Racehorses retired but certainly not forgotten

RETIRED they may be, but definitely not redundant.

Thirty-eight retired racehorses made history in Bendigo on Saturday when they competed for the inaugural Off The Track Show Series championship as part of the VAS Saddle Horse Championships at the Prince of Wales Showground.

The Racing Victoria-sponsored Off The Track final is only open to retired racehorses who have qualified by winning a class at one of many show events around the state.

Locksley rider Samantha McMaster, 17,  won Saturday's inaugural final with DP Destiny - daughter of stallion Desert King, the sire of three-time Emirates Melbourne Cup-winning mare Makybe Diva.

Winners receive $1000 cash, a personalised horse rug and a merchandise pack.

Although her racing career may have lacked the lustre of the famous mare, the win was vindication that thoroughbreds do have a life away from the racetrack.

Among the qualifiers were some famous names, including former Hong Kong-trained galloper-turned show superstar Xlerate, who collected more than $650,000 in prizemoney during his racing career.

Elphinstone show rider Tammy Notman was a contender with one-time country Cups king Bourbonstreetblues.

As a racehorse Bourbonstreetblues won 13 races and picked up nearly $300,000 in prizemoney for connections, in the process earning a reputation as country cups ‘King’ of Victoria.

Crowned the Country Racing Victoria Horse of the Year in 2009/10, Bourbonstreetblues collected feature cups at Stawell, Kyneton, Terang, Horsham, Murtoa, St Arnaud and Mortlake in that year.

While many horses in the Off The Track final have performed on racing’s biggest stages, others failed to forge a successful career on the track but made a name for themselves in retirement.

Racing Victoria’s Dr Brian Stewart said the quality of horses and riders suggested the initiative had been well received.

"Racing Victoria is extremely proud to support the series which works to further promote the retired racehorse as the ideal equestrian athlete," he said.

VAS chief executive Rod Bowles said the series had provided a terrific spectacle at shows throughout the year and he was looking forward to seeing the high-profile event grow in years to come.

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