Not all the stars of the track retire to stud or the field — some top-class horses even go on to competitive careers in new disciplines. Here are six former Grade or Group One winners enjoying an active retirement.
Saphir Du Rheu
The 10-year-old retired after running in the Gold Cup last year, and has since transferred his skills to eventing. His new rider, Charlotte Alexander, started “Saphy” off team chasing and hunting. However, it was soon clear the Mildmay winner could have more ambitious targets. He’s now jumped clear round eight novices and is being tilted for the top.
“Next season the aim is intermediate and two-star, but eventually I’d love to do Blenheim with him,” says Charlotte. “I think he could go all the way. I’m not piddling round at the lower levels — we’re on a mission!”
The nine-time Grade One winner was retired last year after an illustrious career trained by Colin Tizzard. He has since made the move to Katie Jerram-Hunnable’s showing yard, and has racked up a string of victories in-hand. Next season, he will be out under saddle in RoR and SEIB retrained racehorse classes — with Royal Windsor as his target.
“He’s easy, a great walker, and conformationally incredibly correct, as well as being brave,” says Katie. “He’s the public’s horse and they love to see him excelling in a new job.”
Katie says the 13-year-old been “really good” to retrain despite “taking a hold in canter” — and loves titbits, such as oranges, biscuits, apples and polos.
“Bob”, 14, who won the Gold Cup, RSA and Albert Bartlett at the Festival, might not be out competing, but he still leads a highly active life as a “family horse” on the Vigors’ stud farm, where he used to spend his summer holidays.
He leads the Vigors boys up the gallops on their ponies, goes hunting and schooling.
“He’s very fit and the happiest horse we’ve ever had; he always has his ears pricked and never a grumbly moment,” says Tracy Vigors. “We have thought about competing him, but he loves his life just as it is.”
The Group One winner and World Hurdle runner-up, now 17, had a stellar career under both codes before turning to dressage. His new rider, Eugenie Danloux, had expected him to enjoy eventing, but “he wouldn’t jump a twig”. She switched him to dressage and they have won a host of competitions together.
Signs Of Blessing
The Group One-winning sprinter is also destined for a dressage career with Eugenie since signing off his racing career with a win a year ago.
“At first it was like riding a giraffe, with his head in the air, but he has a soft mouth and a desire to please and is now ready to start competing in dressage,” Eugenie says.
Sadly no longer with us, the mighty Denman lived the life of Riley after retiring from his stellar jumps career, spending his days hunting and team chasing with Charlotte Alexander.
“Denman’s gallop was something very special,” says Charlotte. “It was like silk. He effortlessly covered the ground like no other horse I have ridden. He may not have made an event horse starting at 13 but who knows if he had gone down that route as a four-year-old!”
Don’t miss the ex-racehorse special in thuis week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine, out now (10 October)