OAR Propelling Retired Racehorses Into New Careers

By Julieanne Horsman

Leaning against the fence at the side of the course, a group of proud owners crane their necks towards their horse as she approaches the starting point.

“She looks fit, doesn’t she,” one says. “I hope she goes well,” says another.

This isn’t a racing syndicate, although the entire group is made up of racehorse owners. They’re part of the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott initiative, Own After Racing.  OAR, for short, is the concept of talented equestrians Nelson Smyth and Jessica Bott who both grew up competing on Thoroughbreds. OAR members support retired racehorses in their retraining and get to go along and watch them compete in their new careers off the track.

Jessica and Nelson are passionate about providing quality training for retired racehorses.

“We wanted to create opportunities for racing fans to be involved with Thoroughbreds long after they have run their last race,” Jessica said. “It provides good outcomes for the horses and a fun and unique social event for the owners,” Nelson added.

Having already had a positive experience with Racing NSW’s equine welfare and rehoming division, Team Thoroughbred NSW, Jessica and Nelson again turned to the program to source their first retired racehorses for OAR. In 2018 Jessica adopted three retired racehorses from Team Thoroughbred NSW, including former Phillip Sweeney-trained mare Raise An Angel, who is now a competitive showjumper.

“I think it’s important to support the industry’s rehoming program wherever we can,” Jessica said.

The first two horses chosen were unraced grey mare Pexian and former Tracey Bartley galloper, Arrossire. Jessica and Nelson picked them from the herd at Bandanora, Racing NSW’s 2600acre equine welfare property at Capertee.

“We look for physically and mentally sound horses,” Nelson said. “It can be hard to pick from the paddock, but we know we get an honest assessment of each horse, including its veterinary history, when buying them from Team Thoroughbred NSW.”

Nelson and Arrossire soaring over a jump at Stonewall Equestrian. Credit – Diane Razenbacher.

OAR is operated out of a leased 60-acre property at Somersby on the Central Coast. All Thoroughbreds coming into the program are given time to settle in before beginning their training. Nelson’s sister Libby, another accomplished equestrian, helps with the riding, as do some of Gai and Adrian’s stable staff members. The horses are educated from square one, as you would a breaker. Rather than turning them over quickly, the focus is on providing solid training.

“We aim to produce quality horses for showjumping which will in turn improve the profile of the breed in that sport,” Jessica said. “You can get real value for money from Thoroughbreds, but you need to put the time and effort in to train them properly,” Nelson added. “A Thoroughbred doesn’t have to be a good racehorse to be a good sport horse either.”

As part of their re-education, the horses are taken out to competitions and shows. Stonewall Equestrian, owned and operated by Krissy and Heath Harris, is just up the road from OAR’s base and boasts state of the art facilities in beautiful surrounds.

“Stonewall is the type of place where you want to bring clients,” Jessica said. “Krissy’s competitions are always well run, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. She gets owners involved in the presentation of rugs to winners. Some of the OAR owners ended up sponsoring Stonewall events because they had such a great time.”

The OAR horses seem to enjoy it as well. In their first 70cm showjumping class at Stonewall Equestrian, Arrossire came 3rd, Pexian 4th and jockey Rachael Murray, who was the first female to ride 100 winners in a season, came 5th on her off the track Thoroughbred, Mr Pumblechook.

Jessica and Raise An Angel in action at the Summer Showjumping Classic in Sydney. Credit – Olivia Doutreband.

“There are a lot of racing people who are also involved in equestrian disciplines, especially jockeys,” Jessica said. “Rachael, Kathy (O’Hara) and Jeff Penza are often out and about.”

Gai and Adrian are also very supportive of OAR and come out and watch the horses in action whenever they can.

“Adrian came to Stonewall one day and saw Chris Waller had his name on a jump so next thing Adrian is sponsoring a jump too,” Jessica said with a laugh.

The Thoroughbreds in OAR are eventually sold to loving new homes, with proceeds reinvested into the program to produce more horses. Pexian is now the pride and joy of a teenage showjumper, while the team is still putting the polish on Arrossire. Some new retired racehorses have recently been welcomed into the fold too including former Kristen Buchanan mare Oakfield Shawne, former Tracey Bartley mare Amelika and Keith Dryden’s one start wonder, Halo Diablo.

“All the horses we have are showing plenty of scope and talent,” Jessica said. “We are really excited about them. We’re excited about the whole program. OAR has been better received than I could have ever imagined, and I am so grateful to everyone who has supported our little idea.”

This story was originally published in the March issue of Racing NSW Magazine.

Happy Clapper On Show At Newcastle

By Julieanne Horsman

While Happy Clapper is famous for his impressive Group 1 victories at Royal Randwick, Newcastle was also a happy hunting ground for the people’s horse. He raced there twice for a win in the 2017 Group 3 Newmarket Handicap and a 3rd in the 2013 Group 3 Spring Stakes – his first stakes placing.

Over the weekend, the now ten-year-old gelding returned to the City Of Steel, not to race but as a celebrity guest at Newcastle Regional Show. It was his first public appearance since retiring from racing in April 2020 and there was no shortage of old and new fans lining up to snap a selfie and give him a pat.

Children were delighted to meet Happy Clapper at Newcastle Regional Show.

Despite the unfamiliar environment and sounds of a busy carnival, Happy Clapper was on his best behaviour and lapped up the attention. He looked every bit the $7.3million-winning champion the racing public had come to know and love.

Draped in a blue silk rug, Happy Clapper represented Racing NSW’s equine welfare and rehoming division, Team Thoroughbred NSW, which now cares for the legendary galloper. When time was called on Happy Clapper’s stellar racing career, trainer Pat Webster and owner Michael Thomas made the decision to retire him to Team Thoroughbred NSW’s Sydney facility, Bart’s Farm (formerly Princes Farm.) It’s one of four properties owned by Racing NSW for the purpose of caring for and retraining retired racehorses and those who didn’t make the track. Happy Clapper shares a paddock with fellow Group 1 winner and dual Everest winner, Redzel, while His Majesty and Stampede are just over the fence.

Happy Clapper with Team Thoroughbred NSW staff members, Jeff and Clare.

The appearance at Newcastle Regional Show marks the completion of Happy Clapper’s transition from racehorse to off the track Thoroughbred. Unlike most of the other retired racehorses at Team Thoroughbred NSW, Happy Clapper is not available for adoption. Instead, he will continue as an ambassador for life after racing.

Happy Clapper fans can look forward to seeing him in Sydney over the Autumn Carnival and at other community events in years to come.

Retired Racehorse Gives Kim Waugh A 5-Star Sunday

By Julieanne Horsman

As a racehorse trainer, Kim Waugh isn’t accustomed to having a Sunday off, so on the odd occasion she does find herself with some free time she likes to make the most of it. One of her favourite things to do is visit her retired racehorses in their new homes and over the weekend she enjoyed a special reunion.  

Rothesay gelding, Five Stars Partner won three races and notched two places in ten starts for Kim’s stable before being retired into Team Thoroughbred NSW’s care. He became a much-loved part of the inmate equine therapy program run in partnership with St Heliers Correctional Centre in Muswellbrook and eventually it was his turn to be offered for adoption.

Within days of being named as Team Thoroughbred NSW’s Horse Of The Week, Five Stars Partner had scored himself a five-star home with Murchessons Equine Wine & Dine in the Hunter Valley. In his new role, he safely carries riders, including beginners, on adventures through the vines.

Five Stars Partner saluting at Hawkesbury in 2016. Credit – Bradley Photos.

Kim Waugh had been following Five Stars Partner’s progress on Instagram when the perfect opportunity to visit him arose. Kim’s friend had bought tickets for a horseback wine tour in a charity auction and invited her and her husband Mark to come along. In an unbelievable stroke of luck, the tour operator happened to be Murchessons and as soon as Kim realised, she was on the phone to ask if she could be allocated Five Stars Partner as her mount.

Armed with a handbag full of carrots, Kim, Mark and their friends set off for Pokolbin and were delighted by what they found.

“The property is lovely, and the horses live in huge, green paddocks,” Kim said. “Five Stars Partner looks amazing and so happy. I had to ask what the horses were being fed they looked so good!”

The group spent the day ambling from winery to winery, hopping off for tastings and lunch. Despite having limited experience in the saddle, even Mark was able to enjoy the experience and made it back without any incidents.

Kim Waugh riding now retired racehorse Five Stars Partner on a tour.

“The horses are so well trained, they know how to look after their riders,” Kim said. “Five Stars Partner was beautiful to ride, although I expected that. He was always a lovely quiet horse. The stable staff would fight over who got to ride him because he was so chilled out. He’s even lazier now! We all had the best day.”

Kim is passionate about finding loving homes and meaningful new careers for all her Thoroughbreds once they retire from racing. She keeps in touch with the new owners and relishes every update.

“They all have a special place in your heart and Thoroughbreds are such a versatile breed,” Kim said. “You want to see them go on to succeed in something else. Hand From Above, Oxford Poet and Recife Beach have all qualified for the Royal this year so I am looking forward to that.

“Strangers can be so critical of trainers, but we really do care about our horses. Mine only go to good homes and if that changes for any reason they come straight back.”

New NSW Mounted Police Horse Cleans His Own Stable

This article was originally published in The Daily Telegraph.

When it comes to the office sweep, Duke the new police horse is cleaning up.

The former Bart Cummings-trained racehorse didn’t even need to be trained to help out around the stables.

“It’s not a trick. He was watching the grooms cleaning out his stable and they sat the broom next to his door,” Senior Constable Danielle Culhana said on Wednesday.

“He must have thought that looks like fun and picked it up and tried to sweep the floor himself.”

Duke sweeping up at the NSW Mounted Police Unit with Constable Vanessa Johnston. Picture: Tim Hunter

The 12-year-old gelding is one of the newest of the 31 horses in the NSW Mounted Police Unit and most of them are just as clever.

“A lot of our horses know how to release the latch on their stable door and let themselves out when they have a bit of time on their hands,” Snr Const Culhana, who acquires the horses for the unit, said.

Duke was formerly known as Penheights when Bart Cummings donated him at the age of four to Team Thoroughbred NSW (previously the NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust) where he was adopted by Jess Green who, like her mum Sergeant Lisa Green, is an event rider.

After eight years competing in events, the Green family donated him to the police where as well as keeping his stable clean, he fits right in.

“He has a nice quiet temperament, a calm demeanour and he is a fun horse,” Snr Const Culhana said. “He is a fantastically comfortable canter.”

Some of the older horses are into their twenties and she said Duke would go home to the Green family when he retired.

Waxworks Gives Retired Policeman A New Perspective

By Julieanne Horsman

Ambling along the gumtree-lined streets of Kentlyn on the outskirts of south-western Sydney, Rob Plumb and his mare Waxworks have the sun on their faces and the wind at their backs. They haven’t a care in the world, but both are a world away from where they were just two years ago.

Waxworks was destined to be exported to Asia as a broodmare, but when the red tape became too much she was abandoned in a paddock at Yass with dozens of other horses. Rob was in the grips of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after almost three decades of service in the Police Force.

“When I think of how differently things could have turned out for both of us, I shudder,” Rob said.

Rob enjoys riding his retired racehorse, Waxworks, around the streets of Kentlyn.

Rob joined the Police Force in 1990 and completed his training at the academy in Goulburn before being posted to Revesby. Over the next 28 years, he rose to the rank of Incremental Sergeant and was awarded citations for bravery, diligence and supporting victims of crime. To his colleagues and friends, Rob appeared to be a model officer, but despite his own denials, the service he was so proud to be a part of was slowly squeezing the life out of him.  

Rob’s career in blue ended in a lather of sweat and flood of tears on the linoleum floor of Cabramatta Police Station in February 2018. There was no farewell party, no speeches of praise or pats on the back. Rob couldn’t deny his PTSD any longer and had no choice but to walk away from the force.

“That was it, I just couldn’t go on,” Rob said. “Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt losing the only career I had ever known.”

Rob began counselling but it wasn’t enough, and he quickly slipped into a dark and dangerous place. He suffered insomnia, and on the rare occasions he did manage to sleep, he would be woken by night terrors. He endured flashbacks, panic attacks and would avoid going to any public or crowded areas which could trigger him.

“There are some things you never forget, no matter how desperate you are to block them out,” Rob said. “The screams, the smells, the shattered loved ones, the brain matter splattered up the walls.”

In early 2019 Police Legacy recommended Rob for the Spur equine therapy program run jointly by Racing NSW and RSL LifeCare. He had no prior experience with horses but was willing to give anything a shot to help him feel human again. He was accepted into the program where veterans learned horse care, retraining and riding on retired racehorses as part of their treatment. Rob was paired with a then six-year-old mare named Waxworks.

“I felt an instant connection to her which strengthened over time,” Rob said. “She is such an intelligent horse and quick to learn. Just being with her helped me feel calm.”

Waxworks has helped Rob enjoy life again.

Rob and nine other veterans from both emergency services and defence backgrounds spent eight months working with their retired racehorses in preparation for the graduation trail ride through Kosciuszko National Park. Officially the course ran on Thursdays and Sundays, but most participants weren’t well enough to have full-time jobs so they spent extra days volunteering their time to care for the horses. They did months of groundwork before they were even allowed to mount their horses, but once they did, there was no holding them back.

“It was like bungee jumping,” Rob said. “The adrenaline was pumping, I felt the nerves but it was such a rush.”

Spur gave Rob the routine he was missing since leaving the Police force but more importantly, it gave him something to look forward to. Some days he struggled to pay for petrol to get there, but he would always find a way.

“The program helped me change my line of thinking and realise life is worth living,” Rob said. “You can still get enjoyment from your life even after a major setback. It was great to spend time with other veterans going through the same thing as me, albeit at different stages, and the horses were the oil that helped us work together.”

The Spur course culminated with a five-day trail ride through Kosciuszko National Park. It was the ultimate test for the veterans and their Thoroughbreds they had retrained. They wound their way through the Snowy Mountains, splashing through streams, spotting wild brumbies and stopping off to explore the alpine huts along the away.

“It was more than I could have ever imagined and the perfect way to finish the course,” Rob said. “The iconic scenery, the extended riding sessions and the challenge of getting Waxy to do some things she was never bred to were highlights.”

Once the Spur course was completed, the veterans were given the opportunity to adopt their horses. Three did immediately and Rob wanted to too, but living in suburban Campbelltown and without funds to pay for agistment he had to get creative. Rob spent months trying to find an appropriate place to keep Waxworks and finally, thanks to the kindness of a local, he was able to lease a lush green paddock in Kentlyn for free. It’s just a short walk from his home with kilometres of bush trails close by.

A trail ride through Kosciuszko National Park was the ultimate test for Rob and Waxworks.

“When she stepped off the float I was overcome with emotion and the tears began to flow,” Rob said. “I hadn’t seen her for a few months, but nothing had changed. She came up and nuzzled me and she was officially mine. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

“Keeping Waxy happy and healthy is my priority now and I relish the time I get to spend with her,” Rob said. “I get a spring in my step just walking to her paddock. The team at Racing NSW has been great with advice and support. It’s nice to know I can contact the vets if I have any worries.”

Over the past few months, Rob and Waxworks have become a familiar sight around Kentlyn and many locals and visitors to the area stop to talk to them and give Waxworks a pat.

“People ask her name and how I got her, and they are pleased to hear our story, Rob said. “They get caught up in the joy of it and that makes my day.”

Cheeky Cisco Soars Off The Track

Cismontane was the sort of racehorse anyone would love to have in their stable. When he went to the gates he finished in the top three more than fifty per cent of the time and amassed closed to half a million dollars in prizemoney, but when his form started to taper off towards the end of 2018 co-trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott decided to retire him into the care of Racing NSW’s equine welfare division, Team Thoroughbred NSW.

“We care about our horses and want the best for them,” Gai said. “Team Thoroughbred’s program provides pathways into meaningful careers after racing and I think it’s wonderful.”

Being Sydney-based, Cismontane was sent to Bart’s Farm – Racing NSW’s picturesque 137acre equine welfare facility on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Castlereagh. Previously known as Princes Farm, it was renamed to honour its designer and former owner, the legendary Bart Cummings.

Athletic and brave over jumps, retired racehorse Cismontane is Kim Mitchell’s ideal eventing mount. Credit – Melissa Goodson – Snap Shot Australia

Cismontane excelled in his retraining and showed plenty of natural ability over jumps. The higher they got, the harder he tried. Within six months the chunky bright bay had dozens of interested riders lining up to adopt him. He went home with a professional eventer but despite being a match on paper they never clicked and Cismontane eventually returned to Bart’s Farm.

Meanwhile, passionate horsewoman but relatively new eventer, Kim Mitchell had begun the search for her first Thoroughbred. She had always been drawn to horses and volunteered at a riding school and trotting stable during her high school years. After graduation, she moved out of home to take up her dream job managing a property at Windsor. She broke in Thoroughbreds, assisted in buying, training and selling horses and was also a groom for competitions until one day about three years ago she decided it was her turn.  “I had a rescued Clydie-cross and when I took him to SIEC for our second ever event I couldn’t believe it when we won,” Kim said. “Eventing was our sport from that day.”

As Kim’s eventing experience grew, so too did her need for a horse which she could progress through the grades with and enjoy at the same time. On the advice of Racing NSW’s Equine Welfare Veterinarian Dr Carly Garling, Kim made an appointment to inspect some of the Thoroughbreds for sale at Bart’s Farm. It was not love at first sight with Cismontane though.

“I honestly wasn’t interested in him to start with,” Kim said. “He was smaller than what I wanted and he was being pretty naughty when the staff at Bart’s Farm were showing him to me. I didn’t even want to get on him, but I was egged on by a close friend who had come with me for the inspection.  I decided I may as well ride him and I’m glad I did! He had an awesome canter and I immediately knew there was something I liked about him.  I came back later in the week to ride him again and after a few jumps I was convinced he was the horse for me.”

Cismontane galloping to the lead early in the 2018 Group 1 Sydney Cup at Royal Randwick. Credit – Bradley Photos

Kim picked Cismontane up on a Monday, went away on a work trip from Tuesday to Friday, rode him on Saturday and took him to Camden Hunter Trials on Sunday. The rain was pouring down, but his performance blew away any doubts Kim had about her new mount.

“He was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “He just got on with the job. He wasn’t spooky or distracted. I really threw him in the deep end and he took everything in his stride.”

From then, Kim focused on building Cismontane’s confidence and helping him transition from a racehorse to an eventing horse. She nicknamed him Cisco and they had several low-key outings together for experience before taking on EVA60 at Berrima Horse Trials.

“I had already learned a lot about him from previous events,” Kim said. “Cisco doesn’t need a big warm-up, he gets a spark and likes to go forward. At Berrima he was fantastic in dressage, we jumped clear in both showjumping and cross country. You can’t ask for more than that.”

Kim and Cismontane finished the day in second place overall, an outstanding result for only their second one-day event.

“I was so proud of him,” Kim said. “I know he can get a bit spooky at the fences, but he just trusted me and went for it.”

Kim has high hopes for Cismontane over the next 12 months. She aims to have him competing at 80cm and schooling 95cm. 
“He is constantly impressing me but it’s still early days for him,” Kim said. “He has a lot of talent and I think he will go far. At Berrima, I could already feel he wanted to jump higher. I’m going to work on his jumping confidence and further establish his dressage, but over all I really just want to keep him happy. There’s so

Cunningham Sets New Goal For Stable Star

By Julieanne Horsman

Scrolling through Instagram in between jump outs, young Warwick Farm trainer Clare Cunningham spotted a post which drew her in. Entries had opened for the Thoroughbred Spring Fair, a horse show dedicated to celebrating the Thoroughbred breed. The program included loads of classes including some for active racehorses and employees of the racing industry, so Clare decided to enter with her stable favourite, Cradle Mountain.

“Dressage has always been part of his training so I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to have a day out,” Clare said. “I’m going to keep him when he retires and plan to make shows a regular destination for us. I’ve really missed them.”

Cradle Mountain will join more than 100 Thoroughbreds at Hawkesbury Showground on Sunday 29th November for The Thoroughbred Spring Fair. The event, which is in its second year, provides an opportunity for equestrians of all ages and abilities to test their skills in a variety of led, ridden and novelty classes. There are also restricted classes for horses which have come through Team Thoroughbred’s rehoming program.

Clare Cunningham and connections celebrate Cradle Mountain’s Listed Carrington Stakes victory. Credit – Bradley Photos.

“It’s a great concept,” Clare said. “The Thoroughbred is such a versatile breed beyond racing and the Spring Fair is the perfect place to showcase this. We’re having a lesson with (elite equestrian coach) Jade Findlay to tighten everything up and Mum is posting up my old equestrian gear this week. I hope that’s not too tight though!”

On the day Clare will be supported by several of her stable staff who are also competing, as well her partner, Group 1-winning jockey Jason Collett.

“He’ll play groom for the day but could be a late scratching if he has to race,” Clare said. “There’ll be plenty of us there to help each other out though. Hawkesbury trainer Brooke Somers is coming too. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For Cradle Mountain, The Thoroughbred Spring Fair is an important lead up to what is likely to be his final racing preparation. He will resume in the Listed Razor Sharp at Royal Randwick on 12th December, having already notched seven wins and earnings of $340,000. Not bad for a $4000 yearling. Clare credits equestrian drills for getting the best out of her horses.

“It teaches them to use their muscles and push from behind,” she said. “It improves their head carriage and helps with manners too. We gallop twice a week and need to do something slower on the other days.”

Under the Local Rules of Racing, suitable homes must be found for all Thoroughbreds at the conclusion of their racing careers. They can turn their hooves to a variety of disciplines from trail riding to jumping but regardless of potential, those who already have the basics established are much easier to rehome.

“If what we do as part of trackwork can help prepare them for life after racing, why wouldn’t you do it,” Clare said. “They can’t all be winners, but we can give them a head start on the training they need for their best shot at a winning life in retirement.”

Redzel Takes Another Bow

By Julieanne Horsman

As racegoers gathered around the Theatre Of The Horse eagerly waiting for The TAB Everest contenders to step out, many were surprised when the first horse to emerge from the tunnel wasn’t the number 1 saddlecloth carrier, Nature Strip. They curiously admired the strong, shiny bay draped in a flashy silk rug until Greg Radley’s voice boomed across the racecourse “welcome back, Redzel!” Spectators erupted into a cheer for the dual TAB Everest winner, as he made his first return to Royal Randwick since retiring from racing. The eight-year-old Snitzel gelding appeared to be relishing his new role as an ambassador for Racing NSW’s equine welfare and rehoming division, Team Thoroughbred NSW. 

Team Thoroughbred's Jeff Brasch and Clare Edlund parade Redzel ahead of the TAB Everest.
Team Thoroughbred’s Jeff Brasch and Clare Edlund parade Redzel ahead of the TAB Everest. Credit – Lisa Grimm.

Trainers Peter and Paul Snowden, in consultation with owners Triple Crown Syndications, called time on Redzel’s racing career in April after a brilliant performance for 3rd in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes. He had amassed prizemoney in excess of $16million, making him second-highest earner in Australian racing history behind Winx. Redzel bowed out on a high note with a record of 15 wins, including both the inaugural TAB Everest in 2017 and the second edition of the race in 2018. He also ran a creditable 8th in the 2019 TAB Everest.

Redzel retired to Bart’s Farm (formerly Princes Farm) at Castlereagh which was purchased by Racing NSW in 2018 for the purpose of equine welfare activities. The stunning 137-acre property, designed by legendary trainer Bart Cummings, is one of three owned by Racing NSW where retired racehorses including Thoroughbreds who didn’t make the track can go to be cared for and retrained for other equestrian disciplines.

“Our owners are delighted to have sent Redzel into the professional care of Racing NSW’s Team Thoroughbred,” Triple Crown Syndications Director Michael Ward said. “This way the public will be able to continue to interact into the future with a horse that has brought so much joy to so many racing fans. It is only fitting that our champions on the racetrack are celebrated in retirement and we are sure that Redzel will continue to be a great ambassador for racing in this state during his time there.”

Redzel has settled in well to his new home in a paddock with three-time Group 1 winner Happy Clapper. Over the next few months, Redzel will learn the skills needed for life after racing and fans can look forward to seeing him at out and about at major events.

New Career For Legendary Bush Galloper

By Julieanne Horsman

Saying goodbye to a racehorse who had tried his heart out in 101 starts was never going to be easy for Gulgong trainer Brett Thompson. Especially one as sentimentally significant as Hewentwhoosh. The Dane Shadow x Zebithea gelding was the first Thoroughbred he chose and bought himself and kickstarted his career as a trainer.

“I was at the Scone Inglis sales and spotted this athletic little horse who walked really well,” Thompson said. “I got him for only $4500 and said to my son don’t tell mum we bought another horse!”

Thompson’s eldest son Ben broke the horse in, and youngest son Jay came up with his name. Hewentwhoosh ran his first race under Brett’s father James Thompson’s banner, before being transferred into Brett’s stable. Over the eight years that followed, Hewentwhoosh won 14 races, notched 30 places and earned almost $300,000 in prizemoney. He claimed the 2009 Inglis 2YO Challenge and contributed to Thompson winning five Central Districts Training Premierships in a row and being named NSW Country Trainer of the year in 2016.

Hewentwhoosh recorded the final win of his career at Cowra on 20th August 2016. It was his 95th race start. Credit: Janian McMillan – Racing Photography

“John O’Shea actually tried to buy him at one point, but we had all fallen in love with him and wanted to continue to enjoy the ride,” Thompson said.

When the time came time to retire Hewentwhoosh in December 2016, Thompson couldn’t imagine parting with him. So he didn’t. He kept the gelding at home as a nanny for his weanlings but as the years went by, he felt compelled to give the horse a chance at a second career.

“I hate seeing horses standing in the paddock going to waste,” Thompson said. “Most of them like to have a job, they like to have a routine, so I asked one of my staff members, Elizabeth Theobald, to get him going.”

Elizabeth, an accomplished horsewoman in her own right, noted Hewentwhoosh’s potential as a sport horse but between work and her own horses, she didn’t have enough time to dedicate to helping him reach it. Then her friend, former jockey and talented showjumper Aimee Taylor, came to Gulgong for a visit.

“Elizabeth and Brett said to me we’ve got this great little horse who is going to make a jumper and we only want him to go to the best of homes,” Taylor said. “I had a ride on him, Elizabeth jumped him for me and I said yes, I will take him.”

Aimee’s partner, 2020 Group 1 Doncaster-winning jockey James Innes Junior, had been apprenticed to Thompson early in his career and had ridden Hewentwhoosh in trackwork, but by all accounts the horse was a little difficult to handle back then.

“He would try it on with all the apprentices,” Thompson said. “Jimmy would hate me when I put him on.”

Like Brett did more than twelve years earlier, Aimee had to sneak Hewentwhoosh home and hope her partner wouldn’t notice.

“James had gone to Queensland to ride in the Stradbroke so it was good timing,” Taylor said with a laugh. “I’ve had to sneak the last few horses home while he wasn’t there!”

Aimee and Hewentwhoosh in action at the Christine Bates One Day Event. Credit: Melissa Goodson – Snapshotaustralia

Aimee continued Hewentwhoosh’s retraining and was impressed by how quick and willing he was to learn. Just a few months later they were taking part in the Christine Bates One Day Event. 

“It was only his second time out and I was so happy with how he went,” Taylor said. “We came fourth overall. Showjumping is definitely his strongest discipline. When he gets on the cross country course he remembers he was a racehorse and wants to go fast. He’s got a lot to learn but has a sweet nature and is always improving. I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can go.”

Aimee keeps in regular contact with Brett, Elizabeth and Hewentwhoosh’s previous owners, sending them updates and pictures.

“I love getting the updates and it makes me so happy and proud to see him doing well off the track,” Thompson said. “Saying goodbye to him was hard but I know he’s gone to a good home. We put a lot of effort into rehoming our retired racehorses. We’re all horse people and we love our horses.”

Aimee recently took on retired Tim Martin-trained gelding Pride Of Darci and also has former Pat Webster-trained gelding Shark Tank who she adopted in 2017 and retrained as a showjumper. It was love at first sight when she spotted the big bay in the parade ring at Newcastle races.

“I literally turned to Jimmy and said stop, look at him,” Taylor said. “I made him go back in and ask if I could have him when he retired from racing. It was the best decision. Shark Tank is such a good allrounder. He’s great with my kids too.”

Aimee enjoyed success as a jockey in her native New Zealand, China and Australia before taking time out to have her two children. She was determined to bounce back and incredibly returned to riding trackwork just one month after giving birth to her first son, Carter. She had her second son Asher in April this year and again returned to riding trackwork and showjumping quickly. She acknowledges she wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of her friends.

“I’m really lucky to have good support around me, especially Sophie Brooks,” Taylor said. “She helps with saddling and holds the kids. It makes a huge difference. Christine Bates is really accommodating when we have lessons too.

“It’s so nice to be able to do a bit more showjumping and eventing now. It all took a back seat when I was travelling a lot as a jockey.”

This story was first published in Racing NSW Magazine.

Three Stooges Perform In Life After Racing

As the old saying goes, when you’re onto a good thing stick to it. For some, it’s buying a pair of their favourite shoes in every colour. For others, it’s swinging past the same café for their daily caffeine hit. For talented horsewoman Elaine Robl, it’s finding a special off the track Thoroughbred and adopting all of his brothers as well.

It was a slow racehorse named Jade Crusader who ignited Elaine’s passion for Fantakan progeny. While riding trackwork at Warwick Farm, she began schooling the gelding in showjumping in an effort to get the best out of him at the races. She even rode him at Berrima Hunter Trials while in full work to try and fire him up but the best he ever finished was 6th. He ran his last race at Goulburn in July 2014 and Elaine brought him home later that year.

Elaine’s then 10-year-old daughter Hayley needed a new mount for Pony Club and asked if she could have Jade Crusader. Understandably, Elaine was a little hesitant as the horse was only four at the time, but after making sure he was safe she let Hayley have a ride. They clicked straight away and from that moment Jade Crusader was Hayley’s.

Apart from having a nice temperament, there were no signs to suggest Jade Crusader was anything special or that he would one day easily jump 1.5m. He was a bit clumsy and another person who had also ridden the horse in trackwork said he would never jump competitively.

Jade Crusader and Hayley won their first event at Berrima Horse Trials and the achievements and ribbons kept coming year after year. In June 2019 they won their first 1* event – a competition incorporating dressage, showjumping up to 1.15m and cross country with jumps up to 1.10m. Next was a third place in 1* eventing at Interschools Nationals, followed by a first in the 120cm Thoroughbred class at the Sydney Showjumping Club Championships, first in 1* at Oxley Horse Trials and Champion Child’s Thoroughbred and Reserve Champion Allrounder at the Thoroughbred Spring Fair. They were also declared the unofficial bareback high jump champions at Franklin Street Stables in Matraville after clearing 1.4m.

“The higher the jumps were, the better Jade Crusader performed,” Elaine said. “He always tries his heart out and is so eager to please. Every time we raise the bar he literally leaps over it.”

As Hayley was considering stepping up to 2* eventing, Bruce Cross was considering the racing future of Jade Crusader’s half-brother, Adaboycharlie. He won at his second start and showed plenty of promise, but hadn’t saluted in the two years since.

“I said to Bruce I’ll have that one too,” Elaine said. “I took Hayley to the stables to meet Adaboycharlie and she just loved him straight away. He was really cuddly and lapped up affection.”

Despite Elaine’s interest, Bruce’s granddaughter Maddy initially took Adaboycharlie, but when she started studying for her HSC she was too busy and he ended up joining Elaine’s stable in March this year.

While Adaboycharlie is the youngest of Fantakan’s three sons, Beauty Best was the most successful on the track and the last to be adopted by Elaine. The gelding won his first three starts for Bruce Cross before being exported to Hong Kong. He returned to Australia two years later and notched a win and several places for Tamworth trainer Melanie O’Gorman before she called time on his career.

“I had my eye on him for a while,” Elaine said. “Melanie does breaking and pre-training for Peter (Robl, Elaine’s husband) so I contacted her and asked if I could have Beauty Best when he retired. He was here five weeks after his last race.”

Hayley on Jade Crusader, Elaine on Beauty Best and Emma on Adaboycharlie training together at Matraville. Credit – Laila Lynch.

Elaine and Hayley worked Jade Crusader, Adaboycharlie and Beauty Best together as much as they could. Their friend Emma McGuigan would often help out and developed a soft spot for Adaboycharlie. Emma was getting back into riding after a few years off and looking for a new horse. Elaine and Hayley agreed they didn’t have enough time to give all their horses the attention they deserved so they sold Adaboycharlie to Emma. All three horses still live together at Franklin Street Stables and are a source of entertainment for anyone who looks their way.

“They’re like the three stooges,” Elaine said. “There’s the two funny ones and the serious one. That’s Beauty Best. They have their own personalities but if you watch them for long enough you can see similarities in their behaviour.”

Elaine is full of praise for the three horses but she says they have a common annoying habit.

“They’ve been a dream to retrain and are naturally talented jumpers but they can’t resist chewing everything and throwing their buckets around,” she said. “We can’t feed them on the ground or the bucket will be upside down in a second.”

Despite Covid-19 halted competitions and disrupted training for most equestrians, Hayley is still on track to represent Randwick Girls High School in 2* Eventing at State Interschools this month. She placed third in 1* at the same competition last year and is hoping for another podium finish. Emma is continuing Adaboycharlie’s education and is set to take him to his first eventing competition in Spring and Beauty Best isn’t far off making his showjumping debut either.

The horses’ former trainer Bruce Cross enjoys following their progress and comes out to cheer Jade Crusader and Hayley on when time permits.

“Credit has to go to Elaine,” Bruce said. “She has done an outstanding job with those horses. I would have liked them to be a bit faster on the track but I am happy they have a good home.”

While there are no more Fanatkans coming through the grades, Hayley is devoted to the bloodlines and has already put dibs on the mare’s sister’s daughter’s three-year-old colt when he retires.