Two bombshells hit the racing community yesterday, with the retirement of champion stayer Shez Sinsational and the bizarre stable change of champion sprinter Mufhasa.
And both, weirdly, are because their connections are so attached to their charges they don't want to risk their welfare.
Trainer Allan Sharrock revealed last night that he had called time on Shez Sinsational, winner of 12 races and $1.4 million, because he wouldn't be able to live with himself if she broke down.
When the Auckland Cup winner developed swelling in a fetlock last week, Sharrock sent her north to vet Douglas Black, who diagnosed bone chips.
But Sharrock said the mare had been battling other issues for the last 18 months, she had real issues with her sesamoids, and there was a big risk that all the wear and tear could "see her blow her up".
"I don't want to see anything happen to her. She's been a great mare but it's time to call it a day."
Mufhasa's owner David Archer knows he will come in for flak from all sides for taking champion sprinter Mufhasa away from his trainer so the horse can stay with his longtime strapper, but he is resigned to it.
Archer stunned everyone on Thursday when he moved the dual Horse of the Year and two stablemates out of the leading Ardmore stable of Stephen McKee to Takanini trainer Bruce Wallace.
Immediately tongues started wagging about how Archer could take such drastic action when, in the last six years McKee has won 20 races with Mufhasa, 10 at Group I level, and earned him $3.42m.
The Remuera owner yesterday confirmed the decision was made so Mufhasa, New Zealand's champion sprinter in three of the last four seasons, could remain in the care of his strapper Amy Doran, who parted ways with the McKee stable earlier this month.
"We know that most will disagree with our decision, and we are extremely sad to lose our connection with one of New Zealand racing's finest in Stephen McKee, but in the twilight of his career, we have chosen to place Mufhasa's wellbeing above all else," Archer said.
Archer said he believed it was vital that Mufhasa stayed in the care of his lifelong caregiver and companion - "particularly at this late stage in his career, after seven uninterrupted years of the pair being together, something Stephen was not prepared to allow to continue," Archer said.
Neither Archer nor McKee would discuss the reason for Doran's leaving, but Archer said he still held McKee in the "highest regard as a person and master trainer".
Wallace acknowledges Archer has made a "big call" to favour Mufhasa's strapper over his trainer and said he had done everything possible to try to get the parties to patch up their differences.
When Archer initially approached him last Tuesday, and asked if he had room to take horses currently with McKee, he didn't even name Mufhasa as one of those on the move.
"But I've known the McKees for a long time and I encouraged him to go back and see if he could resolve their problem. He told me he'd done that quite a few times.
"I appreciate there is a lot of emotion in this, and I know David is a passionate guy - I like that in owners - I only hope we can do as good a job as Stephen has done. A friend of mine told me I should have ducked this ball, but in the end we're public trainers and professionals, and someone has to train the horse.
"It won't be easy to pick the horse up at this stage of his career, he's an eight-year-old, and I know we're on a hiding to nothing but Allan [Peard] and I are up for it."
Wallace said Doran was now working part-time at his stable and even in just a couple of days it was easy to see she had a very close rapport with Mufhasa.
- Sunday Star Times
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