BEN AND KATIE LOVE EVERY ONE OF THEM
Ben Blay and Kate Roots are two very talented, dedicated horse people. Still only in their mid-twenties they have already made a mark showjumping, in three-day-eventing and on the racetrack.
And it is the thoroughbred which helped launch their careers.
Ben, 27 has been involved with horses all his life. His father, Jim, is a farrier and trainer and mother, Kathy, a vet.
As a kid he went to pony club in Gundagai, evented and jumped, winning state and national titles. He started helping his father with the racehorses, and as the equestrian sports became more important to him, Ben went on to further his knowledge working with Vicki Roycroft. He also spent 18 months studying overseas at Les Ecuries du Grand Veneur, a very highly respected equestrian college in Barizon, France.
“Since the beginning of 2015 Kate and I have been running a business in Whittingham in the Hunter Valley coaching and riding; and several weeks ago I got my trainer’s licence.”
He works the racehorses a few kilometres from home at Tod Howlett’s yard. Katie is with him each morning riding trackwork.
Redhot Ziggy (Zariz/Flareon’s Pride) is one he has on training.
“He’s named after a barbecue,” explained Ben, “he’s pretty cool. And I have Zero to Ten (Danzero/Lithgow Flash). He won the 2015 Snake Gully Cup in Gundagai. He’s 9, had 50 starts and is owned by me and my parents. The plan is I train him for a year and then retire him from racing.”
Kate and Ben are excited about this gelding’s future off the track.
“Ben’s jumped him at home a few times between gallops,” added Kate, “he’s a top horse and so fast. It’ll be great to keep him in the family and showjump him when he’s finished at the track.
“We’re always on the lookout for thoroughbreds to compete or rehome. I love them because they’re so much more sensitive, and being a small girl I find them easier to ride than other breeds. They’ve so much heart, and they can look after you when you need it. They want to take you to the fence and get to the other side.”
Originally from Townsville, 24-year-old Kate, who excels in both eventing and showjumping, moved to NSW after finishing Year 12. After working for Heath Ryan she moved on to Vicki Roycroft.
“She coached me when I had Venture Beyond a.k.a Sailor. Vicki loves thoroughbreds and she helped me so much. His racing name was Astro View. He’s by Frisco View out of Miss Astro (Spectacular Spy).”
He failed to place in any of his five starts, but as a showjumper he was a star.
“He took me from Juniors to Grand Prix,” said Kate, “and some of his major successes were placing second overall in the National Young Rider Series, winning the David Overton Memorial Futurity, being a member of the Young Rider Squad and part of the winning NSW young rider team at the Australian Championships, and being Queensland State Futurity champion.
“Sailor’s now rising 17 and has retired from high level competition. He’s back with his owner, Lucy Bennett, and one of the juniors she teaches is now jumping him in smaller classes.
“I find when you begin working OTT TBs for showjumping you need to spend time relaxing them. They’ve been handled and ridden, you just need to quieten down their brains a little. Walk, trot, canter on a loose rein, teach them to stop, and to go forward (although they usually have that part under control).
“We keep everything uncomplicated when we begin jumping, encouraging them to go straight and enjoy it.”
Ben feels many are quick to make the transition from track to performance horse events.
“Much of the initial work’s already been done. They’ve experienced all the little things like getting washed, going on the truck and being tied up. It’s not a tedious process as it can be with a horse which has never done anything. They’re pre-trained and have been handled a million times by scores of people.”
They both have a lot of affection for those thoroughbreds which have had such an impact on their competitive lives.
“I won the Junior NSW State Jumping title with Squirtle, racing name Little Sureshot, who had 14 starts for $700,” recalled Ben. “She’s by Opera Prince out of a Lapsi mare and is currently a broodmare at my parents’ property.
“And then there was Racine (one win out of 10 starts) who was Australian Junior Speed Champion and winner of the Australian Youth Showjumping Junior GP.
“Ryles was Reserve Champion Australian Junior speed champion and NSW Country Young rider Champion. He was by Joindre out of a Zoffany mare and during his racing days earned $3,900 from 12 starts with one win.”
“And I think Xylophone is worth a mention,” added Kate. “He won the Australian Pony Club One-Day-Event Championship in 2007 with Ben. He’s by Grand Lodge out of a Vaslav mare who had 15 starts, one win and earned $4,026. What makes him extra special is that he’s made an eventing comeback this year at the age of 22 with Ben’s mum. They recently won the 45cm class at Harden ODE!”
In their opinion which TB sires are making good showjumpers?
“Bloodlines we keep an eye out for are Viscount, Spectacular Spy, Quest for Fame, Commands and Danzero,” said Ben. “We’re also really liking Pluck at the moment and think there’ll be some interesting jumpers produced by him when they’ve finished racing.”
by SUZY JARRATT – June 2019
Contact : Ben Blay Equestrian – 312 Mitchell Line of Road, Whittingham NSW 0409 402 513