A new generation of retired racehorses and former Festival favourites feature in this year's Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Parade, held on Champion Day, the opening day of The Festival at Cheltenham, Tuesday, March 13.
The parade, scheduled to start at 12.30pm, showcases the range of activities open to racehorses when they finish their racing careers and has become an increasingly popular attraction in the build-up to racing on the first day of the meeting.
The RoR Parade is again sponsored by the Peter O'Sullevan Charitable Trust and among the former Cheltenham winners making their parade debut at The Festival are Annacotty, Any Currency, Dodging Bullets and Hunt Ball. All four horses have made encouraging starts to their new careers and are set to compete this year in a variety of classes staged exclusively for former racehorses by RoR.
There are also some familiar horses from past RoR parades, such as the former Champion Hurdle winner Punjabi and two old sparring partners in Big Buck's and Barbers Shop. The pair first met on the racecourse over 10 years ago when Big Buck's made his British debut in a novice chase at Newbury, winning by a neck from Barbers Shop. Subsequent to their illustrious racing careers, both Big Buck's and Barbers Shop have enjoyed fulfilling second careers in the hunting field and show ring respectively.
Another familiar name in the line-up is Silviniaco Conti, now in the care of Charlotte Alexander, who formerly looked after and rode Denman before his full-time retirement in 2017. Like Denman before him, Silviniaco Conti is enjoying hunting and team chasing and such has been his progress in the latter that he has been fast-tracked from novice to open classes.
There is also the wonderful story of the not un-aptly named Back In Focus, who the despite the loss of an eye in a freak accident has subsequently adapted to a successful second career team chasing. Enormous credit must go to Back In Focus's rider Clare Burrows for taking on the former Willie Mullins trained Festival winner and giving the horse the opportunity to thrive in another discipline.
Scottish Grand National winner Wayward Prince, who is already competing in dressage classes, and Wild West, a maiden under rules but a champion among retrained racehorses, complete the line-up. Last August, Wild West was crowned ROA and Goffs UK Supreme Champion at the RoR National Championships and he also was awarded the 2017 RoR Elite Performance Award for Showing.
Hunt Ball will be ridden by Sarah Henderson, daughter of the horse's former trainer, Nicky Henderson, and she is looking forward to taking the horse back to Cheltenham in his new guise as a hunter.
Sarah Henderson said: "His owners Atlantic Equine very kindly asked if I would like to have him in his retirement. I was over the moon and Hunt Ball returned to Seven Barrows in June.
"Since our reunion nine months ago we have done some cross-country schooling, grid work and flat work to help retrain him for his new life as a hunter. However, it's not all been plain sailing, as hacking out at Seven Barrows on his own often proved a bit much, all he wanted to do was re-join the string. However, since we moved him to a livery yard in Kingston Lisle, he has really blossomed.
"We've been hunting with both the Old Berks and Vine & Craven and when he is out he loves watching hounds. Hunt Ball is hugely intelligent with an abundance of character and this year, after the Cheltenham parade, I am aiming to do some RoR classes and perhaps even a one-day event with him, but our shared number one passion remains hunting."
8. Punjabi (Hunting and hunter trials) - ridden by Rachael Kempster
15-year-old by Komaite, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson and David Pipe
Winner of the 2009 Champion Hurdle, Punjabi retired in 2013 and moved to Kinsale Stud, Shropshire. Under Rachael Kempster Punjabi has competed in unaffiliated dressage competitions as well as going hunting. Due to on-going arthritis in his hock from a previous injury, Punjabi has had to switch his attention from dressage to hunter trials. His enthusiasm for galloping and jumping has not waned and his next outing will be in a pairs' hunter trial at the end of March.
9. Silviniaco Conti (Team chasing) - ridden by Charlotte Alexander
12-year-old by Dom Alco, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls
During an illustrious racing career, Silviniaco Conti won seven Grade 1 races, including two King George VI Chases and over £1.1m in prize money. Since his retirement in 2017, Silviniaco Conti has been team chasing and has already progressed from novice to open classes. He has also been hunting and his other love is being a stock horse, rounding up the sheep on the farm! His rider, Charlotte Alexander, hopes to take him eventing this summer and she credits Brian Hutton at the Talland School of Equitation for helping her nurture Conti's potential in his second career.
10. Wayward Prince - (Dressage and hunting) ridden by Megan Harper
14-year-old by Alflora, formerly trained by Ian Williams and Hilary Parrott
Winner of the 2015 Scottish Grand National and a Grade 2 chase, Wayward Prince was also third in the 2012 RSA Chase. Retired after winning the 2015 Scottish National, he is now at livery with Martin Jones, who broke him in, and is ridden by Martin's Head Girl Megan Harper. He has been hunting and competing in various classes, recently qualifying for the RoR dressage championships (preliminary level). He will be aimed at the RoR dressage and eventing leagues this summer.
11. Wild West (Showing) - ridden by Lizzie Harris
10-year-old by Galileo, formerly trained by Jonjo O'Neill
Despite being in training first with Aidan O'Brien and then Jonjo O'Neill, where he was ridden by A P McCoy, Wild West remained a maiden under Rules. However, he has enjoyed great success in his second career. The highlight was being crowned Supreme Champion at the RoR National Championships in 2017, when ridden side-saddle by Lizzie Harris. He is a very versatile horse, having also hunted, team chased and evented. In the show ring, his victories include the RoR Tattersalls Championship at Hickstead in 2015 and 2017 and he was the winner of the 2017 RoR Elite Performance Award for Showing.