Olympics Start, Showjumping at Hickstead The King George at Ascot and Panorama from BBC

Well the Olympics have started and already medals being won. One of the world big middle distance races was run at Ascot, The King George and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes and the Royal International Show at Hickstead in a far reduced form than normal. In other comments, BBC Panorama aired a report on the welfare of race horses after horses have completed their racing career.

Gordon Elliott – whose actions earlier this year sparked this controversial documentary

The BBC Panorama reporters were out in force last week discussing the demise of horses after they have finished their racing careers. This was not a programme that was easy watching as it was centred around the euthanizing of horses at an abattoir in the UK with most of its business coming from Ireland. The Panorama programme was obviously initiated after the well-known jumps trainer Gordon Elliott was pictured making a phone call while sitting on a horse which had just died. The revulsion of such an act was recorded worldwide and clearly this merited the BBC to investigate further through their Irish contributor Darragh MacIntyre. Secret cameras were set up in the abattoir for four days which recorded some seriously gruesome footage, a lot of which the BBC did not actually show thank goodness. The BBC prides itself on total unbiased reporting, but in this case, the rules were clearly not followed. They got the opinions from Dene Stansall of Animal Aid, an organisation who wants to see horseracing banned completely as they see the sport as cruel.

Darragh MacIntrye – BBC intrepid reporter

While it cannot be disputed that there was certainly stomach turning practices at the abattoir in Swindon. The evidence is on camera of shots of some abattoir operator looking as though he is on some safari with a rifle being aimed at something, (the pictures did not show) but presumably a horse which undeniably is no way to euthanize any animal. With other gut wrenching secret camera shots from the abattoir, this is a place which should certainly be closed down with immediate effect – of this, there can be no doubt. The programme served to show that this abattoir appeared not to follow the rules and took scant regard for the animal’s welfare and whose personnel appeared to act like some sort of ‘OK corral in a Z rated movie.’

Issue, however, has to be taken with the rest of the programme. MacIntyre was keen to point out that three of the horses, which had race ending injuries, had been sent across the Irish Sea to the abattoir by Gordon Elliott. This may or may not be true – we have no way of finding out. Elliott denied having anything to do with the practice, but he would, wouldn’t he, and his track record for respect for his charges is not exactly good! MacIntyre was seen one part of the programme patting a horse which he told the viewers was another injured thoroughbred racehorse sent from Ireland just about to be slaughtered as clear evidence that the practice of the Irish was common place. He was in fact, patting a skewbald horse which was no more a racehorse than I am! There were several other clips showing the intrepid reporter patting other alleged victims – none of which appeared to be thoroughbreds.

String of happy racehorses who are so well looked after by the great majority

We all have to, and do realise that there are rotten apples in every barrel with regards to mal practices in horse welfare, and for that matter in all animal welfare, which the vast majority of people find total abhorrent. It is also correct for the BBC or any other media organisation to call it out. But to attempt to tarnish a whole industry which have thousands of dedicated people working tirelessly in caring for horses, in a biased and ‘sensationalist gutter press’ way is frankly an insult of the highest order to all those dedicated individuals, whoever they may be, and to the intelligence of everyone else. Yes call out a wrong-doing – the BBC should check their footage and their facts, and by that I mean ALL of them before slating a whole industry for mal practice.

The Royal International Horse Show

Hickstead Arena

For the first time since 2019, The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead were able to stage this show, and with spectators! The schedule had already be dumbed down some months ago with all the uncertainty of Covid earlier in the year. The Great Britain leg of the Nations Cup and the King George V Gold Cup, (The Hickstead Grand Prix) , both 5 star FEI classes had the cancellation button pressed on them some months ago.

However, the showing classes did take place with all the usual razzmatazz with the showing championships taking place in the International Arena. Normally, as a 5 star showjumping CSI, Longines have been the title sponsor of The Royal International Show, however this year’s pared down version, the sponsorship was taken by Prenetics, a global leader in genetics and genetic testing and particularly relevant at present with the company providing covid testing kits around the world.

The showing classes accounted for 172 different classes to accommodate all shapes and size of horse and pony. Many of the classes are qualifiers for the major showing show in the UK in October – The Horse of the Year Show. Like all major shows, there are several champions crowned during the five day show, mostly on the last day, also to include the ‘best in show’ horse or pony.

Allister Hood – showman retires with a guard of honour from his peers

In a rain soaked final day, perhaps the most poignant part of the whole show was the final retirement of Allister Hood, who has been successfully showing horses for the last 50 years. He has won all the major showing titles in the UK over his 66 years of life, and at his age and after a heart attack in 2018, he chose this year’s The Royal International Horse Show to bow out – the place where many of his famous victories were staged. This year once again he took the Winston Churchill Cup for the best horse in show. He rode Our Cashel Blue and has won the coveted trophy no less than nine times now over the years; more than anyone else.  His son Oliver, who has been showing for a few years, will carry on his father’s legacy no doubt from their base in Norfolk.

The supreme pony trophy – The Dick Saunders Trophy was taken by 16 year old Mia Donaldson riding Wilderness Early Bird a 12 year old mare. This was the second class the pair won today as the combination also took the 14.8 HH (128cm) championship before being presented for the supreme championship.

Another major title at the RIHS was the Surrey Envelopes Cob Championship, which this year was taken by Sarah Walker riding Red Butler, a six year old gelding.

The Queen Elizabeth Cup first run in 1949 was chosen as the main and final class of the week as there was no Grand Prix and the show was only a CSI 2 star this year. The class was sponsored by Science Supplements for The British Horse Society. There were 47 combinations to come forward. The main bogie fence was the second water, placed just as the horses had to turn away from the entry exit point and uphill as well, which meant that riders had to be very accurate in their pacing to meet the fence just right. Another thing not on the rider’s side in the final class was that there had been at least a couple of inches of rain which meant the ground was very churned up, in fact the most churned up I think I have ever seen the surface, which is usually excellent.

Mark Williams takes the Queen Elizabeth Cup

There were only seven to go through for the jump off. Annabelle Shields started the jump off with the appropriately named Wet Wet Wet. She tried to win from the front but she had one pole down in 45.0 seconds. The next in was Kerry Brennan riding Wellington M and went clear in 45.25 seconds. Will Edwards went at a blistering pace, by now the rain was pouring again, and although he carved 3 seconds of the time had the last fence down. The penultimate rider Mark Edwards riding Montreuxs Tale went clear in 42.37 seconds. The last to go was Douglas Duffin who was going for a careful clear, but that was not to be. So Mark Edwards took the top spot, the second major class of the week as he also took the RIHS Southdown Stakes on the penultimate day of the show, with the same horse. So at the end of a very soggy Royal International at Hickstead the final winner was Mark Edwards with Kerry Brenna in second and Will Edwards in third.

At least it stopped raining for the final prize giving!!!

Racing at Ascot

At Ascot, the Qipco King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes was run, a Group 1 contest over 1 ½ miles and is considered to be one of the very top middle distance races in the world. It is also one of the first major races for all age groups to compete against one another in the racing calendar. This is a race which never attracts a huge number of runners, but they are all considered to be the best of their time. This year seemed to be no exception with all six declared runners holding decent enough credentials to be taking part and with no Enable this year who has won the race three times in the last four years; another champion was inevitably going to be crowned.

Love did not deliver on this occasion

The Aidan O’Brien trained Love was obviously going to be the fancied runner as she has already proved herself at the track recently in the Prince of Wales Stakes albeit this race is 2 furlongs further and it was her only her second run this year. She did win the Epsom Oaks over 1 ½ miles last term though, so distance did not look to be any problem. Her main rival was possibly the Charlie Appleby trained Adayar, winner of this year’s Epsom Derby. Love was preferred as she certainly had more experience. This was only Adayar sixth run of his life, and although a colt, Love has another year of maturity on her back. Lone Eagle had to be in the running as he was the c,ose second of the more recently run Irish Derby. He is trained in UK by Martin Meade and is another by the great but recently died Galileo. The fourth in the line-up of six was Mishriff from the Gosden stables. His last time out was in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown (1 mile 2 furlongs) where he was third, but the time before when he won was the Dubai Sheema Classic over 1 ½ miles, during the Dubai World Cup meeting. Of the remaining two, David Menuisier provided the second filly in the race – Wonderful Tonight, and not one to be sniffed at either. She won the Harwicke Stakes at The Royal Meeting only a month or so ago and she won her Group 1 at the track back in October taking the Champion Fillies and Mares Stakes, both over 1 ½ miles. The final runner was from Aidan O’Brien, Broome, and was considered the outsider, but had every reason nevertheless to be in the line-up. He is a five year old entire and was second in the Hardwicke behind Wonderful Tonight but in his latest start in France, he won the Group 1 Grand Prix de St Cloud.

Charlie Appleby does it again

There was expected to be a deluge of rain at Ascot in the 24 hours before the race, which never materialized, so David Mensuisier decided that the good to firm going was too fast for Wonderful Tonight and so she was withdrawn. Although there were only five left in the race, it was a real quality renewal. Both Love and Adayar looked to have come on immensely since their last run. Adayar is an enormous, but a quality looking horse, and was getting 11 pounds in weight from Love – about 5 kilos. They all took the preliminaries and the parade well. As the gates opened, Broome was obviously expected to take the lead, but for some reason, he missed the break and was ridden quickly up sides by Wayne Lorden and in the process lit up Adayar who had taken the lead with Mishriff. William Buick, on Adayar had a difficult job to stop his mount bolting, but succeed he did and after the first 5 furlongs, he was running at a very level and even pace. Love was held at the back, obviously for a late run. As they turned into the straight, Adayar was asked by Buick to go on and he lengthened his stride to take a two or three length lead from the other four in the race. Mishriff did well to keep in touch with David Egan on board although was proving no match for the recent Derby winner. There was no electric speed from Adayer, as would be expected for such a big horse, but he just kept lengthening his stride and took the race winning by about a length and a half. Mishriff held onto second and Love ridden by Ryan Moore, who was so well touted before the off was a poor third. She just didn’t appear to perform. Frankie Dettori riding Lone Eagle was always there or there about until the final furlong when he did  weaken as the business end of the race unfolded. Broom was well beaten into last of the quintet.

Mill Reef – Derby/King George double winner 50 years ago in 1971

Fifty years ago in 1971, Mill Reef won both the Derby and King George in the same year. In 1981, Shergar was the next to complete the double in the same year. This was not achieved again until 1991 when Generous won both races, as well as the Irish Derby on the way to this double. In 2001, Galileo was the next and last horse to complete this unique double before the race this year when Adayar won so decisively.

Perhaps we were wrong in our comments in early June that the three year olds of 2021 were nothing to write home about??!

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