The “Veterans Chase” concept has proven hugely successful on the National Hunt scene, filling a void in the race programme for some of the sports best-known equines when they hit double digits in age.
Point-to-points have for a number of years offered alternative solace for some such former stars, whose connections have opted to revert to the amateur ranks to prolong their career. Big Fella Thanks and Carruthers are two prime examples this season.
I have concluded that 10 is no longer old. One of my best performers was a horse called Coombe Hill, whom I first rode in 2012 when he was 11. At the time he was a fifth-season pointer having won six races, but he had picked up the habit of being the bridesmaid in ladies’ races.
We clicked, and over the next four seasons I rode him 25 times, winning 11 and being placed on 10 other occasions. Having won three times as a 14-year-old, we decided to retire him fully intact, sound and healthy.
However, Coombe Hill was having none of it. Now, under the care of a teenaged handler in her first season, the 15-year-old horse is enjoying his 10th season and looking a million dollars. He has been placed on both starts to date in open races.
The trend for running horses well into their teens is increasing. Every horse is different and many are not as durable as Coombe Hill, but point-to-pointing is his domain and he continues to thrive when on the racecourse.
In human years he is 56. I sincerely hope I look and feel as well as him when I get to that age.
Ref: Horse & Houndl 18 February 2016