It has been more than 20 years since Ready Teddy and Blyth Tait set the benchmark of what can be achieved with an off the track thoroughbred.
Tait and the chestnut son of Brilliant Invader were at the top of their game in the 1990s winning Olympic Gold at Atlanta in 1996, and after success at the 1998 World Equestrian Games Ready Teddy became the first horse in the world to win eventing gold at both pinnacle events.
This year the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association will honour ‘Ted’ with a trophy and $500 cash prize for the best performed thoroughbred at the Matamata Equestrian Group’s two day event on April 19 and 20.
“Our council has discussed how to recognise a thoroughbred performance outside of racing for some time,” New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association chief executive Justine Sclater said.
“Initiating the ‘Ready Teddy Trophy’ concept seemed the right fit. We are all focused on welfare for our thoroughbreds and this is a way to recognise and support the post-racing careers of thoroughbreds for years to come.”
The pedigree of the winning horse will be engraved on the trophy to be returned each year, with the winner also receiving a dress rug to mark the occasion.
Tait was more than happy to add his support to the concept and was thrilled to have a horse still so close to his heart honoured years after his heyday.
“It is great that people still think of him,” Tait said. “He was the horse that certainly elevated my career and he was a standout of his era.
“If he was still around today he would be very competitive in the modern version of the sport.
“He had speed and agility for the cross country, he was careful for the show jumping and had the movement for the dressage.”
These are traits Tait, who also did a stint as a thoroughbred racehorse trainer, notes are typical of the breed and what lends them so well to the sport.
“I love the attitudes of the thoroughbreds,” he said. “Their brains and willingness are suited to eventing especially, though there are some very good show jumpers.
“They can really gallop. In my day cross-country speed was really important and that did change a bit so that the dressage held more weight which doused their opportunity to shine a bit.”
Ready Teddy was bred by T J Russell and was purchased by trainer Kevin Cullen for $3,000 at the 1989 New Zealand Bloodstock Autumn Sale and although he was registered as Striking Back, he never made it to the races.
Ready Teddy was spotted at a pony club one day event by Tait’s father Bob, who obviously had a good eye for talent.
“My father went up to the girl and asked if she would sell him. She did as she was wanting to fund her OE,” Tait said.
“He rang me to say the horse might not make the grade but he certainly looks the part and he was put on a boat and came over to England.”
The ability to jump is a family trait. Double Summer, the dam of Ready Teddy, only had two living foals. The other was Light Hand who was trained by John Wheeler to win two Great Eastern Steeplechases and the Von Doussa.
Brilliant Invader, an eight-time winner in Australia, was a son of Vain and Australian Oaks winner Persian Bronze. He sired 69 winners including Gr.1 Brisbane Cup (3200m) winner Barbut Delcia, but it was as a performance horse stallion that he really hit his straps. He became known as an exceptional sire and broodmare-sire of performance horses.
With the recent rule changes in equestrian sport, the penalty system has changed in eventing so dressage scores hold less influence than previous years.
“I think we will see the rise of the thoroughbred and they will become very popular again,” Tait said.
“Let’s put it this way, I would be pretty happy if I had a couple of nice young thoroughbreds in my stable right now.” –NZTBA
Watch Blyth Tait and Ready Teddy winning Olympic Gold in Atlanta