Spirit Son - in his hurdling daysThe French-bred racehorse Spirit Son was a successful 5-year-old when he suffered an unexplained collapse. The gelding, owned by Michael Buckley and trained by Nicky Henderson, had four wins from five starts and was fancied to win the Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.
However, a tendon injury ruled him out of the race. He recovered and was sent away to recuperate and get him ready for a return to racing.
Then disaster struck. Spirit Son was found collapsed on the floor of his stable. Nicky Henderson rushed down from Scotland to see what could be done.
The horse could not get up – and people feared the worst. But he rallied and was soon able to stand while being supported.
About six weeks after his collapse, he was well enough to be taken to the O’Gorman Slater Main equine hospital in Newbury where a scan revealed he had a neck fracture. For a more precise diagnosis he was taken for a CT scan which revealed he had two fractures – one each side of his neck.
As Nicky Henderson wrote in the Racing Post: “There were two known surgeons who could perform an obviously extremely complicated and undoubtedly dangerous operation, one in the USA and one, John Walmsley, in Hampshire, who luckily was prepared to perform what was going to be a huge task with major risks involved. But it was the only option.”
An operation under general anaesthetic was tricky for a horse that was still recovering his balance and strength. But a most unusual surgical procedure was carried out using metal implants. And it was successful and Spirit Son recovered.
As Henderson wrote: “The prognosis for racing always has been and still is very low, but he deserved a chance to have a life, whether it’s on a racecourse or in another role.”
He was not to race again and Spirit Son arrived at the Greatwood charity for retired racehorse at Clench Common near Marlborough on November 6 last year. Announcing his death, Greatwood said that his condition had deteriorated during the summer months and he had to be put to sleep this morning – October 8.
Three of Greatwood's successful GET GOING students Greatwood - the charity at Clench Common which looks after retired racehorses and uses them to help disadvantaged young people - is also an accredited centre for introducing young people to the skills needed for jobs in the various parts of the equine industry.
Last week all the students taking their 1st4sport Get Going educational programme passed the one-week intensive course which gives them an entry level award in 'Assisting with basic care of horses'.
Among the successful students was a nineteen year-old refugee from war-torn Sudan who came to Britain four years ago and now wants to start a career in the racing industry. Another student found that being around horses helped alleviate her medical condition - and for the first time in four years she spent the week without taking pain-killers.
These courses are designed to help young and unemployed people to get on the jobs ladder - and they are also helping with the racing industry's shortage of stable staff.
The need to help the young unemployed is a given in these economic times, but the shortage of stable staff is a newer problem. It has been fuelled by new Home Office rules on entry for experienced work-riders from the Middle East and southern Asia who are favoured by some trainers.
Earlier this month a million pounds from the proceeds of the sale of the publicly-owned Tote to Betfred has been provided to help develop the racing industry's workforce and improve staff retention.
It is estimated that there are currently 500 vacancies in training yards across Britain. And the situation is likely to get worse as the industry expects a thousand more horses will be in training by 2020.
The course run at Greatwood is the '1st4sport Entry Level Award in Assisting with Basic Care of Horses (Entry 2) (QCF)’. It is designed to benefit learners through an introduction to horse care for people who have an interest in horses and may want to work with them, but who have little previous experience.
The award gives the learner the basic skills and knowledge required to assist with caring for horses under supervision and prepares them for further training.
The intensive course includes a ‘field trip’ to a racing yard, talks from industry guest speakers and a veterinary and farrier demonstration. This qualification is run in partnership with the British Horseracing Authority.
The Get Going programme receives no direct funding from the local authority and is not currently eligible for funding from the Skills Funding Agency. Due to the economic and social circumstances of students attending Greatwood, places on the Get Going programme are offered free of charge to the young people and funding comes via grants from trusts and foundations.
It costs Greatwood over £500,000 each year to support up to 60 ex-racehorses and deliver education to 300 disadvantaged young people. The charity relies heavily on the support and generosity of the racing industry as well as the general public - with fund-raising efforts throughout the year.
Beacon at GreatwoodThe Greatwood Charity does not only successfully put retired racehorses to work with disadvantaged young people, it also finds new homes for many of horses that come to its fields and barns at Clench Common, just south of Marlborough.
In the past few months they have been working to settle in seven new horses - most with some success on the racecourse behind them - and one who never saw a starter's flag.
Beacon – a four-year-old bay gelding had ten starts with four wins and earnings of £73,343. Beacon was sired by the great flat racehorse Paco Boy. He last raced at Sandown in July 2015.
Beacon arrived at Greatwood on April 1 from the Highclere Racing Syndicate having been trained by Richard Hannon Senior. Beacon has been recently gelded, so has been paired up with a sensible older horse. He will be given a year to completely settle in before being brought into work next spring.
Sixteen-year-old Temoin was trained by David Bourton and had more outings under National Hunt rules than on the flat. A bay gelding, he had 41 starts, eight wins and total earnings of £87,021. He last raced at Uttoxeter in June 2011 when he finished ninth out of a field sixteen in a two-and-a-half mile handicap hurdle.
Thirteen-year-old Prince Villevert was trained in Hampshire by Emma Lavell. Another bay gelding, he had five starts - two on the flat, one over hurdles and one over jumps - recorded one win and had total earnings of £3,392.
Temoin and Prince Villevert both arrived at Greatwood in September. Their previous owners were no longer in a position to take care of them. They have enjoyed a winter break during which they thrived and Greatwood now looks forward to bringing them both back into work this Spring and finding them new homes.
Geoff with a friend called HarperGeoff is an unraced five-year-old. He arrived at Greatwood on in October from David Simcock’s yard in Newmarket. He arrived with no name and after much deliberation as to what to call him it was decided he looked like a Geoff and it has stuck ever since!
Geoff was owned by Mr Al Basti one of Greatwood’s main sponsors. After a couple of years in training it was decided that Geoff wasn’t going to make the grade and he came to Greatwood unraced. Geoff will now have the summer to completely settle into his new regime out in the paddock with his new friends before being brought into work in the hope of finding him a good home.
Eleven year-old Knock A Hand - a brown gelding - last raced over hurdles at Carlisle in March. He had 28 starts, seven wins and earnings of £54,770 - the majority from chases. The nine-year-old Tresor De Bontee last raced at Sandown in March - in a race for amateur military riders. In his career this bay gelding had 24 starts, five wins and earnings of £26,175.
Knock A Hand and Tresor De Bontee both arrived at Greatwood at the end of March from Herefordshire trainer Kerry Lee. After successful racing careers they will be given time to settle into their new, more relaxed lives before being re-trained and found new homes for life.
The Irish-bred five-year-old Kernoff's last run was at Meydan in February 2015 - was unplaced and then retired. He had 14 starts, three wins and earnings of £33,749.
Kernoff came to Greatwood on April 1. He had been used as a companion at a nearby stud farm. His owners thought he was being wasted as a companion horse, so asked if the Greatwood Charity could find him a home as he is such a lovely horse with a kind temperament.
He has settled in 'fantastically well - taking to life at Greatwood like a duck to water' and they are looking forward to putting him into work this summer.
Coral Keen with Derby Wiltshire event rider Coral Keen has been asked to compete for Great Britain next week (September 24-27) in the CICO3* competition at Waregem in Belgium as part of the British Nations Cup team - and she is really looking forward to the challenge.
It will be the first time the 28-year-old from Devizes has worn the British flag when she partners her 11-year-old gelding Wellshead Fare Opposition - known as Derby - with whom she achieved a top 20 placing at Luhmuhlen and finished in twelfth place in the CIC3* at Hartpury.
After disappointment at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials held earlier this month in Lincolnshire, where she was unseated at the Cottesmore Leap, the call up has come as a welcome tonic: “It just proves that every cloud has a silver lining. Derby was going so well at Burghley, jumping all the technical combinations beautifully."
"We came to the Cottesmore Leap on the wrong stride and he hit the back bar, catapulting me out of the saddle. We had to have a cross-country training session with team selector Yogi Breisner, just to check Derby was a hundred per cent and hadn’t lost any confidence. But he was raring to go and as full of himself as ever and I’m so pleased to have been given this opportunity."
Coral has brought Derby on since he was a four-year-old, progressing him through the ranks from BE100 level up to four star, which is the highest eventing level any horse and rider combination can compete at. Coral is based at Little Cheverell - south of Devizes.
Last week, at Gatcombe International, Coral won the CIC1* with Cascadelle, a six-year-old she started training as a three year-old: “She was absolutely amazing doing a beautiful dressage test and then jumping a double clear. She just popped round the cross-country and gave me such a lovely ride."
"She’s such an exciting prospect for the future so we’ll keep carefully plotting her career with the aim of competing at the highest level.”
Cascadelle will also be heading to Waregem where she will run in the CIC* along with her stable mate Highmead Proposition: “We were supposed to be going to South of England, but as soon a s I was offered the chance to ride on a Nations Cup team, a leapt at it, and decided to re-route these horses there too. It’ll be a very busy week but I am really looking forward to it."
Helen Yeadon receives the cheque from Dick FearMarlborough's Greatwood charity has benefited to the tune of £18,500 from a unique fundraising event in Dubai.
Dick Fear, head outrider at the Dubai Racing Club in Meydan, organised a charity golf day attended by, among others, former World Number 1 and Ryder Cup golfer Lee Westwood and European Tour Professional Oliver Fisher.
From right to left: Dick Fear, Lee Westwood & the winning teamFear, wanted to organise an event in honour of Mr Malih Al Basti, his friend and the founder of Al Basti Equiworld. He decided that the best way of doing this was to put on a fundraising event for Mr Al Basti’s favourite charity – Greatwood, which he has been supporting since 2014.
As Fear explained: “Mr Al Basti is a big supporter of Greatwood and I wanted to give something back to him for all his support that he does for everyone here in Dubai. He is a very extraordinary man with his generosity."
"When I looked at Greatwood charity’s website, the work that they do touched me in such a way that I just wanted to be a part of it. So through horses and golf it seemed like a great idea to raise money for a worthy charity.”
Co-Founder and Managing Director of Greatwood Charity, Helen Yeadon was at the golf event and received the cheque - for AED98,395 in the local currency: “I would like to thank Dick for the great honour of nominating Greatwood. It was a fabulous evening, with an extraordinary sum of money raised. "
"This money will help educate no less than 18 young people. Dick, you truly have changed lives and created futures.”
Greatwood looks after retired racehorses and uses them to help children who are disadvantaged or have learning difficulties - and to train them in horse care skills.
The 'cheque' comes home to Greatwood. The horses are (left to right): Montendre, Potentate and Seek the Faith
Frankie Dettori with Greatwood fans Friday (October 9) was the first day of the Dubai Future Champions Festival at Newmarket - and it was certainly an occasion to remember for an excited party of students and staff from Greatwood who had been invited to spend the day there.
Greatwood is the charity just south of Marlborough at Clench Common, which looks after retired racehorses and uses them to help disadvantaged young people.
Thanks to the generosity of Al Basti Equiworld (a Greatwood sponsor), Newmarket Racecourse and the National Stud, the students and staff were given a tour of the National Stud, followed by lunch and an afternoon of superb racing.
One of the highlights of the day was a meeting with jockey of the moment Frankie Dettori.
Montendre and friends The students were able to tell Frankie how Montendre was doing since he retired to Greatwood in 2000. In 1989 Frankie rode Montendre to victory in the Dewhirst Rockingham Stakes at York.
Yes, that really is 1989 - he came second in his first race, then won at Brighton under Dettori and then, eleven days later, won that prestige, listed race at York winning just over £11,000 - good prize money in those days.
The bay gelding Montendre - known as Monty - is now 28 years-old. During his career he ran 104 races under rules - and Frankie Dettori rode him eight times. Monty notched up 11 wins and 32 places - and he is still being used daily at Greatwood by the young people who take part in Greatwood's educational programmes. And he's a bit of racing history.
Close your eyes and imagine you've won the Derby: One of Greatwood’s younger students with Potentate (USA) (now 24 years old) - winner of the 1997, 1998 & 1999 Welsh Champion Hurdle. Trained by Martin Pipe, ridden by A P McCoy and owned by the late Jim Weeden
(Photo from Channel 4 Racing)Sasha Thorbek-Hooper works at Greatwood and also at Newbury Racecourse. On Saturday last she was up early for the charity's big day at the races...and tells the story of the day.
The Greatwood Charity for retired racehorses at Clench Common was delighted to open its doors to Channel 4's cameras on Saturday (February 28) when part of The Morning Line programme came live from the charity's headquarters ahead of our main fundraising event of the year at Newbury Racecourse.
Ex-jockey now turned Channel 4 Racing television presenter, Mick Fitzgerald interviewed Greatwood's co-founder Helen Yeadon about the charity's history. He then moved into the classroom to speak to some of the students that attend Greatwood's educational programmes for disadvantaged children and young adults with special educational needs.
|One of the Greatwood horses featured on The Morning Line programme: Seek The Faith - an American bred horse who ran 49 times with seven wins and 13 places. He was taken in because his owner could no longer afford to keep him. "He is a nice big sort of horse, he had been on his own prior to his arrival and he really enjoys the company of the other horses."
Later on in the Channel 4 programme the students were shown grooming some of the horses they work with, before finishing off the live broadcast by interviewing me about some of our stable stars and my role as fundraiser.
Despite the obvious challenge of broadcasting with horses and children (what do they say about working with one or the other, let alone both?!), the
broadcast was seamless and the media exposure has been enormous for the charity.
And there at Newbury was Mick Fitzgerald doing his day-time jobCollecting from the puntersAfter the programme finished, the Greatwood team rapidly moved base to Newbury Racecourse for the charity raceday.
Now in its 8th year and a firm fixture in the racing diary, the card included six races all sponsored as 'Supporting Greatwood' by betfair, betway, Ladbrokes, Moore of Devizes Ltd and BetVictor. The feature race was The StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Steeple Chase.
The raceday included a lunch attended by 300 prominent guests from the world of horse racing, followed by a main auction and a silent auction.
The raceday was a resounding success raising in excess of £72,000 - that's £10,000 more than last year's Newbury Raceday, Huge thanks to everybody involved for making the day so successful.
It rained a bit and it blew very cold, the racing was first class and the fundraising was successful. What better way to end February!
|Waiting for the next winner: Newbury's presentation podium
|Neil Mulholland chats to Barry Geraghty
TM writes: If you want a tip for the Cheltenham Festival check out the jump season's emerging colaboration between trainer Neil Mulholland and jockey Barry Geraghty. The Mulholland trained Leave it Be was brought home by Geraghty to win the day's opening race - the Betfair Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Hurdle. The Irish bred eight-year-old gelding was 8-1 with the course bookies.
After the race Mulholland said he had booked Barry Geraghty for two of his Cheltenham Festival runners. Geraghty will ride The Young Master in the RSA Chase and The Druids Nephew in the three-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Festival.
|Barry Geraghty in the silks of Leave It Be's owners - The Hanham Boys Racing Club
And if anyone wanted a reminder of Barry Geraghty's current form he made it a Newbury double with his win on five-year-old Rayak in the Moore of Devizes Ltd Supporting Greatwood Novices' Handicap Hurdle. Rayak is trained by Jonjo O'Neill at Cheltenham.
Clarke Johnstone - could he get an individual medal?On Thursday (August 11) Sarah Dalziell-Clout, New Zealand's High Performance Director, sent Marlborough. News this summary of their eventing competition: "I think it's fair to say it's been a roller-coaster of a week for the team with Jock's Clifton Lush injuring himself, Tim's unfortunate fall, the teams' high after a dramatic day of cross country where the renowned Kiwi cross country riding skills came to the fore - followed by the dramatic ups and downs of our show-jumping day."
"Obviously the team is really disappointed and feeling quite flat with our final results, but also realistic that such is our sport - the highs and lows come around thick and fast and with just a little luck on our side we could have been coming away with gold."
"Last night the horses flew out and are enroute home to their UK bases - the riders will follow suit over the next few days."
It was a very close run thing - as the New Zealand Equestrian tweet said "So so close".
The New Zealand team - four of the five who travelled to Rio are based around Marlborough - could only make it to fourth place after the show jumping - the final of the three disciplines.
As the show jumping drew to a close, Sir Mark Todd could have had one rail down and the New Zealand team would have won gold. Todd - competing in his seventh Olympics - and Leonidas II had four rails down. Todd said afterwards that his horse was simply not relaxed.
In her show jumping round, Jonelle Price had two rails down with Faerie Dianimo and New Zealand based Clarke Johnstone with Balmoral Sensation went sensationally clear.
The team had been dogged by bad luck. Jock Paget's horse was hurt in a freak stable accident and his replacement Tim Price and his horse Ringwood Skyboy slipped and fell during the cross country and were eliminated.
As a New Zealand reporter put it: "That's the nature of our sport. It's ruthless. It requires a bit of luck on top of all that skill."
The gold medal went to France after Astier Nicolas - who is based near Calne - rode a brilliant clear round. Germany took the silver and Australia the bronze - just 3.5 penalty points ahead of New Zealand. Great Britain were fifth.
At the end of the first round of the shopwjumping - which settles the team medals - Clarke Johnstone was still in sight of an individual medal. It all depended on the second round.