Pineau De Re, winner of the 2014 Grand National, has proven he is no one-trick pony after taking to his new career as an eventer like a duck to water.
The French-bred 14-year-old made his eventing debut yesterday (9 April) in an unaffiliated BE90 class at Aston-Le-Walls in Northamptonshire, under Lizzie Doolittle.
‘Pineau’ ran in his final race on 30 April 2016, which was a three-mile handicap chase at Uttoxeter, after which the decision was made to retire him. He had earnt £677,271 in winnings over 48 races under rules for trainer Dr Richard Newland and owner J A Provan.
“Dr Newland didn’t want him to be sold and said that Pineau was too good to sit in a field for the rest of his life so Amelia Newland [Dr Newland’s daughter] and I started to retrain him,” explained 24-year-old Lizzie, who is a part-time work rider for the trainer.
“Amelia then took up a new job in London so Dr Newland decided to loan Pineau with the view to him going eventing and I snapped him up,” said Lizzie, who also runs her own event yard in Worcestershire. “I continued retraining Pineau from Dr Newland’s until he came to live at my yard full time six weeks ago.”
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The combination completed two unaffiliated dressage tests locally before going eventing.
Pineau scored 38.3 (61.7%) in the dressage phase at Aston-Le-Walls.
“He paraded at Aintree before the Grand National the day before, so he felt like he thought he should have been going round the Grand National during our dressage test,” said Lizzie.
The pair then rolled two poles in the showjumping.
“He pinged around the course, just tapping the poles he had down,” explained Lizzie. “Someone remarked that the fences didn’t look big enough for him — he jumps very high, but we’re still working on teaching him to bend his knees.”
Their day was rounded off with a clear cross-country round, just clocking up 4.4 time faults.
“He ate the cross-country course up,” said Lizzie. “He tried to run off with me after some of the fences, so I had to remind him that he’s not a racehorse anymore, which is why we got the time-faults. But I didn’t want to push him and I really feel like I could point him at any fence and he would jump it.”
Lizzie plans to try some affiliated eventing with Pineau in the near future.
“He’s probably not going to go around Badminton,” she said with a laugh. “But he’s such a cool horse and super-talented, so we’ll just see how we get on.”
Lizzie admitted that retraining such a great racehorse hasn’t always been plain sailing.
“He’s got an opinion on everything so he’ll try to have his say when you ask him to go on the bit, for example. But he’s too nice a character not to try and he’s improving every day — his jump is something else and it feels like you go up to the sky and back again!
“He takes it all in his stride and I’m just so grateful to the Newlands for letting me have such a special horse.”
Aston-Le-Walls event secretary Tissie Reason, said that it was “very exciting” to have a former Grand National winner competing at her event.
“We had Mr Frisk [1990 Grand National winner] competing at Smiths Lawn horse trials in 1994, and I thought to myself yesterday evening that it was pretty good going to have another National winner compete at one of our events,” she said.