Retired racehorses have a birthday to remember

A celebration of retired thoroughbreds and the people who care for them, Racing Victoria’s Off the Track horses’ birthday party attracted the great and the good to Geelong Racecourse on Tuesday 1 August including former stars of the track Subzero, Precedence and Sirmione. 

After Subbie and Precedence had been handed their carrot cake by Lucy and Ruby Brownless, the glamorous daughters of former AFL great Billy and this year’s Geelong Cup ambassadors, they were promptly whipped off to have their teeth checked by dentist Mark Burnell, one of numerous equine experts who gave up their time freely to ensure the day was a huge success. 

The event, which attracted more than 50 retired racehorses, was the brainchild of Terry Bailey and Dayle Brown, respectively Racing Victoria’s Chairman of Stewards and Executive General Manager – Integrity Services.

“We had some of the country’s best equine veterinary surgeons, farriers, dentists and nutritionists here, and best of all it was free so it was great to give something back to the unsung heroes who give retired racehorses a second career,” said Bailey.    

“We can’t thank the equine experts enough for giving us their time, they’re amongst the very best in their chosen fields and their advice was invaluable.” 

Those sentiments were echoed by Brown, whose department is at the forefront of RV’s commitment to equine welfare.  

“We have 53 accredited re-trainers across Victoria who do such a fantastic job, and we want to help make their horses’ transformation from the racetrack to second careers much smoother and easier for them,” he said.

“Hopefully the re-trainers all learned something new on the day, and their horses will benefit in both the short and long-term.”                             

The “unsung heroes” included Graham Salisbury and Fiona McIntyre, the respective owners of birthday boys Subzero and Precedence, who between them competed in the Melbourne Cup on five occasions – with Subbie memorably galloping to victory in 1992.

Former Hawthorn champion Don Scott also ventured to Geelong, considered enemy territory during his playing days. Since hanging up his boots, Scott has devoted much of his time to the rehoming and retraining of retired racehorses on his spacious Moorooduc property on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Now an Off the Track spokesman, Scott started riding horses at the age of five and, 64 years later, is still riding them every day. Despite spending over six decades in the saddle, Scott admits that he is still learning about what makes horses tick, and so was grateful for the advice he received from the wide variety of specialists he encountered. 

“The event was a great way of soaking up a lot of information from an amazing range of experts, just watching them go about their work was a real education for me and everyone here so I would like to thank Racing Victoria for organising such a great day.”  

One of those specialists was leading equine veterinarian Dr Glenn Robertson-Smith, who boasts dual Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva amongst his extensive list of former patients.

As well as providing expert guidance, Dr Robertson-Smith was also keen to debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding the horseracing industry.    
“There’s a myth that once a racehorse comes to the end of its racing career, it’s effectively the end of its life – but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“One of the reasons why everyone was so willing and excited to contribute to this great event was to show to the world that these horses can enjoy a fantastic life after racing.”

The event was proudly supported by Country Racing Victoria, the Victorian Racing Academy, the Barwon Equine Hospital, Robertson-Smith Partners, the Peter Horobin Saddlery, Randlab Australia, Kentucky Equine Research, Provet, Ascot Saddlery and Troy Laboratories.