Some of WA racing’s most prominent jockeys will ride a cast of retired racehorses in a state-first show jumping competition later this month.
The inaugural event, to be held by Off The Track at the State Equestrian Centre on April 22, will feature six racing jockeys facing off against an Equestrian WA interschool team.
Trainer Ben Pearce will team up with jockeys Lucy Warwick, Jake Casey, Kyra Yuill, Ryan Hill and Chloe Pearce on a band of off-the-track thoroughbreds that includes former champion sprinter and $2.12 million stake-earner Scenic Blast and Frenchman, a winner of eight races and more than $200,000 in stake earnings.
Racing and Wagering WA equine welfare officer Sharon Joyce, the mastermind of the Off The Track program, is hosting the event in conjunction with Equestrian WA.
“The aim of Off The Track is to educate owners and trainers on how to successfully re-home their horses when they’re retired from racing,” Joyce said.
“The main aim of this event is to highlight how successful retired racehorses can be post-racing and the options available to them, as well as to promote careers in racing and highlight what’s available to kids when they leave school.
“That’s why Ben’s a good example as he’s a farrier, he’s a trainer, he can ride horses; he breaks them in and rides track work.”
Ben Pearce, who has trained more than 150 winners since gaining his trainer’s licence in 2008, is a qualified farrier and no stranger to the equestrian scene.
“I was in the state young rider’s squad and competing in eventing at two star level as a 17-year-old,” Pearce said.
Asked what his thoughts were when he was told he’d be riding Scenic Blast, also known as Clyde, Pearce was noticeably enthused.
“To ride a horse like Scenic Blast should be a bit of fun and it’s exciting to be able to sit on him,” he said.
“He was obviously a top quality racehorse so it’ll be good to see what he’s doing after racing and be a part of it.
“The racehorses are cared for and get well looked after, after racing as well.
“I think some people think the racehorses just get flogged around to earn money but there’s a lot more that goes into it with all the staff involved who take great care of them.”
Asked what his expectations were of the upcoming show jump challenge, Pearce was quick to quip.
“We’re all competitive people and we say it’s all for a bit of fun but I reckon once we get out there it’ll turn competitive pretty quickly.”
Equestrian WA Development Officer, Sharon Welsh, agreed.
“There’ll definitely be a challenge,” she said.
“There’s been quite a bit of interest with kids that want to have a go.”
Welsh said that the challenge would take place on the final evening of the Equestrian WA state interschool championships and each competitor would ride a retired racehorse.
“What we’re going to run is called ‘top score’ and that’s a team event which will be jockeys and interschool riders matched against each other,” Welsh said.
“That will be run at the beginning of the evening and then at the end of the evening there will be the hit and hurry event and that is where we’ll get our individual winner.
“All jumping will be done indoors and there will be other classes run in between the Off The Track challenge.”
The Equestrian WA state interschool championship, a three-day event that will feature more than 50 schools and 160 horses, starts at 8am on April 20 and will culminate with the Off The Track challenge on the night of April 22.
Plans are already in the works for a second Off The Track show jump event to take place during the weekend of the Patron’s Cup, an annual competition hosted by the WA Show Jumping Association, in October this year.