A farewell to Knockara Beau - one of my favourite ever horses
And so we say farewell to Knockara Beau, a great horse, for greatness is more than success in championship races or the handicapper’s mathematical endorsement.
Knockara Beau, just retired at the age of 14, was a very good horse, a very good hurdler and a very good chaser but it was his enthusiasm, his willingness, his guts, his sheer spirit that made him one of my favourite horses.
Trainer George Charlton, the rest of the Charlton family and regular rider Jan Faltejsek must love him and you knew that Faltejsek did when, after winning the 2014 Cleeve Hurdle at 66-1, he hugged him around the neck, elated and proud.
I’ve watched that race again and his previous run a month earlier when fifth in a Grade 3 handicap chase, also at Cheltenham, a race I remember. In the Cleeve Hurdle, the ground was helpfully heavy, in the chase unhelpfully good but Knockara Beau brought the same qualities he brought to every race, in victory and defeat.
Horses don’t often fall back then battle their way into contention again but Knockara Beau was a consummate trier, repeatedly answering his rider’s calls.
In that Grade 3 chase Knockara Beau led enthusiastically, jumping well until a first mistake pushed him back to third and a major mistake on the second circuit relegated him to eighth of the nine runners and soon into last place. Way back, in a hopeless position, out of the picture, he tried all the way up the hill to be fifth at the line. It wasn’t an obvious success or much noticed but it was an achievement of a kind.
It was similar in the Cleeve Hurdle. Having led, with three hurdles to jump Knockara Beau was third of the six runners. By the second-last he was last and still last at the final flight but in a stirring finish he battled his way to an unlikely success, beating the mighty Big Buck’s and At Fisher’s Cross.
That was Knockara Beau’s most celebrated success but there were 11 in all, 10 for Faltejsek, and another 11 runner-up performances, often at long prices in high-class races. When a horse is as talented and willing as Knockara Beau, there is always the chance of achieving more than the form book decrees.
Altogether, the €9,000 purchase won over £240,000 and provided connections and thousands of racefans with pleasure worth a lot more. It’s good to know that the Charltons have got a suitable retirement planned for Knockara Beau. I expect he’ll get a lot of visitors. I might ask to see him myself.
At the other end of racing’s snakes and ladders is The Society Man (2.10 Market Rasen), once owned by The Ray Of Hope Partnership but, I hesitate to say, no longer owned by them.
This is The Society Man’s 50th attempt at winning a chase, his sole success from 64 races having been in a selling hurdle at Market Rasen in 2012.
It’s probably best not to back him.