1. When equine warriors do battle
Jump racing fans were beside themselves with excitement when unbeaten top-class chasers Shishkin and Energumene lined up in the SBK Clarence House Chase at Ascot on Saturday (22 January). It was the race all had been waiting for as Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins unleashed their British and Irish superstars to go head-to-head in the Grade One showpiece. After all the hype, some may have feared it was impossible for the race to live up to expectations, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
Energumene jumped and travelled as well as ever, while Shishkin survived a significant peck on landing from one fence and appeared to hit a flat spot before the pair turned for home. As they landed from the last fence, it looked like Energumene was going to take the spoils, but when Shishkin battled back up the run-in to emerge victorious, the crowd went wild, giving both horses a rousing reception as they returned to the winner’s enclosure. It was an occasion that will live long in the memories of all who were there.
All being well we can look forward to a rematch between these two equine warriors as they do battle once again at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
2. When age is just a number
There is an art to maintaining top showjumpers so they have both the physical ability – and the will to win – while jumping at grand prix level, but the Florida team who have kept Ben Maher and Jane Forbes Clark’s 19-year-old Tic Tac in tip-top condition certain have it. Following a four-month break from riding the stallion, Ben was reunited with his Rio Olympic ride to win the $140,000 (£104,000) Hygain Feeds three-star grand prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival for a second year in a row. Ben was quick to show his appreciation to the team: “We are very selective when we show him now because of his age, but he is an amazing horse and I give a lot of credit to the people who look after him day in and day out to keep him in such top shape.”
3. Retrained racehorses
Racing and the wider equestrian world came together for the RoR Awards in the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket on 22 January, where the achievements of retrained racehorses were recognised. Among the many fabulous stories highlighted was that of 12-year-old Henri De Boistron, who has “been a rock” for his owner Anastasia Choma following her diagnosis with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The former Tom George-trained gelding was chosen as the winner of the Retraining of Racehorses’ (RoR) personality of the year accolade by record-breaking jockey Hollie Doyle from more than 200 entries.
“I loved how understanding Henri was in helping Anastasia through her treatment and recovery, how he responded to her when she was feeling weak or unwell,” said Hollie. “It really goes to show how sensitive horses can be and how good the rider and horse’s relationship must be.”
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