It is not the first time and, very sadly, it will not be the last that a horse I am involved with pays the ultimate price while racing but I can assure it never, ever gets easier.
Sat in the back of Cobby’s car as I travel back from Lingfield with Tim at the wheel, I felt like I had some words that I wanted to share with you.
Today, Master Tommytucker fell at the third-last fence and very sadly broke his leg. Harry, who was in a lot of discomfort having been kicked, quickly climbed to his feet and gave brief chase to Tommy to stop him and ensure his suffering would not be prolonged.
Clive Hamlin, a fantastic racecourse vet, took care of the horrible business that had to ensue to make sure Tommy did not experience a lengthy period of discomfort.
By the time I had reached the scene, having run down the track, the inevitable had happened and, taking his bridle off, a lump in my throat formed and tears rolled down my face.
As I turned I was met by Scott Marshall, Tommy’s “dad” for his career at Pauls. Scott looked after Tommy, rode him and cared for him hand foot and hoof everyday of his life at Ditcheat. Scott is an understated man who does not wear his emotions on his sleeve but, as I put my hand on his shoulder, you could easily tell these dreadful events had hit him like a ton of bricks.
Of course it had.
Master Tommytucker, joined Paul from Louise Cabble and Tony Fear who bred him and cared for him until he was six and ready for what was to come. He walked into the yard a handsome bullish bold horse, immature for his age, but shone from the start of his career when winning his first two novice hurdles at Exeter.
I am not going to talk about the rest of his racing career too much as that is not his whole story. Every racing fan knew the score with Tommy, for those supporting him it would be a white knuckle ride. My goodness he knew how to gallop into a fence and there have been times when all of us from the yard would be watching him with bated breath.
Yes he had his jumping frailties and, while he was not the greatest champion to walk through the gates of Ditcheat, when he was at his bruising and most powerful best he was exhilarating to watch.
Tommy was the type of horse that would do anything for you, he was brave, incredibly bold and sure of himself. You could go as far to say he was a cocky f**ker but that was him and that in my opinion is what made him the horse he was.
Yes he would get one wrong, or tip up but nothing was ever going to put him off galloping powerfully down to the next obstacle in his life. It is so easy to remember the victories but I genuinely think I will remember him most fondly for his defeat in the Ascot Chase last year where he finished second to Dashel Drasher.
It was a Punishing attritional race where horses kept waving the white flag as the pace kept pushing. Tommy could never quite get to the winner that day but he tried his heart out the whole way up the straight and never gave in. That was him, he would have run through a brick wall for you if you asked him to.
As I am writing this I am thinking most of Tommy’s owners Louise and Tony who have jumped every jump with him and cherished so deeply their horse of a lifetime. They will miss him so dearly in those long summer days when he is no longer at home with them on his holidays.
I am thinking of Scott who will not be able to put his dear friend to bed this evening when he gets back to the yard or say good morning to him when he arrives at ten past six in the morning.
And I am thinking of Clifford Baker who will not be able to give him his breakfast first thing or wish him goodnight as he turns his light off last thing in the evening.
Of course life goes on and of course when one puts things in perspective a horse losing his life is not the end of the world, I am old enough and ugly enough to realise that. I am sensitive enough however to be deeply upset by what has happened today.
Above all as I travel home with the lump in my throat reappearing I am thinking of Tommy, a handsome, brave bold racehorse who died doing what I am sure he loved. Giving everything on a racecourse for us. In the end he gave slightly too much.
It is a brutally tough game at times and today is one of those tough days.
A racehorse’s life will always touch someone’s life. In this case I am sure Tommy has touched many, he certainly touched mine. You lived well Tommy so please, my friend, sleep well.