The Twittersphere is abuzz with the blossoming “romance” between two Australian racehorses in Hong Kong. 8 year old gelding Buffering and 6 year old New Zealand bred mare Rising Romance have apparently been inseparable in the quarantine stabling at Sha Tin Racecourse, despite never crossing paths in Australia. They were working together ahead of their respective races.
Buffering is a winner of over $6.4 million in prize money, and won the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March. He has multiple Gr.1s to his name and has raced in Hong Kong before. No doubt he is a solid rock for Rising Romance, who (despite winning over $2 million) hasn't won a race since February of 2015, although she has placed in many stakes races since then. Apparently, with the Buff's help, she was looking a picture and posting fantastic workouts. Unfortunately it didn't help much, she raced in the HK$20,000,000 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on 24 April and faded badly down the stretch. Buffering will contest the HK$10,000,000 Chairman's Sprint Prize with fellow Australian runner Chautauqua on Sunday May 1st.
This unlikely friendship of two very different types of racehorse isn't the only example of companionship at the track. Horses are notorious herd creatures and often thrive off the presence of other animals. Just having a constant companion, or a familiar horse, around is enough to help calm even the most anxious of racers. In fact, legend has it that the phrase “get one's goat” originated because opposition trainers or staff would steal the goat companions of racehorses they wanted to lose!
So what other relationships are there between track stars and their buddies?
Jardines Lookout and Henry
Jardines Lookout was supposedly a pretty ordinary handicapper before he met Henry, a fluffy little Shetland given to his trainer Alan Jarvis by Jarvis' daughter. Credited with calming the nervous Jardines Lookout, Henry became his constant companion. So much so that when Jardines Lookout flew from England to Australia to contest the 2002 Melbourne Cup, Jarvis paid double the airfare to bring Henry along, too – a staggering $50,000! Jardines Lookout finished seventh behind Irish runner Media Puzzle, but came back the next year as well (yes, with Henry!) and came third behind Makybe Diva. Special allowances were made for Henry to have his own saddling stall next to Jardines Lookout before the race.
When Henry died in 2009 Jardines Lookout handled it fairly well. Jarvis tributes this to the confidence Henry installed in the now retired racehorse and the fact Henry was moved to an adjoining box when he became too frail in his later years to share a box with his big friend. Henry is now buried at Twyford Mill where Jardines Lookout also resides – enjoying retirement as the boss of a paddock full of spellers and dry mares.
Eldaafer and Google/Yahoo
Eldaafer and Google/Yahoo
When Eldaafer won the 2010 Breeder's Cup Marathon he probably looked like the quintessential majestic racehorse – to the uneducated eye. But to those with an interest in horse racing there was the small matter of two, well, small matters.
You see – Eldaafer has two goat friends named Google and Yahoo, and the three of them are inseparable. The pair of goats are credited with keeping Eldaafer calm during his career on the track.
When Eldaafer injured himself as a 9 year old he was retired to Old Friends in Kentucky. Of course – Google and Yahoo came, too! The three of them share a paddock and are now a favourite attraction for farm visitors.
American Pharoah and Smokey
Yep, even the Triple Crown hero needs a buddy! Smokey is a 6 year old gelding who trainer Bob Baffert purchased at auction to help calm nervous Thoroughbreds in his barn.
The buckskin not only travels with Pharoah and Baffert's other racehorses, he also acts as a pony during workouts. Fully western trained – Smokey has even been known to cart Baffert himself around, as Baffert loves the little gelding.
“Smokey's my favourite horse in the barn,” Baffert said. “It's sort of cool to see him out there before the races start... we rub his forehead for luck.”
Smokey isn't just a pretty face, however. Registered as This Whiz Shines, he competed in the 2012 NHRA Futurity. Raised on tough Nebraskan terrian, Smokey was used to working alongside farm equipment and wild animals, not fractious Thoroughbreds. But he seems to have taken his new career in stride.
Strong Impact and Charlie
Strong Impact and Charlie
A pig seems like the very last thing you'd expect to find in the meticulously clean, swept aisles of a Thoroughbred racing barn. But nestled in the Belmont stall of a horse named Strong Impact there slumbers a fat mound of pink flesh named Charlie.
According to the daywatchman of Bruce Brown's training operation the pig wandered into multiple stalls initially, suffering bites and attempted kicks from their occupants before he found friendship with Strong Impact. The two found comfort in the presence of each other, so much so that Charlie frets when Strong Impact leaves for the track, and Strong Impact attempts to herd Charlie back into the stall when Charlie tries to leave.
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