The Star & The Slow Poke Double The Del-ight

As racehorses, Delectation and Delarthur couldn’t have had more different careers. Delectation won a Group 1 and amassed more than $1.6million in prizemoney. Delarthur raced once, came last and didn’t earn a cent. The unlikely pair have come together in retirement though. Both geldings got rails runs into life after racing when they were given to Team Thoroughbred to be retrained, and they hit the jackpot when they were adopted by Sue Small.

Delectation was an outstanding racehorse. Credit: Bradley Photos.

Sue has been a horsewoman her whole life. She grew up attending Pony Club with her brothers and was an accomplished showjumper by the time she reached high school. She took out back-to-back Australian Junior Showjumping Championships in 1984 and 1985 and won dozens of other titles across the country. She worked with horses after finishing school but when the recession hit the opportunities dried up and she trained as a registered nurse. Sue enjoyed that job for six years but the pull of horses was too strong and she eventually accepted a job at Edinburgh Park Stud at Taree. Among the highlights was preparing the yearling who would go on to become unbeaten, seven-time Group 1 winning racehorse, Silent Witness. From there Sue moved to Phalaris Stud at Rylstone where she met Jeff Brash, who now manages Team Thoroughbred’s equine welfare farm at Capertee. She then worked as the broodmare manager at Woodlands Stud and as Jeff’s foreman when he was a racehorse trainer before returning home to Wingham to look after her ageing parents. Sue became an equestrian coach, teaching at Pony Clubs around the mid north coast. She also hosts a jumping clinic once a month at Tarcoola and offers private lessons locally.

“I love teaching kids to be quietly confident and helping them realise how much fun jumping is when the horse and rider trust each other,” she said. I know I have done my job when I see improvement and a big smile on the rider’s face.”

In August last year, Sue and her mother Kay went to visit Jeff at Capertee. She wasn’t necessarily looking for a horse, but she couldn’t walk past Delarthur who was in a paddock close to the homestead.

Indi rushes home from school to jump Delarthur.

“He was a lovely type and had a kind eye,” Sue said. “I took him for a ride, thought he was beautiful and that was that. I had to have him.”

Once home, Sue took Delarthur on daily trail rides so they could get to know each other and relax. She gradually introduced more exercises and despite being only three-years-old, he took it all in his stride. It wasn’t long before Sue entrusted one of her star students, 15-year-old Indi Fardell, to take Delarthur over some jumps.

“He has a nice movement and a natural aptitude for jumping,” Sue said. “He’s very laid back. I can understand why he didn’t make it as a racehorse.”

When Sue needed another jumping prospect a couple of months later, there was no question about where she would begin her search and Delectation joined her team at the end of Spring. Indi comes to the stables to ride both Dels after school and Sue’s other students Kiara (18), Kaylee (15) and Harry (13) Green also have lessons on them and do everything from flatwork to grids to jumping.

“Harry especially is proud to be riding Delectation,” Sue said. “He tells all his friends he rides a Group 1 winner who was trained by Winx’s trainer. As soon as he says Winx the other kids’ eyes light up. Everyone knows Winx. One day he came in and told me he had watched all of Delectation’s race replays. He said he couldn’t find much on Delarthur though!

Sue and Delectation.

“It’s funny, Delarthur has actually learned to run a bit faster since sharing a paddock with Delectation,” Sue said. “At feed time Delectation is still first to the gate though!”

Sue’s students have been wanting to take Delarthur and Delectation to some local showjumping competitions, but they have had a hard time finding one. First they were postponed due to the bushfires and smoke haze and then they were washed out.

“It’s quite frustrating,” Sue said. “We’re hoping to get to Nabiac and Wingham Shows next month.”

Delarthur and Delectation have also taken on new roles as guest teachers at Taree Christian College. The year 9 and 10 agriculture students have been learning horse care and handling and have been practising their skills on the Dels.

“They are both doing so well in everything they do and I have the utmost faith in them,” Sue said. “Thoroughbreds are so versatile. A lot of my students have Thoroughbreds now, particularly the ones that are performing well in eventing. They have the stamina for cross country, the carefulness for showjumping and the movement for dressage.

“The main thing is people need to remember is horses need time,” Sue said. “If you don’t give them time to think about what you are teaching them, you will end up wishing you had.”

Delectation (far left) and Delarthur (middle back) with the agriculture students from Taree Christian College.

Sassy Mare A Swinging Success In Deepwater

For a town of just 300 people, Deepwater on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales punches above its weight. The population swells more than tenfold for the annual race day in January which has earned Deepwater Jockey Club an award for NSW Community Race Club of the Year. The local craft brewery wouldn’t be out of place in the trendiest parts of inner Sydney and now Deepwater can add a polo club to its list of local facilities.

Mi Sassy and Perry, one of the young men who helped retrain her.

Deepwater Polo Club hosted its first clinic this month and more than one third of the horses involved were off the track Thoroughbreds. Among them were several retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred which were retrained by a group of “at-risk” young people under the guidance of Patrick Herde from Ballyoch Horses. Over the course of four months, they re-educated ten Thoroughbreds in the basics of ground and ridden work, while building self-confidence and learning skills to help secure employment in the future. The Thoroughbreds were then offered for sale at an auction which saw more than 200 people from far and wide descend on Deepwater.

“The program and auction were hugely successful and it was very satisfying to see some of the Thoroughbreds involved making a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives,” Ballyoch Horses owner and Deepwater Polo Club President Patrick Herde said.

Hamish Webb, who lives in Uralla about 160km from Deepwater, purchased Tianshi, Mi Sassy and Deejay from the auction and all three participated in the clinic. Hamish grew up playing polocrosse and recently made the transition to polo. While his trio had been given some polo training at home, the Deepwater clinic was their first outing since the auction.

“All three were very quiet and well prepared so I was able to go straight into riding them with a mallet in my hand after I brought them home from the auction,” he said. “They are quick learners and eager to please. They all tried really hard at the clinic but Mi Sassy was the standout. She’s speedy and such a gutsy little mare. She isn’t afraid of anything.”

Former Rod Northam-trained racehorse Mi Sassy (bay) in action at Deepwater Polo Clinic.

Most of the 20 riders though had never picked up a polo mallet before but professional polo players Jock and Jen Mackay and Beau Blundell from Wirragulla Polo Club were on hand to show them the ropes. They spent the first day learning the rules and from the morning of day two it was on.

“I’m amazed at how quickly both the players and horses picked up the game,” Patrick said. “We ended up playing some really good polo and it was so much fun. Everyone needs a hobby, something to take them away from the pressures of work or the farm and I love the way horses can do that.”

Deepwater Polo Club has purchased a small amount of equipment and is currently building a polo field in the middle of Deepwater Racecourse. They plan to host tournaments there in the future and already have strong support from the wider community. Many have expressed a desire to get involved which will not only benefit the town but also provide more opportunities for off the track Thoroughbreds to find new homes playing polo.

“To see the effort Deepwater Polo Club was putting in to create something new was inspiring and I had to be part of it,” Hamish said.