A proud family: Nick, Wendy and Robert Pocock with the Melbourne Cup at Stringston Farm, the birthplace of 2017 Melbourne Cup winner, Rekindling.
By Celia Purdey
In 2018, the annual Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour made an historic journey across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The European expedition was made up of seven of the 37 destinations selected to host the 2018 Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour and was the first overseas trip for the Tour.
In the United Kingdom, stops were made in London, Newmarket (where it attended the famed July Festival), Birmingham and at Kingsclere Stables in Newbury.
The final stop in the UK was Stringston Farm, the birthplace of 2017 Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling. The Pocock family generously opened up their gates to showcase the humble beginnings of the Melbourne Cup hero, where his dam Sitara and other close relations still reside.
Located in Bridgwater, Stringston Farm was founded by Robert Pocock’s father Pat, who was famously quoted in 2009 as saying that, “we got into horses to give us something else to look at other than cows.” Pocock’s gamble paid off, as they can now claim to be the proud breeders of a Melbourne Cup winner. The family purchased Rekindling’s mother Sitara at the 2002 Tattersalls December Sale. Sitara was trained by champion trainer Luca Cumani, and the mare has also produced Group 3 winner Golden Sword. Both Rekindling and Golden Sword are results of a mating with deceased Irish champion and star shuttle stallion, Coolmore Stud’s High Chaparral.
Pocock’s son Nick was an employee of Coolmore Stud for six years, with that relationship credited for the birth of Rekindling.
Although Rekindling was a healthy foal when he was born, Sitara had difficulty producing enough milk to satisfy him, so the Pococks fed him twice a day with milk pellets. “He was always a very nice foal, slightly small, but very bold and brave,” said Nick Pocock. “If anybody went into his field, he was the first to come and see you.”
Walking around the mares and foals in the summer months is something the Pococks enjoy, as they can see how they have developed physically and mentally. “We like to see the foals’ confidence grow,” said Nick. “Rekindling definitely showed confidence!”
Likening themselves to a ‘nursery school’ where they help develop the foals until they move up to the next level, the Pococks farewelled Rekindling at the Tattersalls UK sales in 2014. “Rekindling was sold to Timmy Hyde and Paul Shanahan at the foal sales and they have purchased a lot of successful horses from us, so it was nice to see him go to them. It is never difficult to let the foals go to good people.”
The next that the Pococks heard of their former charge, he was being trained by Irish trainer David Wachman, and was owned by Lloyd Williams. After Wachman took up a position at Coolmore and ceased training, Williams transferred Rekindling to the O’Brien family. The rest is history.
The Pococks were thrilled to have one of their own in a Melbourne Cup, and watching when the race live at 4am from England was a family event. “Even my grandmother was up to watch it!” Nick said. “Having seen the build-up and importance of the Melbourne Cup, it was very exciting. We were amazed by the number of people who rang to congratulate us. It took a couple of days to truly comprehend that Rekindling is written into Melbourne Cup history.”
They will also never forget the visit from the Melbourne Cup Tour. “The Melbourne Cup visiting Stringston was very special. It was very nice to have this recognition of our part in the Rekindling story, and it was lovely to meet some of Rekindling’s owners, too. Before Rekindling won, we didn’t realise the magnitude of this success.”
Photos by Karon Photography