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Track Talk With Phil Bell - 11th March


11 March 2021

With both the racing and wider sport news dominated by the Gordon Elliott story in the last seven days, it’s critically important we continue to raise awareness what happens to racehorses during and after their career on the track. 

Last Saturday’s Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury is named after the Wiltshire-based charity set up in 1990.  It takes on ex-racehorses who, for one reason or another, need a new home. 

Some horses, used to the routine of a racing stable, do not adapt to retirement easily and need rehabilitation.  Others’ owners find they are unable to look after them properly.  Once they are at Greatwood they are assessed to see how they might usefully enjoy a different way of life.  It soon becomes clear whether they still want activity, and learn new skills such as show jumping or dressage, or are just content to be ridden quietly. 

The Greatwood centre is devoted to training people as well; contact with horses and forming bonds with them has proven benefits for special needs children and other disadvantaged youngsters.  They were the first charity to use former racehorses to do this.  Secondary school children and young adults receive instruction on basic horse care, which for the latter can be a stepping-stone to enhanced employment prospects. 

The charity is now a major enterprise, costing over £500,000 a year to run, yet their website retains some homely touches; the Meet The Team page not only gives biographies of the staff, but also those of some past and present stable dogs.   

A year ago, I wrote about a racehorse called Urban Dancing who had been rehomed by Greatwood to Johnny and Caroline Ovenden’s property in Mounton just outside Chepstow. Urban Dancing won five races and would have given his owners lots of fun. It’s wonderful to see such warriors get the retirement they deserve and this aim is something that forms part of the five year strategy of the Horse Welfare Board. I will keep readers up to date on their work and progress in the coming months and years.

On Sunday Evan Williams sent his new conditional jockey, Niall Moore, all the way up to Sedgefield to partner Oxwich Bay, who justified odds of 100/30 and won fairly comfortably. Niall will be pleased by the Racing Post’s comment, “He benefited from a well-timed ride.” It was Niall’s first winner, on only his fourth start.

Next week it’s the Cheltenham Festival and the horse Welsh jockey Sean Bowen will be excited to ride is Metier. The gelding is strongly fancied for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Trainer Harry Fry will have four runners at the meeting but says Metier offers his best chance of success. The one-time Flat performer is 6-1 second favourite.

Pembrokeshire trainer Rebecca Curtis will be hoping for back to back victories in the Stayers’ Hurdle for Lisnagar Oscar who caused a 50-1 shock in the last race last year when ridden by Adam Wedge.

Good luck to all the Welsh trainers, owners and jockeys will runners at the fixture.

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