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Delight as Grand National runner-up shows his talent in second career

Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri is thriving in his new post-racing life after retiring from a successful career on the track last year. Paul and Clare Rooney’s talented gelding retired sound and well in March 2019 following a career spanning six seasons.

The popular 12-year-old, by Flemensfirth, is enjoying his retraining with Pandora Lovett, daughter of his former trainer Kim Bailey, and finished second at his first British Showjumping (BS) outing earlier this month.

“Sam” was race-fit when he was retired, as the plan had originally been for him to target the 2019 cross-country chase at the Cheltenham Festival, so he enjoyed a break in the field over the summer to relax ahead of his retraining.

Pandora told H&H Sam is on “good form” and she has been working with Jay Johnson on his retraining and helping the horse to find and build strength in his canter. She added he can be highly strung and so they are working on helping him to relax, but once he is in the ring he “knows he is on the job”.

“He has taken to showjumping really well and is really enjoying it,” she said, adding he is “very scopey”.

“We’ve done quite a bit of unaffiliated and I’ve only just registered him with BS, so that was his first affiliated show at Rectory Farm and he jumped double clear in the British novice to finish second. I was just aiming for a clear so I was really pleased with him.

“A big thank you to Clare and Paul Rooney for letting me have him.”

She said she has plans to continue competing him over the winter and is hoping to target the Retraining of Racehorse/BS series on offer, Covid permitting.

“Every day is a different day with Sam,” said Pandora, adding that they have also found living outside over the summer suits him well and helps to keep him relaxed.

“It’s really nice to see racehorses go on to do another job and he is really enjoying it. He likes a challenge and so it is about trying to keep him busy. Flatwork isn’t really his thing, but he is really bold jumping — fillers and things don’t bother him — and for a racehorse he is very careful, so we are working on maintaining a rhythm and our technique.”

Sam started his career with Donald McCain, moving to Kim in 2015 and finally Harry Fry in November 2018.

He won eight of his 27 starts under Rules, including the 2016 Grimthorpe Chase, taking home a total of £409,589 in prize money. The Aintree specialist started as the 8-1 joint favourite in the 2016 Grand National, finishing runner-up six lengths behind Rule The World. In all, he ran in three Grand Nationals and was also twice placed in other races over the iconic fences.

Ref Horse & Hound; 27 September 2020

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