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Queensland stars shine off the track

Written by Jordan Gerrans

OTT programs are off and running in the Sunshine State. Jordan Gerrans takes a look at two former Queensland racing stars, both making a great success of their new lives off the track. Standardbred gelding Everydays A Sunday (Sunny, to his friends), is still turning heads up on the Brisbane peninsula. Hours before the first Wednesday afternoon race at Redcliffe, a club staff member wandered past Felicity Reinke and asked if the horse she was holding was Sunny, a winner of 10 career harness races.

Felicity is delighted: “See! He’s a bit of a star. He loves to have something to do and to be the centre of attention.” And considering that the now retired pacer was at Redcliffe so Racing Queensland could capture footage of him for a video story, he certainly wasn’t lacking in attention on that occasion!

Now seven years since his last race – a career which included 68 starts in NSW and Queensland between 2011 and 2014 – Sunny is loving life with Felicity at her Wondai home. Racing, a Reinke family occupation, plays a big part in Felicity’s life. She trains and drives in her own right, as well as working a couple of jobs and running her own farm. “I received a phone call from someone I used to work for. They had a nice horse in the paddock that was looking for a new home.” The ‘nice horse’ was of course Sunny: “I happened to remember him from his racing days and my partner said ‘you always wanted a chestnut with white’ – so he came home with me. This fella has been very, very special,” she says.

Felicity, who has taken on quite a few ex-racehorses over the years, wisely gave the pacer a period in the paddock to “just be a horse”. But Sunny had been around people and routine for much of his life and she quickly noticed that he hated living in a paddock. So he was put back into work and soon embarked on his post-racing career. Instead of racing at Redcliffe and Albion Park, Sunny now spends his time taking out events like the Racing Queensland sponsored 2020 Standardbred Association of Queensland Track to Hack Series Finals, while also successfully competing at a number of shows, including the Brisbane Royal.

Not too surprisingly, this led him to claim a swag of firsts in the 2020 Standardbred Association of Queensland Annual Performance Awards, including Led Standardbred of the Year, Ridden Standardbred of the Year, Harness Standardbred of the Year, Show Standardbred of the Year, and Versatile Standardbred of the Year.

Sunny’s a winner in the personality stakes too: “We can do everything with him. My 10-year-old daughter rugs him and rides him occasionally. He’s a real character to have around,” Felicity says. “He’s always there waiting for me every afternoon. These horses deserve to have a second life because they are all beautiful, lovely, forgiving horses and they just want to be your friend.”

Which brings us to the Thoroughbred racing world and Queensland’s Kate Dreverman, who takes considerable pride in offering former gallopers a chance to learn new skills. Kate describes retraining retired racehorses as her passion. She currently has four former gallopers as part of her team, including El Campeador, The Ambassadore and two horses that were previously based in Europe.

While some opt to rename their ex-racehorses before they step into the equestrian arena, Kate is of a different opinion. She believes it’s vital that they keep their racing names, allowing racing industry enthusiasts, past owners, and general spectators of the sport to follow former turf champions and gain a better understanding of the possibilities for ex-racers when their track careers are over.

Kate stresses the importance of providing these beautiful horses with a safe environment so they can learn new skills and enjoy their lives. “I’ve lived on both sides of the world. I was a track work rider for five years and had a lot to do with breeding and yearling preparations and on, right through a racehorse’s career. I really want to make sure that post racing, they’re looked after as well as they are during the breeding, sales, racing and training phases.” She points out that there are many people in the racing industry who care for these horses as if they were their own. “It’s about ensuring that the care continues post racing. These horses make brilliant performance horses particularly in the sport of eventing.”

Kate, who has been involved in racing in Tasmania, New South Wales, and now in Queensland, has worked with all types of horses over their journey. She believes re-training former racehorses to compete in the equestrian and eventing world is much easier when they’ve had a long life at the track, rather than just a few official race starts. “Some horses who’ve had just one or two starts can have a noticeable fight or flight response, as compared to horses who’ve had a lot of starts and are not quite as stimulated. The more experienced horses are calmer, more mature and easier to retrain. But in saying that, each horse is an individual,” she adds.

El Campeador came from the stables of Brisbane’s Tony Gollan, and won eight races in his time at Eagle Farm while he was with the premier trainer. And while the horse is now under Kate’s care and guidance, the Gollan family has not cut ties with the ex-galloper. Tony’s wife Jane, who earlier owned a share in the horse, is still very much involved in his equestrian endeavours.

El Campeador joined Kate’s eventing team in 2020, and she says he is a treasure to have around her facility. “He’s like a big teddy bear. He has such a kind eye, a lovely personality, and is a joy to have in the stable. He’s well-mannered and a gentleman.” She says that El Campeador means something along the lines of ‘the master of the battlefield’: “And he has that presence about him. He’s the kind of horse that, just on his looks, people will stop and ask about.”

The son of Captain Sonador has shown great promise across several disciplines including success at Horse of the Year. “He really cleaned up at that show and he’s had a very successful start to life in eventing too,” Kate says.

If you’re located in Queensland, and reading these inspiring stories has you considering an OTT horse, you may be eligible to receive support from the newly launched Queensland Off-The-Track Subsidised Lessons Program. This is a major Queensland Off-The-Track initiative, and has been developed to support retired Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses as they transition from the racing industry into the community. Approved applicants to the program are eligible for ten individual lessons with a Queensland Off-The-Track Approved Coach.

Featured Image: Kate Dreverman and El Campeador taking a dressage test in their stride (Image by Oz Shotz).

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