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The remarkable career of grey galloper I'm Jacko

3 minute read

At the ripe old age of 10, grey gelding I’m Jacko has lived an extraordinary life.

And, the tale behind the now Ipswich-based galloper might just be as astonishing.

The rising 11-year-old won his third race from his last four starts at Toowoomba's Clifford Park on Saturday night.

The victory on Saturday was arguably the strongest of his incredible career so far.

Remarkably, the big grey did not have his first start at the races until the middle of 2019.

After suffering a tendon injury at Coffs Harbour many years ago, I'm Jacko was sent to the paddock and that was where he would remain for about five years.

I'm Jacko's current trainer - Glen Petersen – notes that as his former owners had so many horses in work, they forgot all about the son of Za-Im.

Eventually, he did become a race horse, debuting as an eight-year-old, running around regional NSW until April of last year, before he transferred to Petersen's stables at Ipswich.

The call was made before he moved north to Queensland that I'm Jacko was set to retire from racing, but Petersen had other ideas.

Just over a year on, he is going as good as ever.

The evergreen galloper is arguably racing in career best touch, putting more than two lengths on a Benchmark 58 Handicap field on Saturday night in the Garden City over 1000 metres.

While I'm Jacko has had a chequered history, his fans have stuck with him and he has repaid them.

The gelding was previously owned and trained by Mick O'Neill at Coffs Harbour, with Mick's brother Barry, who recently passed away, keeping an eye on every step of the journey.

"He passed away only last week through cancer; however, it was I'm Jacko finding that new lease of life as a 10-year-old that kept "Bazz" going for 12 months longer," he said.

"They used to sit by the television waiting for him to race.

"He is a much-loved horse."

As a galloper who has lived one of the more unique careers of any race horse in the Sunshine State, I'm Jacko has to have everything goes his way when it comes to his race day experience.

As his current trainer explains, he is like an old man – as a rising 11-year-old he basically is – and needs to be treated that way.

Petersen will need to arrive at the track three or four hours before he is slated to face the judges to ensure he has enough time to settle into his conditions and have a good look around.

"He normally has three sleeps with about 25 yawns before you put a saddle on his back," he said with a laugh.

"You cannot fuss over him – you can give him a pat – but you can't be arriving on track 90 minutes prior to your race as he is a little old man and he has his quirks.

"He likes a day at the races before he actually races."

It was the case on Saturday evening at Clifford Park, arriving well before his 7.40pm jump time.

On the Darling Downs, he has developed a close association with apprentice hoop Olivia Webb.

Webb started her career with Eagle Farm trainer Barry Lockwood before transferring to Toowoomba and has now picked up two victories on the veteran galloper.

"I am two rides for two wins on the big boy," Webb said.

"It was nice to come back with a winner my first week back after two weeks off with an illness."

While it is rare to see a horse debut as an eight-year-old, Petersen thinks it is an avenue other owners and stables could consider with their team.

The big grey was able to mature and develop in the paddock without racing in his early years as his body was developing and while it certainly is unique approach for a race horse, the trainer thinks it has benefits.

"I'm Jacko is in the prime of his life," he said.

"If owners had more money, then I think something like this would happen more often.

"Every horse should be given the chance to mature as some of the better horses around are still winning races as they advance in age.

"If they have not had the stress put on them as a young horse, they can race all the way up to 10 years of age and older."

When a horse is a rising 11-year-old, there is always talk of retirement and when he will eventually run his last race.

He will need to retire once he hits 12 and be checked over by the on-course veterinarian at every race start when he does click over to 11, which Petersen has no concerns around.

"After every one of his starts I think about his retirement but until he shows me he actually wants to retire, then we will keep going," Petersen said.

"I am not the type of person to push a horse to race for money.

"I know where my horses are at and I will let Jacko tell me when he has had enough, as opposed to me taking him off the track.

"He is as sound as a bell."

What keeps I'm Jacko fresh and racing happily is that he rarely has a saddle on his back – maybe only once a fortnight in track work.

He prepares for his races by swimming, on the walker and having fun in the sand roll at Ipswich.

The Petersen stable is a relatively new one in the Sunshine State, winning 18 races since they won their first back in 2016.

Five of those have come from I'm Jacko.

The number should be six but the debut win for the barn at Beaudesert in April of last year came before the horse was officially transferred out of O'Neill's name.

Petersen has come into the gallopers on a full-time basis later in life after spending a decade in the Navy – where he saw service overseas – and is loving his experience with his big grey sprinter and the rest of his barn. 

He has six in work at his Ipswich stable, where he is aided by his wife Belinda, who is a midwife at the Ipswich hospital. 

"He is an incredible horse," Glen said.

"He is a powerful little sprinter and is a gentleman around the stables.

"You connect with a horse and he just tries every time.

"What we put into the horses is what we get out of it. I have got a job that I love doing."

The grey is unbeaten at Toowoomba in his two starts and that is where he is likely to head for his next assignment, a Benchmark 60 over 1000 metres in just over a fortnight.

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