Darren Edwards: why shouldn’t older horses continue to race? [H&H VIP]

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  • Ask avid racing fans what most appeals to them about jump racing and many will tell you it is the reappearance, year upon year, of established and recognisable chasers.

    This familiarity provides for an association between spectator and spectated, a bond that often shows even the most hardened punter has a modicum of sentimentality.

    It also attracts people to follow our sport. So it was great to read in Jacqueline Coward’s column last week about 15-year-old Amicelli returning to the fray with a creditable second place at Sheriff Hutton.

    In 2005 as a six-year-old, Amicelli was a near neighbour of mine in Somerset when in the care of Philip Hobbs. Nine years and several accolades later he is still going strong in North Yorkshire — no doubt with a plethora of supporters that have followed him along the way.

    Longevity on this scale means all credit must go out to connections, but also to the horse.

    So when does old become too old?

    The British Horseracing Authority frames a series of valuable “veteran” chases for National Hunt horses, which tend to be contested by horses that are 10 to 12 years in age.

    Yet 13 and 14-year-olds have become increasingly common participants in point-to-points. One of my favourite horses, Coombe Hill, is now 13 and felt as good as ever when I rode him at Larkhill the other day.

    As a rider, I am always mindful of how hard I should push an older horse at the end of the race, but there is a strong case that it is the horses who keep something back for themselves that last the longest.

    I have no issue with horses running into their teens, provided they are enjoying life, because a lot of horses will tell you when they have had enough of racing. The key is recognising the signs.