Former racehorse returns to Aintree in second successful career

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  • A popular racehorse who delighted fans over his nine-season career on the track is shining in his new venture in the dressage arena.

    The versatile Bear’s Affair, bought as a three-year-old by George and Anne Barlow who still own him, scored over hurdles, fences and most recently added the 2018 Aintree Foxhunters’ title to his CV following the delayed outcome of the Balnaslow cobalt case.

    He is now, aged 14, enjoying a new career in his retirement with Samara Swan.

    Samara, who has had former racehorses before, was looking for another when a friend mentioned she had one in for retraining that might suit.

    She went to try him, loved him, and in December 2019 Bear’s Affair arrived to see if he would enjoy a new job after racing.

    “He loves to learn — he is just like a sponge and his lateral work is already there. If you could bottle [the qualities] he has, you would be on to a winner. He is amazing,” said Samara, adding that he is “loving” his new career.

    “He has a really quick brain, so we have to keep him occupied upstairs. He doesn’t feel his age at all to sit on; he can put out a trot that will challenge a German stallion; his canter is incredible and he is just such an athlete. He can collect, he is supple, and he finds it all so easy. It is now just a case of time and not rushing him.

    “It is all credit to him and I feel so privileged to have him.”

    She added the good parts of his work are “very good” and they are now working on keeping his brain occupied, while also ensuring that they take his retraining very much at the horse’s pace.

    Aintree proved a particularly happy hunting ground, serving as the venue for four of his 10 victories under Rules, and is fittingly where he has been enjoying much of his new career between the white boards. The pair have qualified for the Area Festivals at novice silver level, which will also take them back to Aintree in February.

    Bear's Affair

    Samara, who trains with Charlotte Thomas, added the grounding racehorses such as Bear’s Affair are given is a great foundation to work from when they go on to life after racing.

    “There is not a malicious bone in his body; if he was a human I would probably marry him,” laughed Samara, adding Bear’s Affair has a new best friend in a Welsh pony named Duncan.

    “His whole attitude is bright-eyed, smiley and pleased to see you. He is really cuddly and is the easiest horse to do; I don’t even need a headcollar to plait him and he is exactly the same when we get to a show. He is just the easiest horse to do in the stable and he loves to have his carrots at bedtime.

    “He is spoiled and he knows it, but he gives back double the amount. He is the sort of horse that gives you absolutely everything and will do anything you ask of him.”

    Bear’s Affair in his racing days, pictured here at Fakenham with AP McCoy

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    The son of Presenting spent six successful years with champion trainer Nicky Henderson before moving to Philip Rowley’s Shropshire base for the final three years of his eminent racing career, where he was a familiar sight on the point-to-point and hunter chase circuit. He was retired aged 13 in May 2019 after finishing third at Tabley.

    “He was a star,” said jockey Alex Edwards, who rode him in all 17 starts since the horse’s move to the Rowley team. “We had some great days with him, with the highlight being a great performance in the Aintree Foxhunters’.”

    Owner Mrs Barlow added Bear’s Affair has always been — and continues to be — “such a fabulous horse”.

    “He has always been a pleasure to own and when in training with Nicky he used to come home for a break for Christmas and New Year and then go back for the spring campaign,” she said. “I always felt he knew it was us when we went to see him saddled up at the races!”

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