Roma Williams marvels at Apollo Helios, her rising 30-year-old, 55-start veteran who “still runs around like a four-year-old”.
“He’s a legend – we haven’t had any problems at all with him, touch wood,” Roma says.
“You wouldn’t know he’s got any arthritis in him, except of course because he should have at his age.”
Oakbank-based Roma and her family bred Apollo Helios, known affectionately as “Gus”, and raced him – under ex-trainer Roma’s care – until he was nine years old. After being retired to the paddock for a couple of years, he took on a new pursuit.
“He was out the back with the cattle and some of the other retirees,” Roma explained.
“But we brought him back in again, and got him going with a bit of casual show jumping, and hunting and hacking.
“I think we kept him going until he was about 20, just doing bits and pieces. I could just casually jump on him and take him for a ride down the road.”
For the past decade Apollo Helios has been enjoying his second retirement and seems likely to be around for a while yet.
“He’s going great guns,” Roma said.
“He’s someone’s companion in the paddock, so he’s either with one of the racehorses that are agisting, or he’s out with one of the ponies that are looking for some company.
“He’s currently with two of the old ‘hunters’ at the moment.
“Gus is the oldest we’ve had here for a while. A lot of horses reach 25 or 26, but he still seems to be chugging along pretty well.”
Roma says Apollo Helios’ longevity is proof that ex-racehorses have plenty to offer – and plenty of life to live – once their racetrack careers end.
“They can live for long spans if they’re well looked after and in a good environment,” she said.
“Depending on their personalities, they can do a number of things outside of racing. He’s looking after the babies or other horses that look for company.
“There are so many different options for off-the-track racehorses, whether just pottering around with someone, being a companion horse, doing a bit of show jumping, hacking or dressage, or just going for casual rides.”
Roma says Apollo Helios “loves human company” and has “always been a very personable horse”.
Apollo Helios had 55 starts for just two wins, but one of them was at his home track, Oakbank.
Roma’s training career came to an end after successive softball injuries resulted in her requiring knee reconstructions on both knees.
“I had to give up my licence four or five years ago… because I couldn’t ride my trackwork,” she said.
“I used to ride all my own track work, then I ruptured the ACL in both knees 16 months apart.
“You can’t ride for 12 months, so I was just getting back into it from my first one when I did the other one.
“Being at Oakbank you need someone who ride for you reliably, or you ride your own track work.”
Fortunately, Roma is still involved in racing, as a committee member of both the Oakbank Racing Club and SA Jumps Racing.
IMAGE: Ex-racehorse Apollo Helios (foreground) enjoying his second retirement in a paddock at Oakbank.