A PERFECT PARTNERSHIP

By Celia Purdey


Out at Woodlands Historic Park in Melbourne’s north, the residents are impressive: from Apache Cat to Brew to Rogan Josh, Zipping and more, it’s a roll call of true heroes of Australian racing.

In April of this year, the farm sadly lost a true legend of the turf. Might And Power was known as ‘the Lord Mayor’ at Living Legends, an affectionate term for the 26 year old who remains the only horse to ever lead all the way to win both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. Retired in 1999 as a rare winner of the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate treble, he was one of the longest-standing and most popular residents at Living Legends.

As well as providing a home for these champions post racing, where they obtain the best care and live out a long and happy life, the legends are often seen on course at Flemington. A long-standing relationship with the VRC that began with Living Legends loaning horses for the annual Melbourne Cup Parade has turned into a relationship that is invaluable for both parties. Living Legends’ stars are often seen on course at Flemington on race days, providing awe and excitement to the crowds, once again. 

In December, the VRC announced a new VRC Equine Wellbeing Fund, donating $1 million to kick-start it. Part of this is pledged to Living Legends over the next three years. Further elevating this support, a new on-course hub will be built, becoming a destination designed to showcase former racehorses and provide a platform for an interactive educational offering for patrons about thoroughbreds and life after racing. It will also share the genuine love for the horse by the industry.

Dr Andrew Clarke, Living Legends CEO and Veterinary Director is thrilled with the financial aid offered by the VRC. “It allows us three years of certainty, and a stronger position when we are talking to other sponsors.”

The on-course hub is also welcomed and eagerly anticipated by Dr Clarke and all the others who take care of the legends.

A retired racehorse being kissed on the nose by a man.

VRC Quote MarksPeople love to come out to the farm and get up close, especially senior visitors. Many remember riding horses to school, and they particularly love getting close to horses again. They comment on how much they love getting that smell of horses on their hands, bringing back long-forgotten memories. - Dr Clarke

The hub at Flemington will allow for this interaction, giving racegoers the ability to pat a champion. “Having a dedicated hub is going to be wonderful,” said Dr Clarke. “Although everyone is always respectful when the horses are on-course, it will be great not to have to worry about getting in the way of trainers, and just having that close access for the public.”

The hub will house a couple of the Living Legends on every race day including the Melbourne Cup Carnival, which was previously not possible due to how busy it gets. As well as a place to pat the horses, it will provide information about the horses, life after racing and how they are cared for. “We love to educate people on how well horses can be looked after even when they have a life after, then another life after, racing! Often many have come to us not straight from the racetrack, but post another career after racing, such as working in the Mounted Police like Super Impose and Chief de Beers.” 

With so many champions on the roll, how will Dr Clarke choose who to send each time? “We rotate through the horses, but we will try to match them to a particular race day that may be significant to the horse, say if they won a major race that same day in the past,” said Dr Clarke. And there is never a problem convincing them to step on the float. “The horses just love a change in routine. Better Loosen Up is always looking for a turn to go out, and Might And Power never hesitated for a second when asked to leave his paddock.”

Used to travelling to different public events, some for many years now, the horses travel in a three-horse float so that they have extra space. Accompanied by a minder or two, usually including Dr Clarke as their vet, the retired legends happily mingle with the crowds, and of course, are pretty happy to help educate the younger fans in the art of feeding carrots to horses.

The on-course hub will also have the capacity to showcase detailed information on other pathways for horses after racing. This could include a former racehorse who has embarked on a new career via the Off The Track program, or a Racing Victoria-acknowledged retrainer to educate all interested patrons on horses’ careers post-racing. This new facility is sure to become a popular destination for all horse-lovers when they visit Flemington.

(Images courtesy of Living Legends)

A retired racehorse receives pats and rubs from the public.