Balder Succes: a wonderful legacy

Picture: Michael Stevens THE sport lost one of its favourites yesterday. The gorgeous Balder Succes succumbed to a shoulder injury sustained in a fall in the Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday. He was a real favourite of this blog and was a horse who somehow captured the imagination of thousands of true racing fans. I’m not sure if it was his handsome head or his striking dark appearance. Maybe it was his pure potential and the feeling that here was a horse who had so much ability. But I think the real reason he captured the hearts of the racing public was his relationship with his lad.

Let’s pause for a second. This game can be brutal. The perplexing paradox of these magnificent animals that are bred to race is that their physiology is such that they are so fragile. Humans can recover from a broken leg or shoulder; racehorses rarely can. When the worst happens, it hits us hard. So how on earth does a lad or lass who nurtures and loves their steed, caring for it every morning, noon and night deal with the loss. I have no idea…

But the legacy of Balder Succes is more than just a dual Grade One winner: a horse who, on his day, could serve it up to the very best around. A horse aged seven who had more to offer. No, for me at least, his real legacy was that he and his devoted lad Steve Ayres did so much to raise awareness about animal welfare and to show just how much racehorses are cared for. How they are loved. It probably wasn’t Steve’s intention, which makes it all the more genuine…

Steve’s relationship with Balder has been played out publicly on social media over the past few years. It captivated me and thousands of others, including many non-racing folk. There was the exhilaration and tears of joy at winning the Ascot Chase and the sheer relief that he was OK after ending up on the floor in the Champion Hurdle. Their relationship and the synergy between them was something to behold. So when the news filtered through that Balder had lost his fight for life on Sunday, thousands of us thought of his lad. The countless messages and tributes that followed on Twitter were not platitudes: they were utterly genuine.

We move on with our lives. I have no idea how Steve will cope with walking past Balder’s empty box but hopefully he can take some solace that he and his beloved Balder did more for racing and animal welfare than any expensive PR campaign could ever do. RIP Balder.

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