On a glittering and at times emotional night at the 2016 Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Awards, the evening’s most prestigious title, RoR Horse of the Year, was awarded to the popular grey Monet’s Garden.
Held at The Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket and hosted by RoR Patron Clare Balding and Luke Harvey, eleven awards were given on the night. The awards celebrate the versatility and adaptability of former racehorses with trophies and total prize money of £17,500 going to the year’s elite champions in dressage, endurance, eventing, polo, showing and showjumping.
This year there were also special recognition awards to mark the achievements of Rio 2016 star, Summon Up The Blood, and the members of the Great Britain Horseball team who had competed at the 2016 Horseball World Cup on former racehorses. Trainer Nicky Henderson was also present to see an award given to Jack The Giant, the horse he formerly trained and which since retiring from racing has become a champion in the show-ring.
However, the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for when Monet’s Garden was revealed as the winner of The Jockey Club sponsored ‘RoR Horse of the Year’, for the horse adjudged to have been the best ambassador for the retraining of racehorses.
The winner of 17 of his 32 starts, Monet’s Garden enjoyed an illustrious racing career and was already established as a firm favourite with the racing public when in 2011 the gelding showed great courage in overcoming a life threatening illness that had developed from a hoof infection. Jo Richards, daughter of trainer of Monet’s Garden, Nicky Richards, was by the gelding’s side throughout his illness and retrained Monet’s Garden for a second career in the show-ring where he has won a number of RoR classes, including at this year’s RoR National Championship Show at Aintree.
Together with Monet’s Garden’s owner, David Wesley Yates, Jo Richards stepped up to accept the award (pictured left) and said: “He’s 18 now but you’d think he was a five year old, he’s never changed, he’s never aged. He’s always been a real showman, even throughout his racing career, and so I thought showing would suit him. “I was five months pregnant when we won the class this summer at Aintree and so he was carrying two passengers that day. He’s amazing, the horse of a lifetime. He would have done any job, he’s very talented and he’s got that enthusiasm to want to be the best in whatever he does.” Jo added: “I can’t thank David Wesley Yates enough for allowing me to keep Monet at home and it’s wonderful that after all the horse went through with his injury he’s able to have such an active life.
“I think RoR is brilliant. I know there are many show producers that have been working with thoroughbreds for years but RoR has made so many more people realise that former racehorses can go on to do a huge range of disciplines and horses that would otherwise have been wasted in a field are now living healthy, active lives.”
Among the evening’s other award winners, there were some wonderful stories of former racehorses that have only found their true niche once tried in a different discipline. The award for RoR Elite Dressage Champion went to Jimmy Hay, who has been retrained by Jenny Bulmer, who works as an on-course bookmaker’s clerk in the West Country. Jenny’s patience with Jimmy Hay has been rewarded as the horse has developed and steadily improved and in 2016 they performed over 100 British Dressage tests.
Equally busy in 2016 was the Elite Showjumping Champion, I’m A Bird, who remarkably won over 40 classes during the year. Like Jimmy Hay, I’m A Bird had an undistinguished career on the racecourse, but in the care of Anneli Larsson, she has flourished.
Of I’m A Bird, Anneli Larsson said: “I have to be honest, I had never really been a thoroughbred fan until I ended up with Jemila (I’m A Bird). She is the kindest, easiest horse to handle and has the biggest heart out of any horse I have ever ridden. She is so honest to ride and tries her hardest for you and is extremely brave. She loves to jump and is just so happy when she is in the ring. The Elite Endurance Champion, Arabian History, raced once in the colours of Godolphin when ridden by Frankie Dettori in a Nottingham maiden. Rehomed with Claire Freedman through the Godolphin Rehoming Programme, and nicknamed ‘Frankie’, Arabian History has climbed the ranks of Endurance riding and now competes in 50-mile rides.
The winner of the RoR Elite Polo Champion was Dancing Daisy. Produced by Ali Paterson who started riding Dancing Daisy when he was still in pony club, the mare has progressed to be one of the leading polo ponies in the world and is now based in Argentina where she has played at the highest level under Uruguayan polo star David ‘Pelon’ Stirling.
The former Elite Racing owned Director General was awarded RoR Elite Eventing Champion. His early re-education was conducted by Albertine Barker, who still owns the horse but he is now ridden in competition by Neil Spratt who believes the nine year-old has the potential to go right to the top in eventing. Beware Chalk Pit won both of the Elite Showing awards. The 12-year-old is jointly owned by Ann Leftley, who owned him when he was in-training with Jonathan Geake, and Rebecca Court, who now rides him. This season Beware Chalk Pit won the RoR Show Series Championship at Hickstead, sponsored by Tattersalls, and was judged RoR Supreme Champion at the National Championship Show at Aintree. On receiving her awards, Rebecca Court said: “As soon as we started working together we all knew straight away he was going to be a star. Although, I’m not sure any of us imagined just how well he would do in such a short space of time. Our target next year will be the Horse of the Year Show.”
The full list of 2016 RoR Awards:
RoR Elite Dressage Champion – Jimmy Hay (Ridden and Owned by Jenny Bulman. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Showjumping Champion – I’m A Bird (Ridden and Owned by Anneli Larsson. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Eventing Champion – Director General (Ridden by Neil Spratt. Owned by Albertine Barker. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Polo Champion – Dancing Daisy (Produced by Ali Paterson. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Show Series Supreme Champion – Beware Chalk Pit (Ridden by Rebecca Court. Owned by Ann Leftley and Rebecca Court. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Show Series Champion sponsored by Tattersalls – – Beware Chalk Pit (Ridden by Rebecca Court. Owned by Ann Leftley and Rebecca Court. Prize £2,500)
RoR Elite Endurance Champion – Arabian History (Ridden and Owned by Claire Freeman. Prize £2,500)
The Award for The Jockey Club RoR Horse of the Year Champion – Monet’s Garden (Ridden by Jo Richards. Owned by David Wesley Yates)