13th January 2019
It only happens to the good ones. So says the old racing cliche which is usually used when a horse gets injured or, almost as commonly, when one gets loose and arrives home unscathed after running through fences and dodging traffic on the main road.
I have always thought that there might be a grain of truth in it as the best horses probably have higher pain thresholds and will maintain their flight path and speed regardless of obstacles or changes in terrain. That’s my theory anyway, but I have never thought there could be any logic to this phrase when applied to horses which have succumbed to disease. Disease, surely, couldn’t differentiate between horses on the grounds of ability. Of course it couldn’t but Accordance’s death gave me cause for thought on the subject.
Accordance joins Mister Baileys, Branston Abby and Attraction’s winning first foal, Elation, as the only horses which, as far as I am aware, have contracted Grass Sickness after leaving our yard. Mister Baileys and Branton Abby had only recently retired to stud in Newmarket, Elation was having a break at her owner’s Floors Stud in Kelso after winning on her second and last outing as a two-year-old, and Accordance was, similarly, having a short spell on her owner’s farm. They were all well above average in terms of racing ability and very valuable breeding prospects as was the mighty Dubai Millenium who died of Grass Sickness at the beginning of his stud career.
How could it be that such a disease could only affect elite performers. I’m sure that can’t be the case. It is far more likely that there are many more horses which were trained at Kingsley Park and contracted Grass Sickness after retirement but I have never been told. As the name implies, this disease affects grazing horses and it is particularly prevalent in Scotland and the horse centres of England (e.g. Newmarket). So, perhaps, it is the better horses that are likely to retire to stud in a centre like Newmarket but I still think it is most likely that there are more cases which we haven’t been made aware of.