Black Jack Ketchum Bids Farewell to Racing
As the Aintree Grand National kicks off there will be one contender missing from the cards, Black Jack Ketchum. Unlike his outlaw cowboy namesake, Thomas “Black Jack” Ketchum, he does not meet his untimely demise by way of execution but through retirement from a career as a hurdler. The decision to retire this magnificent horse was made this week, as both trainer and owners feel that Black Jack Ketchum has tried to tell them that his heart is not in racing anymore.
Black Jack Ketchum was born on 7 May 1999 and is owned by Gay and Derrick Smith. He started his career in spectacular form, being unbeaten in his first eight starts. Trainer Jonjo O’Neill and jockey, Tony McCoy, have enjoyed the best he has had to offer, and even though both men are saddened by his departure, they are comforted by the knowledge that he will be living out the rest of his days in the tranquil surroundings of the Smith’s farm in Barbados.
After winning at the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, it seemed that the future for Black Jack Ketchum was lined with success. He won his race by a staggering nine lengths and everyone hoped that he would grow stronger in each upcoming racing event. Unfortunately, the 2007 horse racing season was an extremely disappointing time in his career, taking home only one win at the John Smith’s Hurdle held at Wetherby. At the start of 2008, it was discovered that Black Jack Ketchum had suffered a minor back injury, and he only returned to horse racing again in March.
While watching his performances over the last year, the Smiths and O’Neill had to face the reality that their star performer had lost his enthusiasm for racing. The spark that had earned him the descriptions of being ‘like a machine’, had gone. After the hard work and superb wins that he has given Gay and Derrick Smith in the past, they decided to give him a dignified and respectful exit from his horse racing career. Wanting him to be remembered for the extraordinary horse that he is, they have readied his place on their farm where he will spend the rest of his life.
Fans and loyal supporters had hoped he would make a comeback at the Aintree Grand National this year, where he has won before, but the breathtaking hurdler will now be bringing joy to the Smith family instead of the spectators. He is a horse that will be fondly remembered in the horse racing industry, and there will never be another horse that could ever replace the drive, the courage and the determination that he showed during his glory days.