Harness Racing Victoria’s commitment to the post-racing welfare of its standardbred stars continued yesterday when multiple metropolitan winner Benucci became the first horse officially gifted to not-for-profit organisation Riding For The Disabled (RDA) at their headquarters in Viewbank.
A talented pacer which finished second in both the Northern Region Championship and Tontine Pacers final early in his career, Benucci ultimately graduated to free-for-all level prior to his retirement 14 months ago.
The eight-year-old son of Armbro Operative also gained notoriety when carrying Jason Dunstall and Jodi Quinlan to a memorable victory over Danny Frawley and Chris Alford in an episode of Fox Footy’s ‘After The Bounce’ last May.
Despite their history, Frawley was one of many in attendance yesterday as Benucci was formally handed over to the team at RDA, where he will provide pleasure and recreation for people with disabilities of all kinds.
Nicole Tassone, who founded ‘Raising The Standards’, a brilliant organisation dedicated to offering a second chance at life for retired harness horses was responsible for re-educating Benucci and she too was on hand as her former charge made the transition to RDA yesterday afternoon.
“I received Benucci direct from Jodi Quinlan and had him for about 12 months, during which time we re-educated him and he was a very willing subject, a sponge really when it came to learning what it was all about,” Tassone said.
“We broke a few hearts when we decided to send him to RDA, there were a lot of people interested in getting hold of him for their riding clubs; but we just felt with his excellent nature he’d be an exceptional choice for that role.
“The long term goal is for him to be a competitive dressage horse for RDA.”
Raising The Standards is one of many organisations also including the Standardbred Pleasure and Performance Horse Association of Victoria, Northern Standardbred Riding Group, Central Standardbred Riding Group and South Eastern Standardbred Riding Group which are dedicated to providing a life after racing for our racetrack heroes.
Harness Racing Australia’s Operations Manager Gary Kairn has been a key instigator in promoting the standardbred as an ideal horse for a range of post-racing activities and said he was thrilled with the response of the broader public following yesterday’s handover.
“We think it’s vitally important for both the industry and the public to recognise how versatile the standardbred is and how many opportunities there are for retired pacers and trotters if we work hard to make them available.
“Using Riding For The Disabled as an example, the temperament of the standardbred is ideally suited for them, hence our involvement with RDA Victoria at Viewbank.
“We’re also currently in discussion with Victoria Police, Western Australia Police and Equestrian Australia promoting the suitability of standardbred for first time riders.
“We’re in this for the long haul because those of us who’ve worked with the breed understand it’s desirability for so many different applications.”