A galaxy of stars and former Festival favourites feature in the line-up for this year's Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Parade, held on Champion Day, the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, March 14, at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The parade, which showcases the various activities open to racehorses when they have finished their racing careers, has become an increasingly popular attraction in the build-up to racing on the first day of The Festival.
This year the RoR Parade is sponsored by the Peter O'Sullevan Trust and among the line-up are two Cheltenham Gold Cup victors together with past winners of the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers' Hurdle, the Arkle and the Triumph Hurdle.
Joining National Hunt legends such as Denman and Big Buck's and making their debuts in a RoR Parade are two recently retired chasers, The Giant Bolster and Balthazar King.
The Giant Bolster made the frame in three consecutive runnings of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Retired at the end of 2016, he only started his retraining three months ago but under the tutelage of Lucy Bridgwater, wife of The Giant Bolster's former trainer David, he is already showing considerable promise and Lucy expects him to thrive in a variety of activities, including dressage and showing.
Lucy, who herself has competed at the Horse of the Year Show, has enjoyed the challenge of retraining The Giant Bolster, aka Sammy, and said: "The prospect of being in the RoR Parade at the Festival is both exciting and a little nerve wracking.
"As is often the way when retraining a racehorse, there are good days and bad days. One day I was so thrilled with Sammy, he was really listening and was consistently cantering 20-metre circles on each rein and I thought "wow, we have really cracked it", but the next day he spent the whole time squealing and bucking and not listening.
"I decided to ask his previous trainer (my husband!) for advice. "Take him for a gallop," he said. Well, it was good advice, although I hate to admit it. Having unleashed his inner racing beast, the following day we were back on track.
"Recently, we did our first RoR dressage clinic and he was really good, he tried so hard. On the way home, I have to admit, I felt quite choked-up. Sammy gave so much to all of us during his racing career and he is still being a star now - he really is the horse that keeps on giving. I think he knows how loved he is."
Balthazar King won the Cross Country Chase at The Festival in both 2012 and 2014. In 2015, he incurred a potentially life-threatening injury when he fractured four ribs and punctured a lung following a fall at Aintree. The horse made a wonderful recovery to race again but was retired in 2016. After a summer break, he started his life after racing based with Izzi Beckett, wife of trainer Ralph, who has hunted him regularly this season.
Izzi Beckett said: "Balthazar King has adapted really well to his new life and new routine. He has hunted mainly with the Tedworth Hunt, as well as neighbouring packs and he has taken to it like a natural. He loves watching hounds work and he has impeccable manners. Needless to say his jumping is outstanding!
"Hunting will be his number one job from now on, however, the plan is to try our hand at some RoR show classes this spring and summer."
Di Arbuthnot, Chief Executive of RoR, added: "It's wonderful how popular the RoR Parades have become and our sincere thanks to Cheltenham for providing the stage and amphitheatre so that these fabulous horses can really show off, which they undoubtedly enjoy doing.
"To have the likes of Long Run and Denman in the parade alongside the reigning RoR Supreme Champion in the show-ring, Beware Chalk Pit, encapsulates what we as a charity are trying to do. Special thanks also to the Peter O'Sullevan Trust for their generous support as sponsors of the RoR Parades and Musical Ride for 2017."
The full line-up for the RoR Parade, sponsored by the Peter O'Sullevan Trust, is as follows:
BALTHAZAR KING (Hunting) - ridden by Izzi Beckett
13 year-old by King's Theatre, formerly trained by Philip Hobbs
During a long and distinguished career Balthazar King won 16 races, including the Cross-Country Chase at The Festival in 2012 and 2014. After recovering from a life-threatening injury incurred at Aintree, he is now retired from racing and enjoying hunting regularly with Izzi Beckett, wife of trainer Ralph.
BEWARE CHALK PIT (Showing) - ridden by Rebecca Court
13 year-old by Anshan, formerly trained by Jonathan Geake
Beware Chalk Pit was a two-time winner over fences but is now a multiple winner in the show-ring. Retired from racing in 2015 he is the reigning RoR / Tattersalls Show Series Champion and RoR Elite Supreme Champion. His rider, Rebecca Court, plans to show him again this season.
BIG BUCK'S (Hunting) - ridden by Lucy Tucker
14 year-old by Cadoudal, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls
Winner of the Stayers' Hurdle a record four times, Big Buck's retired from racing in 2014 with a career record of 20 wins from 33 starts. He now enjoys going hunting with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale, ridden by either Lucy Tucker or senior Master, Mike Felton.
FINIAN'S RAINBOW (Hunting) - ridden by Becky Blandford
14 year-old by Tiraaz, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson
Finian's Rainbow won the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase and retired from racing at the end of 2013. He now hunts regularly with the Heythrop and his rider, Becky Blandford, is hoping to compete on him in some RoR showing and showjumping classes this year.
FORPADYDEPLASTERER (Showing and Hunting) - ridden by Joanne Quirke
15 year-old by Moscow Society, formerly trained by Thomas Cooper
After an eight-year career that included victory in the 2009 Arkle, Forpadydeplasterer was retired in 2014. Now with Joanne Quirke, Pady is a regular out hunting and in the summer he turns his hand to showing, including side-saddle. He is twice a winner of the Racehorse to Riding Horse class at the Royal Dublin Show.
LONG RUN (Hacking and Hunting) - ridden by Becky Young
12 year-old by Cadoudal, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson
Winner of the epic 2011 running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he beat Denman and Kauto Star, Long Run had an eight-year racing career, earning over £1.5m in prize money. Retired in 2016, he has since been educating young, homebreds of owner Robert Waley-Cohen's and enjoying some days hunting.
MIDNIGHT CHASE (Hunting and Eventing) - ridden by Sally Hayward
15 year-old by Midnight Legend, formerly trained by Neil Mulholland
A five-time winner at Cheltenham, Midnight Chase retired in 2013 and has since gone on to excel in a range of activities. Under Sally Hayward, he is a Field Master's horse for the Cheshire Forest. In the show-ring, he qualified for the Horse Of The Year Show and he has also completed several British Eventing affiliated events.
PENZANCE (Dressage and Hunter trialling) - ridden by Alex Evans
16 year-old by Pennekamp, formerly trained by Alan King
The 2005 winner of the Triumph Hurdle, Penzance retired from racing in 2008. Since then he has competed in Dressage, Showjumping and Hunter Trials. For the last two years, together with Alex Evans, he has been qualifying for and competing successfully in the Horseware National Hunter Trial Championships.
PUNJABI (Dressage and Hunting) - ridden by Rachael Kempster
14 year-old by Komaite, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson and David Pipe
Winner of the 2009 Champion Hurdle, Punjabi retired at the end of 2013 and moved to Kinsale Stud, Shropshire. Under Rachael Kempster, Punjabi has since competed in unaffiliated Dressage competitions as well as being seen out on the hunting field. The plan is to upgrade to affiliated dressage this season.
RUBI LIGHT (Showing) - ridden by Kirsteen Reid
12 year-old by Network, formerly trained by Robbie Hennessy
A Grade 1 winner in Ireland and placed in the 2011 Ryanair Chase, Rubi Light won nine of his 45 starts. Since his retirement from racing last year, he has been with Joanne Quirke. He is progressing well and Joanne intends to compete on him this season in both dressage and showing.
THE GIANT BOLSTER (Dressage) - ridden by Lucy Bridgwater
12 year-old by Black Sam Bellamy, formerly trained by David Bridgwater
A favourite at his local track Cheltenham, The Giant Bolster finished second, third and fourth in the Gold Cup. Retired at the end of 2016, he only started his retraining three months ago. Ridden by Lucy Bridgwater, he is already showing potential and the plan is to compete in some RoR dressage and showing classes this year.
DENMAN (Team Chasing/Hunting) - led up by Charlotte Alexander
17 year-old by Presenting, formerly trained by Paul Nicholls
The winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Denman retired from racing in 2011 after a career that saw him win 14 of his 24 races. Since moving to Charlotte Alexander's yard he has enjoyed hunting regularly and going team-chasing. He will shortly going into full retirement at his owner Paul Barber's farm.