Tag Archive for: Retraining of Racehorses

Yorkhill and Don Poli feature at RoR National Championships

Yorkhill and Don Poli are among the names set to appear at this week’s Jockey Club Retraining of Racehorses National Championships at Aintree.

The event, which begins on Thursday, has attracted 276 former racehorses and is the elite level for those thriving in a second career – with dressage, showjumping and showing classes held across four days.

This year’s entrants have run in nearly 4,000 races collectively, and won a combined total of more than £5.3million in prize money.

Both Yorkhill and Don Poli retired from racing last season and will be making their debuts at the championships, where they will compete in newcomer and in-hand classes respectively.

Yorkhill is best known for his unstoppable career as a novice, with his two winning bumper runs followed by a string of top-class hurdle races including the Tolworth, the race now know as the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham and the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – all Grade One contests.

A graduation to chasing was a success at first, and the chestnut picked up another Grade One prize when taking the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival – but his talent came with a certain waywardness, and his tendency to jump to the left started to prove costly.

He was tried over hurdles again before eventually changing hands, moving from Willie Mullins’ stable to Sandy Thomson’s Berwickshire base and giving his his new connections, plus his sizeable fan club, a swansong performance when taking Newcastle’s Listed Rehearsal Handicap Chase at 66-1 last November before retiring because of an injury.

Don Poli also spent much of his career with Mullins, winning at successive Cheltenham Festivals before finishing third in the 2016 Gold Cup and second in Aintree’s Bowl Chase.

The bay also completed the 2019 Grand National and is eligible, alongside Yorkhill, to join Saturday’s ‘Always A Star’ parade at the RoR Championships – where he will be joined by 12 other high-quality horses including Un Temps Pour Tout, Carole’s Destrier and Kimberella.

Don Poli was a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner in his racing days
Don Poli was a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner in his racing days (Nick Potts/PA)

The Jockey Club is the title sponsor of the event for the first time, and Aintree clerk of the course Sulekha Varma said: “We are delighted to welcome back the RoR National Championships to the Aintree International Equine Centre in 2021, and it is fantastic that the Jockey Club is now extending its support to become the headline sponsor of the event.

“It is great to see some familiar names among the entries, including Yorkhill and Don Poli who both enjoyed some great days here at Aintree.

“Retraining of Racehorses plays an absolutely vital role in the racing industry, and it is a great honour for Aintree to stage its flagship event and publicise the outstanding work it undertakes.”

Di Arbuthnot, chief executive of Retraining of Racehorses, added: “Due to the work that goes into preparing these horses for the championships, combined with the location, there is a special atmosphere and camaraderie across the four days of the event. We missed it last year – and along with more than 250 former racehorses, we are very much looking forward to returning to Aintree this week.

“Our thanks to the Jockey Club, the new title sponsor of the RoR National Championships. We greatly value their support for RoR generally – and this event in particular, which represents an opportunity to demonstrate the outstanding care given to former racehorses in this country, together with the range of opportunities open to them.”

Rapid growth in demand for Retraining of Racehorses

There has never been more interest in the rehoming and retraining of ex-racehorses, according to the industry’s official charity for their welfare.

Questions about the fate of retired racehorses were raised by Monday’s Panorama programme, which broadcast scenes of horses about to be euthanised at an abattoir in Swindon – reporting many had arrived there after gruelling transportation from Ireland.

Retraining of Racehorses is a charity which focuses on the welfare of horses retired from the track and supports them in their transition to other equestrian disciplines, providing a platform for them to find a new home as well as a series of training events and competitions aimed exclusively at horses embarking on a second career after a spell in training.

“It should be emphasised that the aftercare landscape for former racehorses in Great Britain has changed significantly for the better in recent years,” said Di Arbuthnot, chief executive of the charity.

“RoR has played an integral role in this by helping generate a demand for former racehorses among the wider equestrian market.

“It is a shame that this side of the story was not reflected in the programme.”

In the 15 years since its inception, the number of horses on the RoR database has multiplied, with just over 9,000 currently registered with the charity.

“RoR provided the (Panorama) producers with figures that illustrate this growth, showing how thousands more former racehorses every year are enjoying long and fulfilling careers after racing,” said Arbuthnot.

“In addition to the 9,010 active horses registered on our database, among the figures we provided was that in the 15 years since RoR started staging classes and series exclusively for former racehorses, annual participation in RoR showing events has risen from 270 horses to 3,467; in dressage from 0 to 4,148; and in eventing from 0 to 2,912.”

The covertly recorded footage at the abattoir appeared to show workers breaching regulations surrounding the slaughter of horses.

“The programme did raise some concerning issues that obviously warrant further investigation by the relevant authorities,” added Arbuthnot.

“As a welfare charity ourselves, we passionately believe every domesticated animal deserves to be treated humanely and with dignity throughout their lives.”

Roly Owers, chief executive of World Horse Welfare, believes the programme highlighted a myriad of issues and warned the racing industry “needs to sit up and take note”.

He said: “Panorama has shone a spotlight on the consequences of individuals involved in the racing industry not exercising their duty of care, and the standards of practice of euthanising retired racehorses.

“These are issues of great concern to very many people in the horse world and very many more outside of it. The reaction shows how strongly the public feels about it.

“The programme also raises far bigger issues than what appear to be shocking practices of one abattoir – from breeding programmes to training regimes, to lack of regard for horse welfare during transport, to the integrity of our passport system and, therefore, the traceability of racehorses.

“The industry, from top to bottom, needs to sit up and take note.”

Owers added that, while WHW supports the publication of British racing’s Horse Welfare Board strategy and Defra’s Action Plan on Animal Welfare, the programme illustrated “the significant gap that exists between good policy framing and effective implementation”.

He added: “The programme reminds us that it is the duty of everyone involved, be it an owner, trainer or racing industry professional to take proper, considered responsibility for the horses with which they are entrusted.

“For horse racing to have a sustainable future it must have zero tolerance of unacceptable behaviour and low standards of welfare. The horse human partnership is a wonderful thing, and a force for good in so many areas, but there is no place in our society for its abuse.”