Blind mare repays caring owner

Victoria Moodie and Royal Glow: a remarkable recovery.
Victoria Moodie and Royal Glow: a remarkable recovery.

DAVID Moodie knows more than most about the vagaries of breeding and racing thoroughbreds. He's tasted the highs with a Golden Slipper win and the heartbreaking lows when a highly promising racehorse is killed by a bolt of lightning.

And when smart filly Royal Glow went blind after an accident six years ago, Moodie was distraught at the apparent end to a promising racing and breeding career.

But an extraordinary recovery resulted in the mare not only surviving but also producing two foals who went on to win races. Her second born, a colt named Royal Haunt, was exported to Hong Kong last week for an undisclosed six-figure sum.

In 2006, Moodie was told that Royal Glow had flipped over backwards in fright, hitting her head on concrete at her Flemington stables with such force that she had been blinded and would need to be put down.

The blindness meant that, obviously, she could not race again and going to stud was unrealistic.

While Moodie's horse numbers were growing and feed bills, training fees and stallion services don't come cheaply at the top end of the industry, he was prepared to take a radical risk with Royal Glow.

''They are animals and you become fond of them,'' Moodie said. ''I know I have a lot of them but I just couldn't put her down. And believe me, the case to have her destroyed was an extremely strong one.''

Moodie placed the mare in a paddock with retired broodmare Polar Rose, mother of Caulfield Cup winner Arctic Scent, to befriend Royal Glow. As Moodie puts it: ''Polar Rose was going to be her eyes.''

Then he had a cow bell placed around Polar Rose's neck so Royal Glow would know that Polar Rose was on the move.

Within days Royal Glow realised that the clang of the bell meant that Polar Rose was either making her way to the water trough or the feed bin. Understandably they were soon inseparable.

''I think when these things happen, freakish things like that, you tend to rack your brains or even think outside of the square at ways you can retrieve the situation,'' Moodie said.

''You can't do much about a bolt of lighting as happened to a horse of mine, nor when [Golden Slipper winner] Crystal Lily - the best filly I have ever raced and bred - shatters a leg when going for an easy gallop.''

While saving Royal Glow was a time-consuming exercise, after a year Moodie noticed some promising signs.

Each day Royal Glow was becoming less dependent on her guide, managing to find her way to the feed bin.

Moodie asked himself ''was it possible that a crack or splinter of sight was getting through or was she just robotically finding her way to the bare essentials of eating and drinking by sheer habit…I think after observing her for a while and things were marginally improving I decided to take the plunge and get the vet to come back and do another sight test.

''After more tests on her eyes, the verdict was that, amazingly, her sight was returning … . she still had no vision in the left eye but the right eye was improving slowly,'' Moodie said.

After long consideration it was decided that Royal Glow could be mated. Royal Glow and Polar Rose were then floated to stud. With her bell-clanging partner by her side the now four-year-old was covered and the following year was heavy in foal.

The product of the mating was a handy colt who won a number of races.

However, four years ago Royal Glow returned to stud, this time with sufficient sight to make the trip unaccompanied.

The offspring was another strong colt by the American sire Hard Spun. He was named Royal Haunt.

After three powerful race wins, Royal Haunt, trained by Peter Moody, caught the attention of leading Hong Kong trainer John Size.

''He was very keen on him and I know he is a genuine group 1 sprinter in the making,'' Moodie said.

''But I have many overheads with my racing business and I think this year I will spend nearly a million dollars on service fees.

''Trust me, I hate selling horses and especially one with so much talent, but you have to be aware of the the economic reality of having some 50 mares to feed and breed from and I have racehorses on top of that,'' he said.

One suspects that Moodie's decision to sell the son of Royal Glow to Hong Kong interests was a lot easier than the heart-wrenching one that faced the owner-breeder seven years ago with his mother.

This story Blind mare repays caring owner first appeared on WA Today.