Final farewell to retrained racehorse who beat Best Mate: ‘he’d do anything for a ginger nut’

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  • A gentle giant who once beat Best Mate and “would do anything for a ginger biscuit” has died aged 27 after a long and happy ridden career.

    Wahiba Sands started his racing career as a two-year-old on the Flat for John Dunlop, before enjoying National Hunt success under Martin and David Pipe’s guidance and finally a fun-filled 20-year retirement from racing with his former stable lass.

    “He has been part of my life for a very long time,” owner Vikki Selway told H&H.

    Wahiba joined Pipe’s string as a five-year-old, after topping the Doncaster August sale for 105,000 guineas (£110,250) and scored 11 wins from 62 starts under Rules, including his best-known victory over Best Mate by half-a-length in a Grade 2 chase at Ascot in November 2001.

    He spent a year pointing, hunter chasing and hunting with Lucy Bridges, before joining Vikki’s stable.

    Vikki remembers him arriving in the late 1990s and he started off in the care of another lad before he became one of the horses she cared for.

    “I looked after him all the time I was there and when I left in 2005 I said to David ‘whenever he is finished racing, I would love him to come and live with me,’” she said.

    “Wahiba would have been 13 when I had a call from David who said ‘your horse is ready!’. He came to live at the livery yard I was at and we retrained him to do showjumping, British Eventing up to BE100 level, elementary dressage, team chasing, hunt rides and more.

    “I did some fun rides on him — they were mainly fun for him, less so for me as he pulled my arms out for 13 miles, but he had a lovely time!”

    Vikki with Wahiba Sands

    Vikki also remembers him as being “quite a character”.

    “He hadn’t been at Pipes very long and ducked out on the gallops one day, the lad riding him came off and he set off, jumped a five-bar gate out onto the road and galloped off,” she said, adding he was none the worse for his adventure.

    “My gate at home is also double the height to keep him in!”

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    Wahiba also had success in the show ring and was “adored” by Vikki’s son, William (pictured, above).

    “In 2009 he was kicked in the field and broke his hindleg in three places and he came back from that sound enough to event and do dressage again,” she said.

    “Then around four years ago he was hit by a car and survived that [with no lasting injuries]. He was just heroic — never sick or sorry, never missed a season racing and the same when he was a riding horse.

    “He so enjoyed working and enjoyed his life. He tolerated dressage, although he didn’t really see the point in it, but loved going cross-country. His favouite things were ginger nut biscuits and pears — he would do anything for a ginger biscuit — having a scratch out in the field with his friends and being groomed, he loved being groomed. He was 17.3hh — a big horse — but he was so gentle.

    “He had a lovely life, right to the end, to reach 27 having raced since a two-year-old and never missed a season, he was very special.”

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