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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Big Buck's and Dodging Bullets among the heroes on show at Cheltenham Festival

Hunt Ball and Sarah Henderson enjoying life in the hunting field
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Winners of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Stayers’ Hurdle will line up in the annual Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) parade on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival next Tuesday.

The parade, sponsored by the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Trust and scheduled to start before racing at 12.30pm, showcases the range of activities open to racehorses when they finish their racing careers and has become an increasingly popular element of the festival.

The mighty Big Buck’s, winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle for four consecutive years from 2009 and now enjoying his second career in the hunting field, will again be among the star attractions and he will be joined by 2009 Champion Hurdle hero Punjabi and 2015 Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets, who was retired last year and is currently being retrained for dressage and show jumping events.

Another familiar name in the line-up is Silviniaco Conti, now in the care of Charlotte Alexander, who formerly looked after and rode Denman before his retirement in 2017.

A King George winner in 2013 and 2014, Silviniaco Conti is enjoying hunting and team chasing and such has been his progress in the latter that he has been fast-tracked from novice to open classes.

Festival winners Hunt Ball and Back In Focus will also feature in the parade of 11 horses. Hunt Ball will be partnered by Nicky Henderson’s daughter Sarah, who looks after the now 13-year-old primarily as a hunter.

“His owners Atlantic Equine very kindly asked if I would like to have him in his retirement. I was over the moon and Hunt Ball returned to Seven Barrows in June,” explained Henderson.

“Since our reunion nine months ago we have done some cross-country schooling, grid work and flat work to help retrain him for his new life as a hunter.

"It's not all been plain sailing as hacking out at Seven Barrows on his own often proved a bit much – all he wanted to do was rejoin the string. However, since we moved him to a livery yard in Kingston Lisle he has really blossomed. We've been hunting with both the Old Berks and Vine & Craven and when he is out he loves watching hounds.”

Former Martin Keighley-trained stablemates Annacotty and Any Currency will be among those making their parade debut at the festival.

RoR chief executive Di Arbuthnot said: “It’s wonderful how popular the RoR parades have become and our sincere thanks to Cheltenham for providing the opportunity for the public to see how well these retired racehorses have adapted to a second career.

“Special thanks also to the Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust for their generous support as sponsors of the RoR Parades and Musical Ride for 2018.”

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It's not all been plain sailing, as hacking out at Seven Barrows on his own often proved a bit much, all he wanted to do was rejoin the string
E.W. Terms
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