She was a horse of the people – and her story shows no sign of ending just yet.
Material World was a battling jumps racehorse who overcame adversity to win a string of races and win big money. Now she’s the mare to a new generation of potential stars.
The Sussex-based horse, owned by Southern Bloodstock (GB) – a partnership of Robin and Carol Smith of West Wittering – is currently nurturing her fifth foal, born in May this year, while another of her offspring, a highly-promising three-year-old Storm Patrol, prepares to make her racing debut in a two-mile race early next year.
The story starts in 2002, when Suzy Smith – Robin’s daughter – was starting her racing yard in Lewes and needed clients. She adopted the strategy of buying in horses and training them with a view to selling on shares in those horses to prospective owners.
Material World was found by chance by Suzy on a trip to Temple Farming near Marlborough. She went to view a horse advertised for sale (which she declined) and was then shown around the yard to view other possibilities. Although some horses appeared to be adequate, nothing caught her eye as special.
When told she had seen all the horses, she asked what was kept in a separate barn away from the main yard. There stood Material World (aka Daisy) – but Suzy was told she was not for sale privately as the plan was to enter her for the Derby sale in Ireland.
Suzy’s enthusiasm for the horse convinced doubtful but supportive dad Robin she’d make a great racehorse. Terms were agreed and the finance was arranged.
Daisy needed time to mature before being trained. Robin set up a racing partnership called ‘Southern Bloodstock’ with four joint owners. The long process of breaking in the mare and bringing her up to racing fitness began.
One day Suzy was galloping Daisy up the all-weather gallops and coming towards them was a jogger. To avoid a head-on collision Daisy jumped sideways but slipped on wet grass and rolled over, squashing Suzy in the process. Suzy was initially concussed but came to enough to tell the jogger what she thought of him and he ran off never to be seen again.
At first Daisy just seemed to be bruised but days later a fleck appeared in her left eye. This led to the pupil disappearing. The vets prescribed drops but the pupil kept disappearing. The vets did what tests they could but alas could find no remedy and the reluctant decision was made to remove the eye.
Gloom fell over the partnership – a racehorse bred for jumping was now visually impaired. Subsequent analysis of the eye in America identified a fungal infection.
But the one-eyed Daisy went back to work. After a delayed training programme she eventually ran her first race, the last National Hunt flat race of the 2003 season at Market Rasen. Some 14 runners lined up – the one eyed Daisy started at odds of 25/1. “That was a pleasant surprise!” said Suzy as Material World cruised home in ‘splendid isolation’. Jockey Colin Bolger reported ‘she never got out of second gear’.
She ran 19 races winning prize money in every race bar three totalling over £90,000 and had beaten many well respected horses. She acquired quite a following through her bravery in jump racing with only one eye. She became a ‘horse of the people’ – representative of the smaller owner and relatively small racing yard competing against the racing heavyweights.
After a run at the Cheltenham Festival in 2007 which she should have won but came a close second, the jockey reported she was hanging right and this was later found to be possibly due to a hairline stress fracture of the pelvis. It might, however, have been due more to the fact the winning horse was allowed to come up on her blind side – had she seen it her character was to dig deeper and battle her way home.
Jockey Ruby Walsh said she was hanging right in places during a race at Ascot in 2008 when just losing out in a close finish for the places.
Vets found no fault and physiotherapy was recommended.
She started hanging right again during her final race in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival so the jockey dared not fully release her as the priority was to bring her home safe.
Whether the hanging right was down to a genuine undiscovered soreness, or was psychological, or down to a trait she developed towards the end of her racing career when under racing pressure as a result of only having one eye, we shall probably never know.
Material World is now a high-class broodmare – and the first of the offspring to race in Material World’s colours will be the very exciting race Storm Patrol by Shirocco, which trainer Suzy says is just like her dam.
Material World has since had two more foals by Shirocco – the latest featuring in this video.
See the Observer this week – and another video on this website next week – for more on the Material World story