Off The Track thoroughbreds have long been regarded as the ideal equestrian athletes for their speed, stamina and versatility. These attributes all combine to make them the breed of choice for many eventers of all levels, as Racing Victoria Acknowledged Re-trainer and leading rider, Simon Tainsh, can attest to.
One former galloper, Punching In A Dream, is proving that theory. The 10-year-old gelding ran virtually last in his two trials as a racehorse before his owners, who included a young showjumper by the name of Samantha Palmer, decided to retire him.
Samantha’s father Lincoln had been working at Three Bridges Thoroughbreds when Punchy was a weanling, and he decided to purchase him off the Liston family.
It was there that Lincoln witnessed the barely one-year-old horse clear a fence with ease, as his daughter Samantha recalls.
“Dad was at work one day and watched Punchy soar over a five-foot fence when he was just a weanling, so he thought wow, if this guy doesn’t make it as a racehorse he’ll certainly be able to jump and offered to buy him that day,” said Samantha.
Punchy was actually bought as a surprise for Samantha’s grandfather, legendary sports journalist Scot Palmer. That explains his racing name, Keep Punchin’, which was her famous grandfather’s saying.
Following his two fruitless trials, Punchy was retired and Samantha began the journey to turn him into a showjumper.
“I was thrilled when he was retired, although dad thinks it would have been better if he won a few hundred thousand on the track first,” she quipped.
Samantha successfully worked Punchy up the grades and competed him up to 105cm in show jumping and Grade 2 dressage. That was when she decided it was time for the gelding to find a new home and become an eventer.
Simon and his wife, Jess, fell in love with the cheeky thoroughbred and decided to buy him off Palmer as their next eventing prospect.
Simon started Punchy and worked him up to CCI1* level before Jess took over the reins, where she got to CCI3* level.
“I took Punchy back over to ride earlier this year and he’s been an absolute star, we did his first CCI4* two weeks ago and he took it all his stride, he knows his job and loves it,” said Simon.
The pair’s next challenge will be the 2019 Melbourne International 3 Day Event at Werribee, where they will tackle the CCI4* as one of over 50 retired racehorses competing across the weekend, comprising over a third of entrants.
“He will be my first CCI5* horses, he’s got it all,” said Simon. “He’s an arrogant, grumpy old bugger but we get along really well and he’s a champion.”