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The Cheltenham Festival never fails to throw up emotion tales but this year set a precedent in the “weep stakes”. The magnificent Al Boum, provided Irish trainer Willie Mullins with a first victory in the G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. Mullins who is the Festival’s most successful trainer with 65 winners over several decades, has made 26 attempts to win the Gold Cup, finishing second six times.
“I had resigned myself to never winning a Gold Cup,” said Mullins, whose father Paddy Mullins trained Dawn Run to win in 1986. It was also a first Gold Cup win for Irish jockey Paul Townend who has ridden for Mullins since he was 17 years old.
It was a number of formidable efforts by women which really stirred the souls this year. There was the winning owner of Klassical Dream, Joanne Coleman, whose husband had died from bone marrow cancer just nine months earlier. John Coleman who sadly never lived to see his horse race and had never had a Festival winner was there “in spirit” though. Joanne carried his ashes in her handbag. Another widow is the spotlight was trainer Kayleigh Woollacott, who had taken over her husband’s trainers license after he took his own life last year. Despite being one of the favourites, sadly it was not Lalor’s day to shine but we hope to see him back next year.
Bryony Frost was our favourite winner of the week and had the crowds in rapturous applause, after making history as the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 (top-level) race over jumps at The Festival. The 23-year-old claimed one of the hardest fought battles to win by little more than a length over Charlie Deutsch and Aso, trained by Venetia Williams.
Frost’s reaction to her win was one of humility and empathy and made the front pages of several newspapers. Interviewed after the race, she reflected all the glory on her horse Frodon. “I can’t explain how much I love that horse. He is the most incredible battler. When he got overtaken two out, most horses would quit, but he grabbed me by the hands and said don’t you dare give up, don’t you dare not send me into the last, I want this more than you, now come on!”
“He would not lie down. It’s a lesson for us. Sometimes you might go down but you’ve got to get up and get going again, and at the last, he was just magic. Then when he got to the front he did his usual and took it all in. Just like I did.”
An hour later, Paisley Park claimed the G1 Sun Racing Stayer’ Hurdle, for female trainer Emma Lavelle and the horse’s owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth. The following race of St Patrick’s Thursday was won by a bold front-running performance from Lizzie Kelly who said “I watched Bryony and thought ‘that was my game plan’. When Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore claimed another Grade 1 race, making that her second win of the week, it reminded us that, in the words of leading trainer, Dan Skelton “I think it is about time we stopped talking about lady jockeys and just call them jockeys”.
Indeed the sight of Blackmore on the winners podium in Ireland is a weekly one. The 29-year-old has claimed an incredible 84 winners in Ireland and currently sits a close second behind Paul Townend in the stake to become Irish Champion Jockey. Speaking after Blackmore’s victory in the G1Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, the winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said of the jockey; “We’ve been so lucky to have her. She’s a brilliant rider. What can you say- she just wins.”
There were record crowds every day for this year’s Festival with 266,779 people attending over four days. Willie Mullins won the Leading Trainers’ title whilst Nico de Boinville finished the week as leading jockey with three wins. Rachael Blackmore finished in an impressive sixth place.
We are proud of the fact that Horse Scout is an enterprise run by women. We not only love what we do both in business and in our equestrian pursuits, but we have never seen our gender as a limitation. So you could say that for us, every day is International Women’s Day. We also go to great lengths to provide as much coverage of great female equestrian athletes as we do. This week we will be championing the great female jockeys heading to The Magners Cheltenham Festival. Last year history was made when there were four female winners at The Festival, which really is the Olympics of Jumps Racing. The jockey entries have not yet been confirmed but we are expecting to see more girls on the cards than ever before including Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker who all won last year as well as Bryony Frost, Lucy Alexander and Rachael Blackmore who lies second in the Irish jump jockeys table. Will they go beat last year’s record by scoring even more Festival victories and take a share of the? Can Bryony Frost be the first ever woman to win the Gold Cup?
National Hunt Racing has always been a sport contested by men and women. Yet of all equine-related activities, it has been the most challenging for women to make their mark in, over sports like Eventing, Dressage or Showjumping. There have been World Champions in all three Equestrian disciplines but there has never been a female Champion Jockey, in either Flat or National Hunt. Maybe this is because racing is a sport where the boys massively outnumbered the girls. Some say there have been fewer opportunities for women to excel, with many trainers and owners favouring a male jockey over a female for reasons that include physical strength or because they don’t like seeing girls get hurt. Or maybe the female jockeys have simply not been as good as the men.
In the last five years, the tide is has turned and since Lizzie Kelly shot to fame in 2015 when she became the first female jump jockey to win a Grade One race when she won the Novices’ Chase on Tea for Two at Kempton Park in 2015. It is now a regular occurrence to see women first past the post. Furthermore, trainers are giving them rides on good horses and there are more female jockeys turning professional than ever before. It is perhaps significant that 10 time Champion Jumps Trainer, Paul Nicholls employs Bryony Frost as one of his leading stable jockeys.
There have been 14 winning female jockeys at The Festival in total but with 23 winners between them. The first woman to win at was Caroline Beasley who won in 1983 on Eliograty and Gee Armytage was the first woman to have two winners in one year. The first professional female jockey was Lizzie Kelly last year on Coo Star Sivola who she plans to ride again this year. Whilst the most successful female jockey to date is Nina Carberry with six winners in total.
Female trainers have had their fair share of Festival winners. There have been 27 winning female trainers over the years with 68 winning horses between them. The first was Jackie Brutton who trained Snowdra Queen to win in 1966. The most successful so far has been Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, with 11 winners in total, including training Sizing John to win the Gold Cheltenham Cup in 2017. Jenny Pitman was the first woman to train a Gold Cup winner, when Burrough Hill Lad won in 1984, one of two Gold Cup victories for Pitman. The second success came in 1991 when Garrison Savannah won, ridden by her son Mark Pitman. She was also the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National courtesy of Corbiere in 1983. Once again, an achievement she would repeat when Royal Athlete who in 1995.
One of the most popular female trainers of all time has to be Henrietta Knight, who trained the legendary horse, Best Mate to three Gold Cup victories and had seven Festival winners in total and over 700 winners throughout her career.
This year, there are a number of female trainers presenting some promising horses to the mix. Emma Lavelle saddles Paisley Park, one of the favourites for the Stayers’ Hurdle and Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae will be a decent contender in the same race. Small time trainer, Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor is a strong hope for the Arkle Trophy. Also seen on the entries list are Venetia Williams, Sue Smith (wife of Harvey Smith), Lucinda Russell, Rebecca Curtis and Horse Scout’s ambassador Amy Murphy.
Last year’s Festival really reinforced the Women’s Revolution in racing with so many female winners. You can see three of those Festival winners, Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker on this video, discussing what the sport and the win really means to them.
£100,000,000- the economic impact of The Festival on the local community each year.
262,637 people attended over four days last year
£4.59 million in prize money
40,000 hospitality guests
100 helicopter movements per day
45,000 bread rolls eaten
265,000 pints of Guinness served
120,000 bottles of wine consumed
45,000 afternoon teas served
£2.35 million was withdrawn from the cash machines at the Festival last year.
£45 million spent on redeveloping Cheltenham
But beyond big bucks, betting, boozing and carb loading, The Cheltenham Festival presented by Magners, is a celebration of everything that is great about horseracing. It never fails to deliver sporting action that makes your heart want to explode. A clash of the best- the world’s greatest horses, jump jockeys and trainers. It will always throw up inspiring and moving tales of triumph and heartbreak. And if that is not enough to lift your heart, it also embodies the sense of occasion that we Brits do so well. The chance to flirt and flaunt and embrace the social scene, the fashion, and style. Who would have guessed twenty years ago, that tweed would become ever become sexy?
Horse Scout will be there to soak up the entertainment and most importantly the sport. As ever it will be a four day spectacular, this year running from Tuesday 12thto Friday 15th March.
Tuesday kicks off with Champions Day and the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 1.30pm. The headline race is the Unibet Champion Hurdle which has been won for the last two years by Buveur D’Air. The Nicky Henderson champ will be returning to defend his title again and if he wins, he will go into the hall of fame with greats like Istabraq who dominated the race from 1988-2000. The crowd will undoubtedly be behind Lalor in the Racing Post Arkle. Trained by the small-stable of Kayleigh Woollacott who has taken over from her husband, after he tragically took his own life last year.
Wednesday is Ladies Day. The fashionistas and socialites are out in force but for racing, it’s all about speed and stamina. The Betway Queen Mother Champions Chase is one of the most high-octane races of the entire week as the fastest two-milers in the business, cream it around a demanding Steeplechase course. All eyes will be on Altior who goes for a second win and has not been beaten in 17 starts over jumps. The RSA Novices’ Chase, at over three miles, is the test for true stayers. Whilst the Cross-Country Chase is always enthralling and perhaps commands more respect after last year’s winner, Tiger Roll went on to win at the Grand National soon after. He will be back to stake his claim this year. Perhaps trainer Gordon Elliott sees this as another dress rehearsal for the National next month.
The St Patrick’s Day crowd on Thursday is always a hearty one and for racing enthusiasts, it is set to be an awesome equine lineup. The Ryanair Chase, the Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle, the JLT Novices’ Chase, and the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle are all Grade One races (the best) which brings out the crème de la crème of the National Hunt fraternity. Paisley Park, trained by Emma Lavelle will be the favourite for the Stayers Hurdle and another moving story if he wins for his owner Andrew Gemmell who was born blind. Plus Love Island’s Chris Hughes joins the ITV team to get involved in the banter and opinion.
Friday is Gold Cup Day which rounds off the week with the most coveted prize of all. The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup is the race they all want to win- trainers, jockeys, owners and punters alike. Nothing beats the “Cheltenham roar” as the world’s best horses thunder up that grueling hill to the winning post, cheered on by 70,000 onlookers in the stands and many millions around the world. This year sees some legendary horses in the entries list. We will never forget that heroic battle between Native River and Might Bite last year and if all goes to plan, both horses will be running again. Let’s not forget “Presenting Percy”, considered in Ireland as the “People’s Champion”. It will also be a first Gold Cup Challenge for Bryony Frost, whose strong partnership with Frodon has seen the pair win three of her last four races. If it was to be their day, Bryony would be the first female jockey in history to win the Gold Cup.
If you can’t be there in body, be there in spirit by tuning into live ITV Racing, on ITV daily from Tuesday to Friday 1pm-4.30 pm. The Opening Show is on ITV4 from 9.30-10.30 am. Delivered by the BAFTA award-winning team of Ed Chamberlain and Francesca Cumani and the fun and knowledgeable crew of Oli Bell, A P McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald, Matt Chapman, Alice Plunkett, Luke Harvery and Brough Scott amongst others
Although if you are planning to join the fun and look “Insta ready”, don’t forget our friends at Glow & Dry. The luxury styling concierge and their experienced team will be on hand to travel to your home or hotel, offering hair and make-up to have you looking your very best.
Once the starlet of the British showjumping, Yazmin Pinchen has ridden the storm of life that took her from regular team appearances, a string of exciting horses to the doldrums of losing her funding, her yard, and her family. She talks to Horse Scout about falling from hero to zero and most importantly, her dogged determination to rise back to the top.
25-year-old Yazmin Pinchen has been a winner on the international showjumping circuit since the age of 10.
She competed successfully in pony jumping and at the age of 12 years, she had her first major success when winning the Gold medal for England as part of the International Pony Team. At 14 Yazmin went on to represent the British team at the European Championships in Children on Horses, where she won Team Gold and Individual Silver medal.
As a Senior rider, Yazmin made her 5* debut at 18 years, becoming one of the youngest riders to be selected for a Senior FEI Nations Cup team. She was competing in Abu Dhabi alongside Peter Charles, Tina Fletcher, Robert Smith. “I jumped clear until the last fence when my horse stopped and we got eliminated. It was devastating at the time but I learned so much from that” she recalls.
Yazmin went on to compete on several on FEI Nations Cup teams and in Gijon, she helped the team win silver with her homebred, Ashkari. With the same mare, she competed in a number of FEI World Cup qualifiers with to gain a wealth of experience at the highest level and all before the age of 20.
From childhood, Yazmin had aspirations to be the best showjumper she could and spent time working with some of the world’s best riders. “I started with Michael Whitaker when I was 16 and then when I was 18, I moved to Belgium to base myself with Ludo and Johan Philippaerts. I learned so much out there, which set me up for the future. Johan was an amazing teacher but sadly I had to come home because my dad was critically ill. When I was better I went to Simon Delestre, but it was really tough and after everything that had happened I felt I needed to be at home.”
Alongside her showjumping career, Yazmin is a mother to two-year-old son Harry. “I am really lucky because he is the easiest baby and he’s very independent. From the day dot, he has got used to entertaining himself. I am so fortunate that I am with my mum and she is a huge help both with Harry and the horses. We all live on the same property. My partner helps with childcare as does my groom who is trained nanny, so between us we are a good team.”
Taking time out to have a baby came with pros and cons. “Everything was going really well, I was jumping 5* and then I fell pregnant. I rode and competed until I was 4.5 months and I actually won more than ever when I was pregnant. I insisted on a C-section because I wanted to get back to riding as soon as I could and I was back on a horse two weeks later. But it wasn’t as easy as I expected.”
“I remember going to a show and turning about 100 circles because I was so scared.”
The feeling soon passed and she was back to her winning ways. However just as Yazmin was building her string up and planning her season, she was faced with the devastation of family breakdown.
“My dad who had been a big financial support to my career left my mum. It was a difficult time for all the family and he announced he did not want to be involved anymore. So we had to sell most of the horses and give up on all our plans to compete internationally. It was a horrendous time, I pretty much lost everything I’d worked for overnight.”
“I had to start all over again. Set up a yard and fund it all myself. Everybody assumes I am just this rich girl who is being supported by her parents, but that is not the case. Yes, I had help in the past but now I am having to fund the whole thing. Most of my horses are young and I have two of my own who have all the potential to be CSI 5* horses. What I need is owners to invest but it is difficult if you’re not at the top of your game. I am in a bit of a hole because I can’t prove myself without the backing. Even the good horses I have are just sitting there because I can’t afford to go to the international shows.”
Naturally bubbly with a positive outlook, Yazmin refuses to look back with any remorse. “It’s just life I guess and having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s amazing being a mum and Harry is so much fun, he comes everywhere with me. It’s always been important for me to take time out to be a mummy too so I make sure I have the afternoons off to spend with Harry.”
“I just want to make my son proud and do my best for him”
Yazmin feels that the adversity and change in circumstances she has faced have improved her outlook. “ I have had to learn to run a business, balance my accounts and be super organized. I think having Harry has actually made me more motivated because I want him to see me do well”
“It’s not easy, of course, you have your breakdowns”
“But everyone does. I sometimes get frustrated and give way to tears by thinking “I’ve become a nobody”. Luckily I shake myself out of it quickly enough and I would never let my son see that. I just always make sure I am a happy, positive mummy”
“My goal is to get back on British teams and make the Olympics.”
“I know I have the ability and the drive, I just need the support. What I have learned from being in the doldrums is that it is important to be ambitious but enjoy the sport. I want to make everyone who supports me proud but I also want them to enjoy the ride.”
Yazmin is looking for sponsorship and owners at all levels. For more information contact Horse Scout:
In the seventh week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, Florida, Jessica Springsteen was named the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award. The prize was awarded on Saturday, February 23, during CSI5* week of WEF, where she was presented with champagne, flowers and a shopping spree at Hunt Ltd. What more could a girl need huh?
It was a successful week for 27-year-old Jessica who rode the 10-year-old Selle Français mare, Volage du Val Henry, to sixth place in the 7thround of the $134,000 CSI5* Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup. This qualified her for Saturday evening's main CSI5*. She again earned a top-10 placing in the $391,000 CSI5* Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix, this time riding RMF Zecilie, a 12-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Rushy Marsh Farm.
"It's really exciting to be named Leading Lady!” said Jessica. “My horses jumped great all week, and winning this award is a great finish to a lovely weekend."
The Martha Jolicoeur Overall Leading Lady Rider Award will be presented to the female rider who accumulates the most points throughout the 12-week Winter Equestrian Festival,. So far this year, Erynn Ballard, Laura Chapot, Margie Engle, Tiffany Foster, Lauren Hough, and Beezie Madden have claimed weekly awards and in contention of the overall title.
A leading South Florida real estate broker and part of the elite Douglas Elliman Real Estate Sports and Entertainment division, Jolicoeur has supported WEF as an integral sponsor for the past nine consecutive years. Throughout WEF, the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award, given in memory of fellow realtor and horsewoman Dale Lawler, is presented weekly to the high-score female rider based on performances in the weekly WEF Challenge Cup Series and Grand Prix events.
We are excited to welcome professional polo player and global ambassador Malcolm Borwick to the Horse Scout network. With over 50 caps for the England team to his name and player contracts for teams in USA, Argentina, South Africa, Spain, France as well as the UK, his life and career has been a richly varied one since turning professional at the age of 18. Ellie Kelly caught up with the 42 year old at the International Polo Club in Palm Beach.
Malcolm comes from a long line of polo enthusiasts. His great grandfather was a contender for the prestigious Westchester Cup in 1902 and his grandmother played in the first ever women’s test match in 1924
Much of Malcolm’s time is taken up as a polo ambassador for a number of brands and organisations, but he still plays at the top end of the sport and plays off a 6 goal handicap. His life has been a unique and thrilling adventure, involving globetrotting to polo hot spots and playing in some of the most significant polo events.
As well as supporting the brands he is involved with and helping to try and grow the sport with his enthusiasm. His wife Alexandra and three young children- Ines, Jaime and Lucas are lucky enough to join the ride. They travel the world as a polo family and the children are educated at local schools in each country, speaking both English and Spanish fluently.
Where did it all start?
I was born in Hampshire but grew up in Northamptonshire. As a child I did everything- hunting, jumping team chasing and Pony Club until I was 10. Then I started playing Pony Club polo at 10 and that took over as my main focus.
It’s the sum of all sports. I played cricket, tennis, rugby, golf growing up. You add in a horse and the dynamic nature of the sport of polo, team mates, the complexity of the sport, the adrenalin, the opportunities for travel. It encapsulates what you would want out of every single sport. The interesting thing about polo is you can never have the perfect day. I’m good friends with a guy who has the record for the number of goals scored in the most difficult competition in the world. Even he says he wished he’s scored that extra shot and he scored 17 goals that day. I think that keeps you striving for success.
As a global polo ambassador, which brands and organisations are you involved with?
Piaget, Maserati, Royal Salute Scotch Whiskey, La Martina are the main ones. I have come to Palm Beach to be a global ambassador for the International Polo Club. It is quite simply the best polo club in the world and has all the makings and positioning to be the power house not just in North America but in World Polo.
Reflecting on your life and career as a polo player, what have been the highlights?
As a child, my aspiration as to put on an England shirt. I played a lot of cricket before I played polo. Back then, if you had given me the choice between walking on to the pitch at Lords and playing Test cricket or playing polo, I might have said Test cricket. But putting on my England polo shirt for the first time was a very special day. Then winning the Coronation Cup three times during the peak of my career, they are great memories.
Rumour has it you are friends with the Royals and went to Prince Harry’s wedding?
I have been very lucky to be involved with the Royal Family. I’m not even sure how I stumbled into it. I ended up playing an awful lot of polo with Prince William and Harry over the last 15 years so we have a great relationship. I have been lucky enough to play with them at all their charitable events and we have raised millions for their charities.
What is going on at the moment for you and what is on the horizon?
I am heavily involved with Gladiator Polo right now. It’s a new concept in the sport. It takes place in a much smaller arena so the audience are up really close. It is different from normal polo- three a side rather than four. There will be no amateur or patron playing so all the players will be professionals. This will make it very fast and furious and it’s a shorter format and shorter chukkas. The sponsorship will be much more mainstream than luxury- brands like Coca Cola and Mars.
We want the audience to interact and engage with the sport and become followers. We would love more people to take up the sport and this is casting the net wide and trying to find as many more interested people to either just enjoy watching or get involved.
In any sport when the underdog wins, it makes for great entertainment. So when the Mexican team took a decisive victory in the very first leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida the press conference was a joyous affair.
The youthful foursome fought off some of the world’s most successful nations including the USA, Canada, and Ireland. In fact, it was the youngest two Mexican riders with the least team experience who sealed the deal with their double clear performances. These came from 23-year-old Eugenio Garza Perez riding Victer Fin DHZ and 24-year-old Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane on the athletic grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. The other two riders played their part with low-faulted rounds from Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) on Cor Bakkar and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) riding Tino la Chapelle.
Tryon’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.
The Mexican quartet kept a cool head and clung on to their lead in the second round, which caught out a number of the world’s leading riders such as World No 2 Mclain Ward and Beezie Madden who both faulted. Fernando Martinnez Sommer commented on the technicality of the course. “The course was difficult enough, for me my horse has a very big stride so I had to go a bit steady all the time.”
All four riders were quick to praise their Chef d’Equipe Constant van Paesschen, not just for their Nations Cup victory but what he has delivered to Mexican showjumping during his short career so far. Stany van Paesschen had similar positive words “From when I came two years ago, I said I am going to try as much as I can to push some young riders forward. We have some great young riders but we also have some great support from professional and older riders. I think we have a great team.”
Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to be based in the USA, said: “Today’s result is a testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”
He was a member of the historic site that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2019.
“There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona and we intend to take it!” He said.
Team Israel had a great show too. Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for the second spot. The Americans looked strongest at the outset, with an extremely experienced team of Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA, and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.
The whole equine community looks on with trepidation as six racehorses horses have tested positive for equine influenza this week, all of whom were vaccinated. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) ordered that all racing be cancelled until next Wednesday at the earliest. The BHA are working with the Animal Health Trust who have been testing thousands of horses from over 100 training yards that could have been exposed to the disease.
The outbreak was first discovered in leading trainer Donald McCain’s yard in Cheshire, where three horses testing positive for the disease on Wednesday 6th February. Then on Friday 8th, another three from the same yard also came back with positive results. McCain was quick to inform the authorities and has been praised for his professionalism. He had horses running at Ayr and Ludlow racecourses earlier that day, potentially exposing a number of other horses from both the UK and Ireland to the disease. A number of other big yards including Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls have had all their horses tested and quarantined.
Vaccination against equine influenza or equine flu is compulsory for all racehorses and horses used competitively for other any equestrian sport. What is most alarming is that all the horses who tested positive were vaccinated against the disease which might suggest that a new strain of flu is present. If it is not quickly contained, this could spread rapidly through the racehorse population and potentially affect the UK equine population as a whole. Both the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and the FEI have been issuing statements on a daily basis.
“The concern is that equine influenza is highly contagious” explains vet, David Mathieson of the Donnington Veterinary practice, who look after a number of racing yards in the South of England. “It has a very short incubation period- as short as 24 hours. It is spread readily between horses and personnel from one horse to another. It can also be airborne.”
On Friday 8th February, the BEF issued a statement saying “We continue to urge owners to be vigilant and follow the recommended guidelines on how to detect and prevent the spread of this infectious disease. We also urge any owners with suspected cases to take immediate veterinary advice. If flu is confirmed by laboratory testing, they should contact their relevant member body. If your horse is currently vaccinated, but it has been longer than six months since their last vaccination, we recommend that you discuss a booster with your vet”
The symptoms of equine flu include high temperature, coughs, snotty nose, enlarged glands, swollen or sore eyes, depression, loss of appetite and swelling in the lower legs. With modern veterinary treatment, is it rarely fatal but horses can take months to recover fully. The disease can take up to three days for symptoms to be visible, which means that the BHA will not be able to draw a conclusion from all the information until Sunday at the earliest.
For the racing fraternity, it could become a living nightmare. At least 23 fixtures will be cancelled by next Wednesday which will cost the industry millions. Added to this, we are just five and eight weeks off two the most prestigious racing festivals in the world- The Magners Cheltenham Festival (12-15thMarch) and the Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree (4-6thApril). Not only is The Cheltenham Festival the fourth largest attended sporting event in the UK, but some 1.5 million people also tune in to ITV racing for the signature race, The Gold Cup. Around 8.5 million watched the Grand National on ITV last year and it has a race attendance of over 140,000 people over the three day Aintree festival.
Just as women are changing the game in today’s world of sport, business and politics, you may have noticed that the “fairer sex” of the four-legged variety, are making headlines in the equine world. A number of leading mares have claimed world titles prestigious accolades recently. And at the end of last month, the winner of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Awards was announced as Winx. The Australian flat race mare has won 29 consecutive stakes races including 22 Group 1s.
Winx is not the only mare to dominate the racing scene. The British thoroughbred Enable, who featured eighth in the 2018 Longines world rankings, has been one of the most dominant middle-distance horses in Europe for several years. Last year, after winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for the second time she went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Making history in the process, as the first horse to achieve this feat.
2018 was also a great year for mares as well as girls in Equestrian sport. The 15-year-old mare Classic Moet, won Badminton under Jonelle Price- the first female rider to win in 11 years. Whilst show-jumper Simone Blum riding DSP Alice and Dressage stars, Isabel Werth on Bella Rose were individual winners the showjumping and dressage world titles at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
But back to racing and the grand affair that I was lucky enough to be invited to. On Wednesday, January 23, Longines and its long-time partner the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), hosted the 2018 Longines World’s Best Racehorse, World’s Best Horse Race and World’s best jockey ceremony in the Landmark Hotel, London. With an equal rating of 130, Winx and Cracksman were together declared the 2018 winners. Frankie Dettori celebrated the leading jockey award, a clear leader with the highest number of points. It was a French victory as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was chosen as the best horse race in the world.
For Winx, this was the third year in a row that the nine-year-old has won the award. In addition, she has been the highest rated filly/mare in the world since 2016 as well as the top-ranked turf horse. In 2018, her season culminated in her becoming the only horse in history to win the Ladbrokes Cox Plate four times. What is also significant about this tough mare, is her longevity in a sport which is rarely a long career for horses. Winx has consistently won over five seasons and is going into her sixth with no immediate plans to retire. Yet she has proved her versatility, speed, and staying power, by winning over a range of distances from 6 ½ furlongs (1300 metres) to 11 furlongs (2200 furlongs).
What is also unique, is that unlike many elite racehorses, Winx does not have a particularly long stride. Her stride was measured at 6.76 metres compared to 8.5 metres for other horses of similar calibre. Instead, her success has been attributed to a freakish stride rate that allows her to take 14 strides for every 5 seconds, compared to 12 for her rivals. According to Dr. Graeme Putt, who has studied the science of racehorse success, this is a unique advantage. “This means she can settle or accelerate at any time during a race.”
Winx was sold as a yearling for 230,000 Australian dollars (just under £128,000) at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast sale. She has already amassed around A$23 million dollars (around £12.74 million) in prize money under trainer Chris Waller and her principal jockey Hugh Bowman. She is owned by Magic Bloodstock Racing, Richard Treweeke, and Debbie Kepitis. Most of her connections came over to collect the Longines prize and we were lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with Debbie Kepitis about the courageous mare who has changed their lives.
Horse Scout reporting at the TheraPlateUK Liverpool International Horse Show
The Puissance is the ultimate test of horsemanship. It measures bravery, scope and the ability to hold your nerve. It is an event that never fails to fill seats and excite a crowd and cause a stir. This year’s Puissance at Liverpool International unfolded like a fairy tale and the end to a great year for British rider Matt Sampson, who finished in joint first after clearing 7ft 3” (2m20). Not only was he a relative rookie against the big red wall, but he achieved the feat with a horse he was riding for the very first time- Laura Renwick’s Top Dollar VI.
Eleven combinations competed which ran for the maximum five rounds. It was whittled down to just two in the final round with Matt sharing the honours with Irish youngster, Michael Pender. Michael was riding the scopey mare Hearton du Bois, with whom he won the Dublin Horse Show Puissance this year.
Matt’s catch ride, Top Dollar VI may have more experience than his rider, having jumped a number of Puissance classes with Laura. In fact, the pair won the class at Olympia in 2017 but Laura decided to hand the reins over to Matt less than an hour before the class. That being said, to take on any new horse before a class and win it, is one helluva feat. Let alone to put faith in one another to jump the unjumpable.
Matt reveals how he prepared himself mentally for the challenge:
“I didn’t know him at all but maybe that’s not always such a bad thing. I just tried to ride forward to it and give him a little bit of room because he’s such a big horse. You’ve just got to keep them confident but then he’s a very good horse. It got easier each time as I just figured him out and trusted him a bit more and it just went on from there.”
So what does it feel like jumping that wall? “It feels amazing” he smiles. “I’ve actually only done one Puissance before at a show in Holland. So I didn’t have a lot of experience in the class.”
Preparation outside is minimal he explains. “It’s very hard to prepare in the warm up to jump a wall. Because we don’t have a wall in there, we just have a vertical and an oxer. I did a couple of verticals and an oxer but only about 1m40 to 1m 50 high. In comparison to what we are jumping in the arena, it’s not a lot but I think it’s better to keep the horses confident so if they go in the ring thinking that they can jump it, then it’s got to give you a better chance.
About an hour before the class, Laura (Renwick) rang me and asked me what I was doing and I said “nothing”. So she said did I want to ride her horse in the Puissance.
When asked if he had many catch rides in his career. He responded humbly with “not really”. Until legendary jumper Geoff Billington interjected with “he’s the King of Catch rides this one” referring to Matt’s win in the Hickstead Speed Derby on a catch ride Top Flight True Carlo in Hickstead’s Derby meeting. In May, Matt had the biggest win of his career when claiming the prestigious Hamburg Derby, aboard Gloria van Zuuthoeve.
Whilst it is apparent, Matt would love to ride the gallant chestnut, Top Dollar again, he is philosophical about it. “I don’t know if it will happen again- probably not. But if I don’t ride him again, it was a good way to end on a high. He jumped amazing and it filled me with confidence.”