The former Paul Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu, who was H&H’s 2015 National Hunt special cover star, has successfully taken to post-racing life under new rider Charlotte Alexander.
The nine-year-old, who was previously owned by the Stewart family, was gifted to Charlotte on his retirement from the racetrack in March this year, and it appears he has taken to team chasing like a duck to water.
The eye-catching grey gelding finished second with team Another Boring Goring under Charlotte in the novice class at the recent Belvoir team chase in Leicestershire.
“It was his first team chase and he loved it — he did so well and was just unbelievable,” said Charlotte, who lost her stable star Silviniaco Conti, the dual King George VI winner for Paul Nicholls, earlier this year.
“Paul rang me and told me he had the perfect horse for me, but I said nothing could compare to Silvi, who I had just lost. But he persuaded me and ‘Saffi’ arrived at my yard in April.”
So what is involved in retraining a racehorse?
“First of all, I turned him out in the field for a few weeks, so he could relax and he was really chilled,” explained Charlotte. “When I got him back into work, I started by just hacking him round the farm and getting him used to opening and closing gates. Racehorses are very used to a routine, so it was case of getting him used to new things.
“Even though he is nine years old, I have to think of him as a four-year-old and you always have to when retraining racehorses, because they know very little when it comes to flatwork. The first thing I did was getting Saffi working forward and off my leg.”
Charlotte has her sights set on eventing Saffi eventually and is already impressed with his attitude and way of going.
“He is so naturally balanced and athletic, I think he will make a smashing eventer and I would love to one day do a one-star with him or perhaps even go higher up the levels,” she said.
Regular lessons with Brian Hutton at Talland are paying off for the pair and Saffi is already doing BE100 tests with ease.
Denman has returned home to start his full retirement, while fellow racing hero Silviniaco Conti moves to Charlotte Alexander's yard…
The 2008 Gold Cup winner is off to begin his new career as a hunter and team chaser in the…
Two of the greatest ever National Hunt stars returned to Paul Nicholls' stable yesterday for a day's hunting
“With the flatwork, I had to go right back to the basics, but he got it straight away and finds it all so easy — he is doing shoulder-in now.
“He is obviously green, but he is not spooky. He went straight into the water when I took him cross-country schooling and popped the corner, which is amazing considering he’d never seen anything like that before. He is also jumping coloured poles and water trays without any problems. He is so sweet-natured and honest,” she said.
“He has a great head on him — at his first team chase he was very chilled and didn’t get wound up beforehand at all, and I rode him in a snaffle bit. He was a complete gentleman the whole way round.
“My plan is to hunt him this winter, team chase in the spring and then go eventing next summer all being well.”
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.