‘He kept me going’: Ex-racer who helped rider through tough times crowned RoR Horse of the Year

The 15-year-old popular former chaser Munkerty Tunkerty was crowned the 2018 Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) horse of the year last night (12 December), during the annual award ceremony held at The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket.

“Monkey” has been with his Devon-based owner-rider Jess Westwood, who also used to train and ride him during his racing career, since 2010. The worthy victor was chosen by a judging panel of Sir AP McCoy and ITV Racing’s Luke Harvey from four finalists.

The winning horse and his rider have an incredible bond and the gelding has helped Jess through difficult times.

“I had a serious fall in a point-to-point and I was flown to hospital,” said Jess (pictured, below). “It was my second serious head injury and for a time my left side was paralysed. To be honest, I think he is the reason why I am still here today — he kept me going throughout my rehabilitation.

“He gave me five winners as a jockey, he won nine races himself, I’ve won county shows on him, I’ve won affiliated jumping classes, we’ve done so well in dressage and showing. He’s a one in a million a horse, I would not change a thing about him.”

The son of Silver Patriarch retired from the racetrack aged 13 in 2016 following a successful career, in which he won nine races and was placed a further 12 times. Jess rode him to victory in four point-to-points and also steered him to a win under Rules at Warwick in 2012.

“We bought him as a seven-year-old for myself to train and ride,” said Jess. “We did not actually think a lot of him initially, but he won first time out for me at a local point-to-point and I was over the moon. And that was the beginning of an incredible journey.

“We decided to retire him after the Somerset National in 2016 [which he won in 2015] as he had lost his form. We then re-schooled him and did a lot of flatwork and hillwork, just teaching him to be a ‘normal’ horse again.”

Monkerty Tunkerty has shown impressive versatility since retiring and has flourished in not only showing, but dressage and showjumping too. In the show ring this year, he won on his first attempt in open company at the Devon County Show.

During the summer, he contested affiliated British Showjumping, winning three classes before heading to the RoR Goffs UK National Championships at Aintree — where he was placed at championship level in three different disciplines.

The RoR awards celebrate the versatility and adaptability of former racehorses and a total prize fund of over £17,000 was split between this year’s elite champions in dressage, endurance, eventing, polo, showing and showjumping.

“Seeing the delight on the faces of the award winners and hearing their back stories and their triumphs over adversity is not only very heart-warming, it is also reassuring in terms of the strategy we have undertaken in recent years,” said the RoR chief executive Di Arbuthnot. “The disciplines are becoming increasingly competitive and the quality of winners is improving year on year.”

The Elite Polo Champion award went to Faye Belle, a mare who was unplaced in all of her eight starts as a two-year-old and finished her career with a handicap rating of 45.

Now as a seven-year-old she competes at the very top level in international polo and is owned and ridden by David “Pelon” Stirling, the Uruguayan player currently rated number four in the world. Faye Belle was prepared and produced for her polo career by Will Brasher.

This year’s RoR special recognition award was won by former sprinter Peopleton Brook, who — now aged 16 — is playing a valuable role at the charity Horseback UK.

Having been re-trained by Horseback UK co-founder, Jock Hutchinson, “Brook” heads the charity’s team of horses working with physically and mentally wounded veterans.

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“Peopleton Brook is a horse whose career and recovery epitomises the journeys endured by all those we serve at Horseback UK,” said Jock. “He has a new career and has found both purpose and happiness, and in turn the servicemen and women who work with him re-discover their purpose and confidence.”

The 2018 winners:

RoR Elite Dressage Champion: Cheeky Wee Red (owned and ridden by Alice Pullem)

RoR Elite Polo Champion: Faye Belle (owned by David “Pelon” Stirling and produced by Will Brasher)

RoR Elite Eventing Champion: Watergate Bay (owned by the Colderick Family and ridden by Harriet Colderick)

RoR Elite Endurance Champion: Against The Rules (owned and ridden by Elaine Wallbridge)

RoR Elite Supreme Show Champion: What Of It (owned by Sarah Ward and ridden by Hannah Horton)

RoR Show Series Champion: What Of It

RoR Elite Showjumping Award: Storm Blue (owned and ridden by Annabelle Jay)

RoR Racing to Hunting Challenge: Kasilia (owned by Tim Brown and ridden by Amy Brown)

RoR Special Recognition Award: Peopleton Brook (owned by Horseback UK and retrained by Jock Hutchinson)

RoR Horse of the Year: Monkerty Tunkerty (owned and ridden by Jess Westwood)

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