Bojack jumps into life after racing

Jeff Penza has had some success with former galloper Pheidippides in Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association events.

Racing isn’t for all horses, and that certainly appears to be the case for former galloper Pheidippides, now affectionally known as Bojack. 

The Olympic Glory gelding, that is out of Group One winner Dowry, kicked off his career with Gary Moore, before he spent time with David Payne and Doug Gorrel.

He started four times, finishing last on three occasions, and was beaten an average of 18.6 lengths at each start during his short career. 

Since retiring, the four-year-old has found his calling under the guidance of champion country jockey, Jeff Penza, with the charming bay gelding taking to the sport of show jumping. 

Back in May, Bojack won the 1.1 metre Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association (TSHA) Group 3 Grand Prix sponsored by Blake Ryan Racing.

Penza is no stranger to lining up in TSHA class presentations with his other horses and it looks like he’s found another good on.

Penza said he first noticed Bojack at the races, although he didn’t take on the leggy gelding straight away. 

“He was going to the barriers at Canberra, and he is very athletic, and he is nice and tall, and he reminded me of another horse I had a while back,” Penza said. 

“I knew he was out of form and needed to do something soon, and he was only three at the time, and I know it can be hard to get young horses retired but he was stepping up to 2000m, and racing wasn’t suiting him. 

“I let Doug (Gorrel) know after he raced that if they decided to pass him on, let me know because I was interested.” 

In fact, Penza rode Pheidippides at the gelding’s last race in November of 2020 at Canberra, and after an unsuccessful stint with James Ponsonby, Rathden Bloodstock’s owner Glen Latham was soon looking for a home for Bojack, with Latham reaching out to Penza. 

“When I got him, he had been out in the paddock and I got a call from Glen, and he asked me if I wanted to try him out,” Penza said. 

“It had been a while, and honestly, I was only 50/50, but Glen was very generous and said that if he didn’t work out as a jumper, I could take him back with no strings attached. 

“It was an offer too good to refuse, so I went down to Goulburn with the horse float and picked him up.”

While easily the youngest horse in Penza’s team, Bojack settled in nicely, and the country hoop said the four-year-old is a natural jumper. 

“He was really good. Being a young horse, he was happy to fit in with our older horses,” Penza said. 

“He fitted straight in and is really the baby of the group. He is leggy, so it took a bit of work to get him to adjust his canter, but as far as jumping, he is a natural, and he can jump high.

“Still, right now we are focusing on getting his shape right over the smaller jumps, but once he gets that experience, I expect him to be a good jumper.”

The TSHA host jumping events for off the track thoroughbreds all over the country and Penza said it was an important initiative, as it gave suitable retired gallopers a new lease on life.  

“It’s definitely very important to have these events,” Penza said.

“There are professionals out there that have been jumping warm bloods for years for their clients, and I am learning show jumping myself, and teaching him and others to jump too.

“For us that are still learning, it’s good to go to a comp where you are only against other thoroughbreds.”

Penza is certainly happy with Bojack, and his former owner Glen Latham is happy to see the gelding enjoying life after racing with Penza.

“I’m delighted for Jeff and the horse,” Latham said. 

“For one, Jeff is getting a return on the time he is putting into the horse, but the horse is being looked after and getting the life that all horses deserve after racing.

“Plus, for us and our business, it is good if we find good homes for these horses, as we always try and do.”

It isn’t always possible to rehome horses, and Latham conceded it was sometimes a very difficult process, but he said good communication between owners, trainers and connections made the process so much easier. 

“We only have to re-home the one or two per year, purely because I generally deal in mares, and one of the major reasons we deal in mares is that if you have a colt or gelding, at some stage you have to find a home and it’s not always easy,” Latham said. 

“At the end of the day, owners need to work with their trainers as well. If Doug hadn’t told me what Jeff said about the horse after he rode him, this would have never happened, and who knows, I might still have been looking for a good home.

“We are all in the industry together, and it is the owner’s responsibility to find these horses a good home, but it helps when everyone does work together.”

For more on Bojack and other Thoroughbred Sport Horse Association stories, readers can click here.