One of Eventing’s recent successes has been the partnership with Retraining of Racehorses, the BHA-backed initiative to oversee the transition of Thoroughbred racehorses to other equine careers when their racing is over. Eventing is the leading equestrian discipline to have been able to capitalize on the annual exodus of horses from racing training due to the endurance and speed that is inherent in the breed.
The success of the Thoroughbred in Eventing is not a new phenomenon, with the Australian and New Zealand horses leading the way 40 years ago and subsequently was in part a result of an oversupply of rangy staying Thoroughbreds. As racing fashion dictated a move to shorter distance races and the breeding of sprinters and milers. Lung capacity and resultant stamina have been major factors in the greater selection of Thoroughbreds for Eventing, as cross-country and jumping have taken greater importance over dressage.
Saphir du Rheu is one such example, having made the transition from top-class steeplechaser to intermediate eventer. Formerly trained by Paul Nicholls for Andy Stewart, Saphir du Rheu won 9 of his 30 races, including a Mildmay Chase at Aintree and a Listed race at Carlisle. He was retired after running behind Native River in the Cheltenham Gold Cup won by Native River in 2018 and is now looked after by Charlotte Alexander in the Cotswolds. He’s already achieved clear rounds in 8 Novice events and more is anticipated.
Ten-year-old Grands Crus won nearly £250,000 under National Hunt rules over both hurdles and chase fences under the guidance of David Pipe. He retired from racing last year and is soon to affiliate in both BD and BE with his new owner Julie Reynolds.
Barbury, at the heart of racing and eventing country, is well-positioned to pick up on more and more of the racehorses forging new careers in the eventing discipline. With a successful Point-to-Point course within shouting distance of our own cross country, and surrounded by racing yards, the racing connections are probably stronger than for any other CCI4* event.
But how can we encourage more people to follow the sport?
Racing’s affiliation with betting furnishes it with keen interest from gamblers, from the merely social to the serious punter. And that affiliation has spawned a whole industry of horse racing casino games designed to amuse and involve casual bettors in more regular involvement. Before Fontwell and Hexham grace the screens of an afternoon, betting shops will show simulated racing from Portman Park. But for the real racing junkie, you can find racing games online to feed the enthusiasm.
Playtech has invented a game to celebrate the extraordinary day at Ascot in September 1996 when that effervescent Italian went through the card from start to finish, titled Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven. This online slot game offers animations and graphics which are truly best in class, featuring 5 reels and 20 pay adjustable pay lines. The symbols on the reels all originate from Ascot, including the trophy, winning post, horseshoe, and card numbers ranging from 10 to Ace. The image of Frank Dettori constitutes the wild symbol and the scatter symbol is represented by the Magic Seven logo. And whilst Eventing folk might prefer to play a Grand National game, who will ever forget that extraordinary day and the quality of horsemanship that drove Dettori to win on no-hoper Fukijama Crest in the last?
There are a handful of amazing bonus features on offer too, such as the Magic Seven bonus that gets activated every time you get the special bonus symbol simultaneously at any position on reel numbers 1-5. Then there is Free Games Race bonus feature which gets activated whenever you land 3 or more scatter symbols anywhere on the reels. You can win a maximum of 7700 coins in the base game, upon landing 5 wild symbols anywhere on the reels. In short, it can be addictive!
Although Eventing has some games online, they tend toward the lower age groups and toward horse care rather than the archly competitive edge that comes with top-flight eventing. It may be that Eventing’s scoring hinders a simple understanding of the sport for newcomers, but imagine the power of online gaming focused on Eventing. The effect could be transformational in developing consumer interest beyond participation, notwithstanding all the riders and owners who would love the chance to ride the perfect virtual Badminton! It could open up the sport to a new audience, and to fresh sponsorship from software and gaming companies.
Is this a nirvana, or a realistic prospect for the gaming sector to address? Answers on a postcard, please…