Andy Robertson couldn’t believe his luck when owner Phil Martin entrusted him to re-home his star chaser Definitly Red.
Martin and trainer Brian Ellison decided to call time on the popular chestnut’s distinguished career in the spring – and Andy was the obvious choice.
“I couldn’t believe it,” recalls Andy, 38. “I’d looked after Red ever since he arrived at Brian’s in 2014 and love him to bits, but to call him my own is a dream come true.
“Danny Cook, who won so many big races on him, said he would have gladly taken him home, too. That’s the kind of horse he is. Danny loved him but he’s got a home for life with me.”
As travelling head lad at Ellison’s Malton yard in North Yorkshire, Andy accompanied Definitly Red to all but two of his 30 races, taking him to two Grand Nationals and four Cheltenham Festivals.
“I rode him out every day and took him all over the country,” he adds. “We had some great days but winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in 2018 was the highlight. The Gold Cup dream was alive after that. It was such an exciting time.”
Red finished only sixth in the great race, but won 11 times for Ellison including back-to-back Grade 2 Many Clouds Chases at Aintree and a Rowland Meyrick Chase and a Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. He also ran in two Grand Nationals and amassed around £430,000 in prize money.
However, re-schooling the 12-year-old for a life after racing is giving Andy just as much excitement. Red has settled into his new home at Thornthorpe Equestrian Centre, close to Ellison’s yard and only a stone’s throw from one of his old stable mates Top Notch Tonto – a former Group 1 performer on the Flat who is now winning local dressage competitions.
“It’s a great facility with two big arenas and great hacking,” explains Andy, who officially took ownership of the gelding just three days after he was pulled up in this year’s National. “I ride him every morning before I go to work and he’s settled in really well.
“He’s always carried himself like a show horse so getting him to work in a nice outline isn’t really difficult. He was a bit keen over the coloured poles to start with but he’s loving it and the plan is to take him to local showjumping competitions.
“All being well we’ll get started in a Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) class at the local Cottingham Show at the end of August. I’m also looking forward to taking him hunting. He’ll love that.”
Andy’s wife Laura, the head girl at Ellison’s, also helps to look after Red and his sister is also on hand when he’s away at the races. “Brian’s granddaughter Amelia has her pony Bumble there, too, and he often drops in at the yard to see his old star.
“Everyone loves Red. He’s a celebrity at the yard and the other day some racing fans on a caravan holiday in a nearby field heard he was there and called in to have their photos taken with him. He’s also doing some modelling for the local tack shop.”