Chris and Tina Barlow believe in second chances and aren’t afraid to think out of the box when it comes to giving their horses another shot at success.
Case in point is Man of Honour (Postponed (USA) - Big Soiree) who won the inaugural New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Ready Teddy Trophy at the recent Matamata Two-Day Event for best performed thoroughbred.
Bred and owned by the Barlows, he was unplaced in two starts as a five-year-old. Instead of moving him on they sent him to international event rider Virginia Thompson and found that what he lacked in aptitude as a racehorse, he more than made up for as an eventer.
“We were probably a bit lean on Man of Honour and didn’t give him much of a chance as a racehorse,” Tina Barlow said. “He was always going to be a stayer so I don’t think we were very fair on him to only give him two starts.”
“He went to Ginny Thompson who then went to England to compete. She looked out for somebody that she thought we would work well with and it was Monica (Oakley) that she selected.”
Oakley herself is an accomplished event rider and is on the New Zealand Eventing High Performance Potential Squad. As well as Man of Honour, she also rides promising five-year-old Chasing Great (Postponed (USA) – Big To Do (USA)) for the Barlows.
“Ginny knew how we like to work, we’re pretty much like we are with the trainers of our racehorses, we like to be involved but we don’t tell them what to do,” Barlow said.
“We know what it takes to breed and put the babies through the yearling sales but when it comes to either trainer in any sphere, be it racing or eventing, then we are hands off so they can tell us what to do.
“Monica is a good one, she is very black and white, very honest and forthright and a fabulous rider.”
The Barlows have a long history with standardbreds and decided to expand their Highfields Bloodstock portfolio into the thoroughbred industry and now have around nine broodmares on their Coatesville property.
“We decided we would dip our toe in the water with thoroughbreds,” Barlow said.
“We bought four or five broodmares from the states, they were really well bred, a couple were English families and a couple from the States.
“One was Big To Do who we sent to Royal Academy. From that we got Big Soiree who is the dam of Man of Honour. It is interesting as Big To Do is the dam of our other eventer Chasing Great who looks like he will be something special.”
Man of Honour will wind up his season at the Taupo Three-Day Event this weekend and Oakley’s admiration for the now 12-year-old gelding is easily apparent.
“He has barely been out of the top four all season and is probably one of the most consistent three star horses in the country at the moment,” Oakely said.
“He always tries really hard and the atmosphere and excitement doesn’t get to him, he keeps his composure.”
Oakley has a plan in the pipeline that will give other off-the-track thoroughbreds a chance to find their niche and provide owners further opportunity to enjoy their horses.
“I am working to get some ownership syndicates together which will offer people a chance to get on board and follow the story”, Oakely said.
“They can become part of what I think are a couple of really nice horses and I am always wanting to hear from people that want to be involved.
“I want to be able to show that instead of a syndicate sacking a horse off the track, they could send it to a good rider and give it a chance that way.”
Barlow hopes their example of an alternative ownership option will encourage others to consider the same.
“We absolutely love the fact that it gives the thoroughbreds another chance and the fact that we can keep involved is fabulous,” she said.
“I think a lot of people probably feel the same way but don’t know where to go to give their horses a second chance. If you do it like we have it isn’t cheap but neither is racing.
“We travel all around the country with these guys. If you really enjoy and appreciate equine athletes then it doesn’t really matter what form it is in.
"We have found we enjoy the eventing just as much as the racing.” -NZTBA