It was a sunny day and I was grazing peacefully when a young bay gelding walked up to me. I recognised him as Jenkins. He looks like he’s going to be a good horse. He has won three of his five starts. “Hello there.” I said.
“H…hello,” he stammered. I find that all the young ones seem in awe of me. Horses’ who were born when I was at my best’s dams tell them about me and how I made the ‘impossible dream’ come true for Nicky Henderson. When Jenkins was born, I was at my prime. “My mum told me that you were unbeaten over ten starts. Is that true?” he was bouncing a little bit. That made me chuckle. “Yes, yes it is.” I answered, bending my head to take a nibble of grass.
“Wow! I want to be just like you!”
“That’s a very nice thing to say. You need to work hard and run to the best of your ability in every run.” I didn’t doubt for a second that if he tried his hardest he could be just like me.
“Could you tell me how you became a champion? Please, please, please.” he begged.
“Of course but I’ve got to start at the start.” Jenkins bobbed his head eagerly and stared up at me.
“Okay…. well… I was bred by a man called Christophe Masle. My earliest memory is of me and my dam, Fatima III, in a meadow. When I was three, I was taken to Nicky Henderson’s yard with nineteen other horses. As you know he is a lovely man and he has always been kind to me. I was put into Sawar Mohammed’s care and Nico de Boinville rode me out in a morning. I like to think I learned quickly but I don’t know. On 20th February 2010, I ran my first race. It was a National Hunt Flat Race over two miles. There were thirteen other runners and I won. It was a great experience with all the cameras and people. Barry Geraghty rode me that day. He’s an amazing jockey isn’t he? He’s ridden you, right?”
“Yes I won then. He’s nice!” babbled Jenkins.
“The next time I ran I won as well. That was a flat race as well. On my hurdling debut, I was beaten by a snobby bay of Nigel Twiston-Davies’. I much preferred jumping running around in a circle was so boring!” Jenkins nodded in agreement. “I ran two more races and then I ran in the Supreme novices’ hurdle. I came third because I stumbled at the last and the other two overtook me. I enjoyed the race even if I didn’t win. I knew I needed to work on my jumping because I would’ve won otherwise. Then my season was finished. I came back on the 19th December. It was my chasing debut. The obstacles were big but not a problem because Nico had ridden me over them at home. I won by 24 lengths and Nicky was thrilled. It was brilliant! The best thing about winning was making him happy.”
I must’ve stopped and reminisced then because Jenkins coughed uncomfortably. “Oh right sorry. Where was I? Oh yes, I won my next two starts and then it was the Cheltenham Festival. The best jumps meeting in the world. I ran in the Arkle and won! It was fantastic jumping over the fences and flying up to the finish. After that, I won the Maghull Novices’ chase at Aintree at the grand National Meeting.”
“Wow in your first season chasing?” my young friend asked in awe.
“Yes it was one of the best. So was the next. I kicked of the season winning the Tingle Creek then the Clarence House in January. Once again at Cheltenham and Aintree, I was victorious but this time in the Queen Mother Champion Chase by 19 lengths and the Melling Chase. They took me to Ireland and I won the Champion Chase at Punchestown. It was a great experience. I’d had a busy season so I relaxed in the field for the summer.”
“Definitely!” exclaimed Jenkins.
“The next season didn’t really go well or properly go at all for me. I began to struggle in my next race and my chest was hurting. Barry sensed that something went wrong and pulled me up. Lots of tests detected that I had an irregular heart beat. I was out for just over a year and it was quite boring not running. Nicky and the team looked after me so well. On my return I was second in the Clarence House Chase which I’d won before. I ran at Cheltenham next time out and I found it too much and was pulled up again. The next month, I was well enough to run at Sandown and newly professional jockey Nico de Boinville rode me. We came second behind Special Tiara but we were satisfied.”
“It’s brilliant that you got better but were you scared you wouldn’t be back to your best ever?” Jenkins asked.
“Truthfully, yes, I was terrified. I rested over the summer and came back fighting in the Shloer Chase. I won by 14 lengths and I felt ecstatic after the line. I knew the season would be awesome. It definitely was. I was unbeaten over my next four races and I rounded of my career, after winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase for the second time, by winning the Celebration Chase at Sandown. I was retired at the start of the 16/17 season. So now I’m going to live here for the rest of my days.”
“Wow Sprinter, you’re a true champion!”