Day At The Track

Top French/UK trotter Robec has been retired

08:26 PM 21 May 2016 NZST
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Robec, harness racing Robec, harness racing John Howard, harness racing
Robec and Richard Haythornthwaite winning at Tregaron by 20 lengths in August 2014
Graham Rees photo
Robec winning one of his five straight triumphs at York
Janet Cockburn photo
Owner John Howard collecting his Trotter of the Year award in Vincennes in 2014 with friend, George Mather
Trot Britain photo

The UK harness racing fraternity are saddened to learn of the retirement of one of the sport's most-loved competitors, Robec, after a career ending injury.

Robec was imported into the UK from France in July 2014 as part of the inaugural shipment of Trotteur Francais brought into the country through the Le Trot/TrotBritain partnership.

By virtue of the ballot (the method by which the horses were allocated), Robec landed in the hands of trotting stalwart, John Foy. He made the long journey from London, England, to Musselburgh, Scotland, the following week for his first run on British soil.

On the day there was betting support for numerous runners in the race, particularly Radjah Normand, one of the new TF to have recently been imported into Ireland. The 17 hand chestnut gelding went to post the betting favourite; Robec slipped under the radar.

As the race over 1m 3f (2200m) developed, Radjah Normand towered over the opposition and travelled well to find himself in a commanding position with just over a furlong to go. It was at this moment that Robec introduced himself to the British and Irish harness racing supporters.

With his head down and ears back in what became his signature racing style, he powered through the last furlong to a surprise victory. The crowd were in awe, and were left frantically searching their racecards to find out which horse John Foy was driving as he gave the whip salute. That was the moment that John, and the general public, knew what Robec was.

Robec went on to win his subsequent start at York Harness Raceway, before being sold to father and son partnership, John and Samboy Howard of Morecambe, Lancashire.

Partnered by Richard Haythornthwaite for the first time, Robec headed back to the turf, this time to Tregaron, Wales. For anyone yet to meet Robec, he put on a tremendous display from a 20 yard trail to breeze past his competitors and win by 20 lengths.

The remainder of his British season was campaigned at York. Here he won five in a row during a period of time when he appeared unbeatable. He carried an air of invincibility which is something that very few racehorses experience.

Despite not reaching the heights of his unforgettable first season, Robec still raced with his usual tenacity to never finish outside the first three, including a victory in the Free For All Trot at the prestigious Appleby Spring meeting in 2015.

In his short career in the UK, Robec compiled an outstanding record of 13-9-2-2 with no less than 2 British All-Comer Trotting records still in his name: 1m 2f (2000m) and 1m 6f (2800m). He was also voted British Harness Racing Club Trotter of the Year in 2014 and was a contender for the Horse of the Year award.

Furthermore, Robec was voted the first ever UK Trotteur Francais of the Year and John Howard was invited to collect the award at the annual awards in Vincennes, France, alongside all other member countries in partnership with Le Trot.

During his time racing, Robec always gave his all. He was the image of determination when he raced and his willing attitude established him as the people's champion. His regular pilot, Richard Haythornthwaite, described him as "the best trotter I'm ever likely to drive". High praise from a driver whose career is still in its ascendency.

No matter the success of the Le Trot Series in the UK in the future, Robec will always be remembered as the moment it all began. He was, and always will be, the original and the best.

by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink

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