Features | 20th May 2024

Fortunate George enjoyed a successful racing career for his syndicate owners before retiring to a second career and becoming involved in the RoR's Horses For Courses initiative, where his racing owners continue to follow his progress. 

Fortunate George enjoyed a successful racing career under the ownership of the George Inn Racing Syndicate – 15 locals from the George Inn in Vernham Dean –  owners who have remained heavily involved in the horse’s journey post-racing. We speak to syndicate member Kate Struthers about what that involvement has looked like and why it was so important to secure a positive post-racing destination for their horse.

Syndicate members and Fortunate George outside the George Inn

The syndicate was established in 2013 when the George Inn’s landlord, James Haigh, purchased ‘George’ with trainer Emma Lavelle. A group of friends from the pub quickly came together to form a 15-strong ownership group.

On the wider reach of the horse’s ownership, Kate noted “Even though there were only 15 shareholders, there were so many more people in George’s corner, especially as he was so well known in the pub.  If you couldn’t go and see him racing, everyone would watch him in the pub and there were some great parties after he won and plenty of people to drown your sorrows with after he lost.”

Fortunate George’s racing career got off to the best possible start when he came home in front in his first race, a bumper on Boxing Day. Many of the owners were in attendance with friends and family, meaning the fan club ranged from 2 years old to 72 years. This set the standard and he went on to record a tally of 17 finishes in the top 4 and another 5 wins during his racing days. Given that three of these wins happened to be at Wincanton, it made complete sense for his name to enter conversations when the racecourse were seeking an Equine Ambassador under the RoR’s Horses For Courses initiative.

Horses For Courses is an equine ambassador programme in which the industry and in particular racecourses can showcase the aftercare and quality of life given to former racecourses.  Each ambassador has a link to the racecourse and as well as making appearances on course for racegoers to meet horses close up, racecourses are also using their social media channels to tell their audiences all about the various activities racehorses get up to in their lives after racing.

On the importance of securing ‘George’ a suitable second home, Kate comments “He thinks a lot about life so he definitely needed something to stimulate him and doing a bit of showing, showjumping, cross country, it keeps him occupied and he is really loving it.  We really wanted to find someone local to us so we could still go and see him and give him carrots, apples etc and then be close by to go and see him compete.  It’s been so great that so many of the owners still have a real interest in him and we are all on a Fortunate George WhatsApp group so that Juanita (Coulson) who owns him now can give us regular updates on everything he’s up to – either at home, in the stable or field or out hacking or out competing.”

Nicky Haigh, who managed the syndicate, summed up the journey:

“George gave us so much pleasure as a group of owners and so it was very important we made sure he had the best possible life once he retired from the track.  We all enjoyed the racing journey he took us on and it’s been so exciting to see his journey continue in his second career and we found the perfect new owner in Juanita.  Now aged 14, he continues to be everyone’s pride and joy.”