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Popular Smad Place loving life in retirement

Hugely popular chaser Smad Place has found himself another loving home after retiring from the track in 2018.

Trained by Alan King after beginning his career in France, Smad Place won his British debut by 27 lengths and went on to contest many top-class hurdle races, finishing third in successive Stayers’ Hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival and taking second place in the Long Walk at Ascot in 2012.

The grey was beloved for his bold jumping displays and despite being a high-quality hurdler, it was when graduating to chasing that he truly came into his own.

Second by just a neck in the 2014 RSA Chase (now Brown Advisory), the gelding was a runaway winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy, then known as the Hennessy Gold Cup, the following year and was subsequently victorious in the Cotswold Chase when beating Many Clouds by 12 lengths.

His last success came in October 2017 when he contested the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree, a race named after another popular grey and one he won by three-quarters of a length before bowing out the following January.

Smad Place winning the Monet’s Garden Old Roan at Aintree
Smad Place winning the Monet’s Garden Old Roan at Aintree (Martin Rickett/PA)

Upon retirement Smad Place found himself a home with Sarah Haydon, who has been retraining the now 15-year-old for a second career away from the racecourse.

“I have had the pleasure of being paired with Smad for the last three years,” she said.

“I came about him when he retired and it went on social media, a great friend of mine who worked at Cheltenham racecourse at the time posted his retirement.

“I’d followed him for most of his latter career and always loved watching him so I commented on the post and his owners asked if I would be interested in having him – I jumped at the chance!”

Much of Haydon’s training has focused on working to change Smad Place’s physique and build the frame required of a riding horse as opposed to the lean one of a racehorse.

Smad Place winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, now known as the Ladbrokes Trophy
Smad Place winning the Hennessy Gold Cup, now known as the Ladbrokes Trophy (PA)

“Progress has been slow as I had a baby not long after I got him, but I don’t think that’s been a bad thing,” she explained.

“He needed a lot of time to get strong and pack on weight so we could convert that to muscle – think marathon runner changing to weight lifter.

“He has a fabulous attitude and is very forgiving, but you can’t let your guard down as he has a super-quick spin!

“Training wise, I’d say we are finally getting there, sadly he is not my full-time job and so it’s a case of fitting in everything I have going on.

“This year will be aiming for the lower-level competition goals I have set; preliminary dressage, unaffiliated showjumping and cross country.”

Life outside of a racing yard can be markedly different to what a racehorse is accustomed to, but Smad Place has acclimatised well to his new role and whilst he still retains some of his racehorse traits, he is much-loved by his new owners and very much considered one of the family.

“He is super cool most of the time, he is a thoroughbred at the end of the day so can get hot quickly, especially if he is unsure what’s going on around him! Flight sense definitely kicks in, but he loves fuss and attention,” Haydon said.

“He’s quite cheeky, he will persist and nip if he knows there’s treats in your pockets.

“It’s super special knowing I have a racing legend, but his owners said something to me which always brings me back to earth and that is that he is just a horse at the end of the day. That lets me focus on getting on with it without being star-struck.

“He’s a real member of the family and we all love him, even my four-year-old daughter loves leading and sitting on him after me.”

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