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Salute, End of an Era

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    Long term TRF members will be aware of my ownership of Salute, but rest assured this will be the last thread to mention him, as he’s been retired from racing. His retirement had been planned for later this month after the second of two ideal races over his favourite course and distance, 1M 6F at Woverhampton. However, he ran so poorly in the first of those contests last Friday evening, miles below anything he’d done in previous visits to Wolverhampton, that his trainer and I immediately concluded that he was telling us he’d had enough. As such, he won’t be asked to turn out again just to complete an intended ceremonial last race.

    I bought him at Doncaster Sales in May 2005 from the Philip Hobbs stable and my expectations were no higher than perhaps winning a high value claimer on the flat before continuing his career over hurdles that winter. As he seemed fit and raring to go when he arrived in his new stable, we took him to Salisbury to effectively ‘ see what we’d got to work with’. He surprised us by finshing a neck second in a decent 12F handicap and we raised out sights a little, I found a 0-100 race at Windsor that I thought might attract only a small field despite prize money of £20,000, as it came only a week after Royal Ascot and a week before the much more valuable Old Newton Cup at Haydock.

    In a field of eight, Salute was up against Godolphin, Her Majesty The Queen, Sir Michael Stoute, Roger Charlton, but produced the performance of his life to win by five lengths. On the much replayed video of the race, you can hear Ian Bartlett just managing to suppress the surprise in his voice as he calls Salute drawing away approaching the final furlong. It was a day I’l never forget, not only for the excitement of winning such a good race, but also the pleasure of having found the horse in a sales catalogue and going through with the purchase.

    An 8lb rise in his rating for that win proved more than Salute could handle and I didn’t help by some disastrous placing, in particular an attempt at the amateur Derby at Epsom on August BH Monday. It was a hot humid afternoon, the ground was fast and Salute hated the whole experience. He trailed home last and it was eight months before he recovered his confidence. That he did was almost entirely down to arrival of Polytrack at Kempton – older TRF members may recall a thread in which I agonised about putting Salute over fences if his flat form didn’t improve. But a third place in a 2M handicap at Kempton a week after it opened gave his career a whole new dimension and once the penny dropped – that he was at his best on dead flat tracks and didn’t like turf ground any faster than good – we were able to place him better.

    In the three and a half years since that day at Kempton, he’s won another eight races, six of them handicaps over 14F and 2M and two claimers, including four wins at Wolverhampton and two at Kempton. Whilst all those are also remembered with much pleasure, it’s a race that he lost that sticks in my mind as his best performance. That was in the Queen’s Prize at Kempton, a 2M handicap run in early April, 2007. Salute had just completed a hat trick of wins with a success at Wolverhampton off a mark of 76 and we decided to aim high whilst he was in top form. In a small field and a race run at a strong pace, he looked in trouble 6F out, but got back into contention on the home turn as the pace told on the front runners, hit the front about a furlong and a half out, only to be worn down in the closing strides by Odiham, the winner of a 2M Listed race on the track a few months earlier.

    It was a thrilling duel that matched the ideal for a horse race, two genuine horses fighting out the finish whilst drawing clear of their rivals. The sporting spirit between connections of both horses after the race added to the enjoyment and my only regret was a subsequent bump to a handicap rating of 85, which also applied on turf, making the summer of 2007 a hard struggle in which his consistency kept him too high to win races.

    I’m never likely to be lucky enough to own another horse that will give me so much fun or reward – he ran 63 times in my colours in the 52 months he was active and remained sound thoughout, and enthusiastic apart from those early months when I came close to ruining him. For the last three years, he has been ridden every morning by his trainer, Pat Murphy, and he stills bucks and kicks every time to try and unseat him. Pat views this as fun and says that he’s the type of horse that makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning. On the racecourse, he’d often get overheated in the saddling boxes and regularly lashed out at the walls – we came to recognise this as a good sign and his unaccustomed quiet demeanour on Friday evening was the first sign that he wasn’t enjoying the experience as he usually did.

    He’ll be going to a good home in his retirement – Pat would love to keep him around the yard, but he’s such a dominant character (he expects to be the first fed, the first saddled, the first on the walker, the first to the gallops etc) that we don’t feel that’s practical. Nothing is yet finalised, but there are three options being explored, all with people that we know will care for him properly. Unfortunately, my small suburban garden (all given over the growing vegetables) and the fact that I’m allergic to horses (lifelong asthma) rule out any chance of me keeping him at home.

    My thanks to all those on TRF that have posted on previous threads about Salute and for the support that I’ve received on here during those four years.


    • Total Posts 1299

    Nice post AP – I’ve always kept an eye out for old Salute and he has been a credit to his owner and to the game in general.

    Hope he enjoys his retirement.

    Sean Rua
    • Total Posts 511

    Yes, a nice post, Alan.
    I’m glad the old fella has come through safely to a decent retirement. Those "long-distance" races always make me a bit nervous.

    I was at Windsor that day; it’s the only time I ever enjoyed a meeting there.
    Your face in the Winner’s Enclosure said it all!

    • Total Posts 8992

    I ‘met’ Salute at Musselburgh one evening and he was a lovely looking horse, athletic, well proportioned with an attractive head. He didn’t win on that occasion but ran well a solid race in defeat. It was a run that had future winner all over it and he did come good shortly afterwards, at a decent price if I recall.

    I hope he has a long and happy retirement, he must have been an absolute delight to own.

    • Total Posts 608

    Nice too see him retire in one peice, when he is ready too do so. Good luck rehoming him, i hope he enjoys life as a hack or doing dressage.

    Glad you have had a good time with him.

    • Total Posts 2924

    May he have a long and happy retirement.

    Thanks for keeping us informed on everything, Alan.


    • Total Posts 4491

    Well done Salute and well done Alan. Though have to say my favourite piece of your placement of him was that ridiculously valuable 3-runner farce at Lingfield where he finished third to Noddies Way.

    • Total Posts 1665

    What a wonderful old campaigner, I hope he has a long and happy retirement.

    • Total Posts 2685

    Salute has been a star, it must be said. At the same time, we’ve been genuinely lucky to have Alan’s openness, generosity and good humour in keeping us abreast of his career, and the logic behind it, here on TRF. For myself, I’ve been honoured by the opportunity to pose as an owner when he ran, entirely lucklessly, in the Goodwood Stakes a few seasons back. I was also fortunate enough to be chided on the folly of my betting that day. My enthusiasm about the chances of a horse called Ask in a twelve furlong handicap seems easy to justify now. Needless to say, Alan backed the winner while Ask was unsighted!

    • Total Posts 4825

    At Lingfield on Fallon comeback day, long after the media feeding frenzy had moved on and it seemed all the spectators had gone home there was 3 of us left to clap the presentation of the 5.50, a Nursery. The lady who bred the second horse Lucky Mellor was there by herself and absolutely bursting to tell someone how thrilled she was at the performance of her horse. The exchanges can make you very cynical at times but seeing the sheer joy on that lady’s face that evening tells you there’s a whole other perhaps largely untold story to horseracing as well.

    Thanks for sharing your Salute story with TRF Alan, it’s been interesting reading. May your horse have a well deserved, long and happy retirement.

    • Total Posts 2316

    Nice post, Alan. Hopefully Salute has a long and happy retirement.

    • Total Posts 4691

    Hope he enjoys retirement. On many an occasion I’ve walked into a bookies during an evening meeting, seen him running and stuck on a few quid. Nice to know you’ve had such a great time placing him and hopefully you’ll have just as much fun with the next one.

    • Total Posts 2391

    I too wish him a long and happy retirement.

    As a punter my views on Salute are quite simple: you always knew what you were going to get – his best effort.

    Both him and yourself AP are a credit to the sport.

    • Total Posts 141

    Just like to echo the sentiments on here and wish him a long and happy retirement. (but keep us informed what hes up to!)

    Chris B
    • Total Posts 145

    Great story AP!

    Happy retirement to Salute!

    • Total Posts 2778

    Well done AP- glad the old boy is retiring in one piece. I always enjoyed reading your thought processes in how you placed him and learned a lot from your posts- now all you have to do is find the next Salute for the Golden Anoraks…

    • Total Posts 2183

    Its been a pleasure and very interesting to follow his fortunes over the past four years. Many thanks AP

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