said this about "Fash', as she fondly called her: "She was my favourite, she was such a nice stocky horse for a filly. She always tried her best when working. She had a lovely temperament and real gentle eyes. I also loved her owners, Mr and Mrs Makins"

Aldeen riding her darling "Fash" in 1995

Fashionable Lady (SNL) winning for the second time,
in October 1995, under Rhys van Wyk, at Newmarket Racecourse
sporting those famous yellow and blue silks of Mr & Mrs Makins

In 1995, Elegantka was covered by the great Al Mufti, which produced her most successful progeny on the racetrack, Elegant Al. He was an exceptional looker - well known Equine Orthopaedic Surgeon, Professor Roy Gottschalk once told me that he was the best looking horse he had ever encountered, and that his conformation was the closest to perfect that he had ever seen. I have to agree wholeheartedly there - I rode him many mornings on the training tracks. He had such a gentle nature and a true "daisy cutter" action, which is so desirable in a show horse. He is one of my all time favourite racehorses. Elegant Al won a sensational race in the Gr2 Premiers Handicap in 1999, beating TWO Durban July winners, El Picha and Classic Flag, in the process. He also ran a short head 2nd to stable companion Drum Star, in the Gr1 Horse Chestnut 1600m. He was a very sound horse, and raced for 8 seasons, running 52 times for 6 wins, 19 places and R764 205 in stakes. He was trained by Gary Alexander, and was owned by the Alexander Ascot Syndicate. In August 2004, Elegant Al was retired from racing, sound and clean legged, and was bought by Clodagh Shaw as a show horse.

The photo finish of Elegant Al's victory in the
Gr2 Premier's Handicap in October 1999
Elegant Al on the far side, narrowly being beaten into 2nd
by stable companion Drum Star in the Gr1 Horse Chestnut 1600
in April 2000
Elegantka was sired by Conquistador Cielo, who won the 1982 Belmont Stakes, and he was named Champion 3yo Colt and US Horse Of The Year that same year.

Conquistador Cielo winning the 1982 Belmont Stakes

Conquistador Cielo at stud. He was the sire of
over 60 individual Stake Winners
In October 1999 Graham Beck decided to sell his beloved Maine Chance stud farm, and Elegantka found herself on the resulting dispersal sale. She was bought, in foal to West Man for just R70 000 by David Makins, who had owned her very first foal, Fashionable Lady (SNL). She went to live at Peter and Jenny Blyth's Clifton Stud for the rest of her days, producing many more lovely foals for Mr and Mrs Makins.
Elgin Marbles, now called Bold Elegance
In 2004, Elegantka was covered for the second time by the new first season resident stallion at Clifton Stud, Anytime (IRE), who was also owned by Mr and Mrs Makins. Anytime was another exceptional looker, who no doubt got his good looks from his own sire, Fairy King (IRE). Stud owner, Peter Blyth told me that she was a very easy mare to manage, in all aspects, and had a superb temperament, something which she has clearly passed on to all her progeny.
The sire of Elgin Marbles/ Bold Elegance
Breeder David Makins with his beloved Bloodline Million
winner, Mysterious Hal, with Dougie Whyte
in those famous yellow and blue colours!
This mating produced Elgin Marbles, now named Bold Elegance, the hero of our story. He raced in the famous yellow and blue Makins's colours, and was initially trained by Diane Stenger at Randjesfontein. He battled a little up on the Highveld tracks, and was subsequently sold to Charles Roberts and Diane Botes down in Port Elizabeth. He came out a winner in his 5th start for the Charles Roberts yard, but they soon realised that perhaps Elgin Marbles's talents lay elsewhere. Diane Botes is well known for placing ex-racehorses in new post racing homes, through her own First For Horses concept. Elgin Marbles was initially sold to a lady in KZN, Sue Barrett, where he was brought on to win the KZN Champion Novice Show Horse.
In 2012, a showing fanatic, Zadia Schutte bought Bold Elegance, and he has won a large number of Showing Championships with her, under his regular rider, JJ Kemp. He was overall South African Champion Show Horse in 2014, Supreme General Breed Riding Horse at HOY 2013, Supreme Adult Show Hunter TWICE at HOY, and 3rd in Overall Riding Top 5 at HOY 2016. with Bold Elegance only being 12 years old now, he still has many, many years of top class Showing ahead of him.
I asked Zadia, "Why Thoroughbreds?", and she replied: " I am a huge showing fanatic, and they make the most beautiful show horses! I love their big hearts, and willingness and ability to adapt to nearly any situation! I love how they look when all fat and shiny, and 'turned out' (for Showing)! They are great companions and pleasure riding horses as well."
JJ Kemp, who is Bold Elegance's regular "show jockey", was blown away by Bold Elegance's performance at the 2016 HOY Show:": Bold Elegance always makes you hold your breath. Winning his SASSA Hunter class for the 3rd year running and second time Champion SASSA Hunter!!! Super proud of him and such a gallop champ!! Since the first year I showed him being General Breed Ridden champ with Katie Jerram, all the way to being SA Adult Supreme Ridden Showing Champion and every win in between this horse gave me so many special moments!!"
Zadia also mentioned that top UK Showing Judge, Shelly Perham, had told her after the 2016 Horse Of The Year Show, that she was very impressed by Bold Elegance, and that he would make a "TOP Ladies Show Hunter in the UK", which is the home of the Showing discipline.
That's some testament, from some very knowledgeable people, for a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse!
I cannot share enough pictures of this gracefully elegant 12yo gelding. Here are a few from the 2016 Horse Of The Year Show, held at Kyalami Equestrian Park in February.
Big smiles as they get yet another rosette!

Outstanding conformation
Truly living up to his new name!

The look of concentration on both of their faces!
JJ Kemp in the saddle.

Winning the In Hand classes too!

Only a Thoroughbred could give you such a good gallop
in the Showing Ring, and it is one of Bold Elegance's
most famous traits!

The Grand Prize!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Necker Island

Clarissa Groesbek started riding when she was 8 years old. As with so many others, she started on the riding school ponies, but she soon got her own pony, a little golden dun filly of mixed breeding. This 3 and half year old pony mare was called Mexican Rose, and with Clarissa being just 11 years old, they started their competitive careers together.
Clarissa And Mexican Rose, the early days.

The combination grew incredibly together, and they shot up to the 1.10m classes in no time, where they were very competitive. In 2011, however, the unthinkable happened, and Mexican Rose injured the deep digital flexor tendon in one of her hindlegs. The consulting vet actually recommended euthanasia, because the injury was so severe. But the tenacious young Clarissa would have none of that talk, and rehabilitated the mare to full competitiveness again, and they even upgraded to the 1.20m classes. But with Clarissa getting taller, and the tendon began showing some signs of further strain, so the decision was made to retire Mexican Rose from competition immediately.
The incredible technique of Mexican Rose, who was
brought on by Clarissa from absolutely novice.

 The bond between them was immense!
And so the search was on for a new horse for Clarissa. By her own admission, a retired Thoroughbred racehorse was the last thing she was looking for, even though she had admired and idolized the great Thoroughbred Show Jumpers, like Ronnie Lawrences's High Hopes, and Gonda Betrix's Honey Girl, from a very young age. In her own words: "I never really thought much of a thoroughbred and cringed at the thought of owning another due to owning a very colicky and troublesome thoroughbred a few years back. Eventually we made the decision to retire him because despite all we did to help him, he was unable to be ridden due to continuous spells of illness and permanent lameness." That would most certainly put most people off from looking at OTTBs ever again.
But then in May 2015, she saw Necker Island...

Necker Island
Necker Island's Story and Background
Necker Island comes from one of the most successful South African female bloodlines, which is based at Ascot Stud in the Eastern Cape. The foundation mare of this particular line, was Totem Queen, a non-winning mare by Savonarola. As unremarkable as she was on the racetrack, the magic started when she was covered by Al Mufti for the first time. And again the second, third and forth times, and certainly with the handful of other stallions she was covered by. Her foals were all fair on the racetrack, and her best progeny was an Al Mufti filly called Indian Squaw, who won 4 races, including the Listed Ladies Day Handicap. I was lucky enough to work with her when I worked for trainer Tobie Spies in the mid 1990s. She win her very first start, shown in the picture, below.

The very first Al Mufti daughter of Totem Queen, Samson's Queen has produced this exquisite colt by Sail From Seattle. He is owned by Green Street Bloodstock and trained by Snaith Racing, but is as yet, unraced.

The Al Mufti influence is very strong in Last Outlaw
Little Indian, (once more by Al Mufti,and out of Totem Queen) produced one of the best racehorses we have seen in South Africa, Yorker (by Jet Master), a multiple Grade 1 winner, and now campaigning in the UK.

Yorker winning the 2014 Gr1 Horse Chestnut 1600m

Yet another Al Mufti daughter of Totem Queen, Island Squaw, also a 4 time winner, has produced 5 winners, 4 of which are semi black type ( Kiribati - 3 wins; Archipeligo - 5 wins; Keanu Beach - 6 wins & Tiger Island - 4 wins).

The very imposing Al Mufti, who stood
 at Ascot Stud for his entire career

When Island Squaw was covered by Rich Man's Gold (USA), she produced a dark bay colt, in 2006. The Al Mufti influence was strong in this one too, as he took on his dam sire's dark colouring, instead of his own sire's rich liver chesnut colour. He went into training with Mike de Kock. He had just 3 starts in February 2010 where he showed very little talent to be a racehorse, finishing last or close to last in all 3 starts.
Necker Island's sire, Rich Man's Gold
Necker Island as an awkward 3yo, recently retired from racing.
But while this little dark bay gelding was a rather unremarkable racehorse, he has shown remarkable talent in his new second career as a show jumper! Clarissa has admitted to not being entirely convinced that Thoroughbreds are very good Sport Horses, especially in the show jumping arena. But in the few months that she has ridden Necker Island, she has sais that she is an absolute OTTB convert and fan: "Since having purchased this boy (Necker Island) in May of last year, I have truly been blown away. Although quirky at times, the rate at which he learns is absolutely incredible and unlike any other breed (and I've ridden them all!). Once taught something, he retains it like a sponge and will execute it perfectly on asking the second time around. It took him all of 5 minutes to master leg yields at a canter; which has taken other horses months. In 10 months that I've had him, he just keeps giving of himself and no challenge is too big. He rises to every occasion and makes sure that his performance is always better than the last."
That is some testament to this young Thoroughbred, who has come on incredibly in the last 6 months or so. He had been competing in the 70/ 80cm classes with his previous owner, but they just never clicked, and he was troublesome and difficult in the show arena. When Clarissa got him, they cruised straight into the 1.00m classes with great ease and finesse. They upgraded fairly quickly, and are currently competing in the 1.10m classes. Clarissa's goal is to upgrade into the 1.20m classes by May 2016, and she intends to compete in the 1.20m Derby trial at the Galencia South African Derby.
Necker Island is showing some incredible technique over the fences, which is so typical of the celebrated Al Mufti progeny. With her background in producing young horses to top level, we have no doubt that Clarissa and Necker Island will reach the very top in the Show Jumping arena. We look forward to following their progress in the future!
Is he really a Thoroughbred??
Showing superb scope and technique over the fences
What a team Necker Island and Clarissa make!


Friday, March 11, 2016

New Retirement Rules for South African Racehorses

It was announced on 11 March 2016 that the National Horseracing Authority of South Africa have put an entirely new set of rules in place, with regards to the retirement of racehorses in training. The new rules will come into effect on 20 March 2016, and will be enforced in the same way as all the other NHA rules. This is a huge step in the right direction to trying to ensure that retired Thoroughbreds so not end up in unsuitable situations, post racing. We applaud the NHA for making these huge changes!


41.10 The OWNER of a HORSE shall remain responsible for the care and welfare of a HORSE registered in his name with the NHA, once it retires from racing and for the rest of its natural life, unless he:

41.10.1 transfers ownership of the HORSE to another OWNER or an owner in another racing jurisdiction; or

41.10.2 transfers ownership of the HORSE to a BREEDER; or

41.10.3 transfers ownership of the HORSE to a Horsecare Unit run under the auspices of the National Horse Trust or another rehoming facility approved by the CHIEF EXECUTIVE , together with the required fee; or

41.10.4 has the HORSE humanely euthanased and reports such euthanasia to the NHA; or

41.10.5 disposes, whether by an auction approved by the CHIEF EXECUTIVE or otherwise, the
HORSE out of racing, on condition that a “second career assessment form” as prescribed from time to time, has been completed by a veterinary surgeon, the OWNER and the TRAINER, enabling the HORSE to pursue an intended second career outside of horseracing. If required, the OWNER agrees to make all relevant veterinary history available to the veterinary surgeon and TRAINER, in order to complete the form accurately. The assessment form shall be submitted to the CHIEF EXECUTIVE within one week of the horse retiring from racing. Should the assessment recommend humane euthanasia and the OWNER elects not to humanely euthanase the HORSE, then the OWNER shall remain responsible for that horse’s welfare for the rest of its natural life.

41.11 An OWNER shall be guilty of an offence if he fails to dispose of a horse in accordance with RULE 41.10

41.12 For the purposes of Rule 41, a horse will be regarded as having been retired from the time it leaves a Trainers’ yard or a breeding establishment to be placed in the care of a person who is not registered with the National Horseracing Authority

It is the purpose of this “rehoming” Rule 41.10 to create a more structured and transparent scenario in which to retire horses from racing. The intent is to create a situation where horses are evaluated and responsibly rehomed to places where they are cared for and suitably utilised. In the event of chronic and recurrent lameness or horses with extreme temperament problems, euthanasia may be the kinder option. With this in mind, the ‘Second Career Assessment Form’ has been drawn up to assess the horses. This assessment form is NOT a ‘Vetting for Purchase’, nor does it guarantee the soundness, or future soundness of the horse examined. The form is also not intended for inspection by the potential buyer, as the responsibility to vet a horse before purchase remains that of the buyer.

The assessment form asks the veterinarian doing the examination to evaluate the horse’s temperament, clinical health and soundness when trotted in hand. Provision is made for horses who may need a few months rest to recover from the physical strain of racing and for horses that may only be suitable as a hack. (Please remember here the use of the term ‘hack’ would imply a horse only suitable for outrides and light work, whereas ‘sport horse’ refers to horses pursuing careers in, for example, showjumping, dressage or eventing).

The aim of the assessment, in combination with the horse’s history, is to provide the information needed by the owner and trainer to make the best decision for the horse’s future, thereby helping to prevent the horse from ending up in an unsuitable home where it may be open to abuse or neglect in the future. The assessment form, when fully completed, also contains the details of the new owner and must be sent to the NHA, where it will be kept for reference. The correctly completed and submitted form will place the responsibility for the horse’s welfare on the new owner. However, if the provisions of Rule 41.10 have not been followed, or the horse was not euthanased if so recommended by the vet, the owner remains responsible for that horse’s welfare for the rest of its natural life and may be penalized in terms of the NHA rules if that horse is found to be uncared for or abused in the future.

The private veterinarians have agreed to complete this form the cost of a consult. The form is then submitted to the NHA and is NOT a veterinary soundness certificate for the potential purchaser of the horse. Although many owners may not be comfortable with making the decision to humanely euthanase a horse, should the majority decision be that that is the best option, then it is recommended that they sign over ownership to one of the Horse Care Units, who shall evaluate the horse further and make whatever decision is in the best interests of the horse. There is a fee payable to the Units to cover their costs and transportation of the horse. Tranfer of ownership to the Horse Care Units is also an option without completion of the ‘Second Career Assessment Form’.

Please note that the owner is under no obligation to sell the horse and is perfectly entitled to retain ownership and continue caring for the horse for the rest of its natural life. However, if the owner no longer wants the responsibility of the horse in the future, then the above procedures need to be followed. Please contact any one of the NHA veterinarians should there be any other queries in this regard and they shall advise you on how best to proceed.


The future is now so much brighter
for retiring racehorses in South Africa
(Copyright to Jacqui S Photography)