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.
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.”