Grand National hero Pineau De Re continues to shine in his second career, eight years on from his 2014 triumph in the famous steeplechase.
The gelding enjoyed his finest hour when victorious in the marathon race for trainer Dr Richard Newland, claiming a five-length success over Balthazar King at a price of 25-1.
A bumper, hurdle and chase winner, the bay’s nine-year career then wound to a close in 2016 when he was retired from the track and began the retraining process with event rider Lizzie Brunt.
Brunt was previously a work rider for Newland and began schooling Pineau De Re after his racing career came to an end, doing so alongside the trainer’s daughter Amelia initially.
“I have had the honour of loaning Pineau now for about five years, he is still owned by Dr Richard Newland and John Provan,” said Brunt.
“I used to ride out for Richard and that is how I came about the opportunity to retrain him, I started riding him in the school and out hacking after riding my lots.
“I was helping retrain him with Amelia, Richard’s eldest daughter. Amelia moved away to London so in February 2017, Richard offered Pineau to me.
“I snapped up the chance to have him as I loved riding him and I felt he would be a great asset to my eventing yard.”
After 48 starts on the racecourse Pineau De Re had lost none of his enthusiasm for life and approached his new career as an event horse with all of the same zeal.
Previously a jockeys-only ride on the gallops due to his keen way of going, Brunt was tasked with channelling this energy into a new outlet as she began to introduce the horse to the markedly different disciplines that make up eventing; dressage, show jumping and eventing.
“Pineau was easy in some ways to retrain but very challenging in others, he sure thinks he is still a racehorse!” she said.
“Pineau is one of the most clever horses I have ever sat on and definitely the feistiest, he will jump anything, and I mean anything, but the speed he wants to go is still Grand National speed.
“I’m not sure this will ever change – even today at 19 years old!
“Really, what can I expect? For 12 years of his life he led up the gallops, going flat out as no one could hold him. Only the jockeys were allowed to ride him, he was a very, very keen ride!”
Retrained to compete in British Eventing competitions at novice level, an admirable feat despite the humble name, Pineau De Re has proven, perhaps unsurprisingly, to be a natural-born cross country horse.
“Pineau and I have evented up to novice level, he makes the cross country feel easy but for most of our rounds I’d say he’s more in control than me!” Brunt said.
“Honestly, in the years I’ve had him I’m yet to face him at a jump that’s made him back off, he’s super keen into a fence and he reads all the combinations and questions before I do – I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride!”
Now a 19-year-old, Pineau De Re may be advancing in years but Brunt is preparing him for another season’s eventing and when full retirement does beckon, he clearly has a loving, permanent home in which to live out the rest of his days.
“Pineau is an absolute yard favourite, he is totally spoilt but a complete pleasure to look after,” she said.
“His favourite treats are carrots and apples, absolutely no Polos here – he hates them! He won’t even eat his carrots and apples unless they are chopped up for him.
“Still to this day, I have to remind myself what a superstar he is.
“When people see us competing they can’t believe he won the National and comment on how small he is! I truly believe it’s the size of the heart, not the engine.
“Pineau puts his all into everything I’ve ever asked him to do, I’m sure this helped him win the National back in 2014.
“Pineau will be with me forever living the life the champ deserves.
“Retraining him has been lots of fun, I love the fact there are no expectations, as long as he looks to be enjoying himself, what does it matter about the results? He’s already a champion after all.”