I WAS lucky enough to own Special Tiara from September 2012 until his death on February 2nd, 2019. I nicknamed him Mr T as I felt his official name was too effeminate for this strapping 17.2hh gelding although recognised it tied into his pedigree.
Years before, I had shortened the name of my eventer to Mr O so this moniker felt appropriate for Special Tiara. The actor Mr T, with his strong physique, added suitability. Here are a few facts about him that I learned over our time together:
Under my ownership, he never won again in Ireland. But he loved to travel so in later years when he raced domestically, we would send him away the day before to sleep and work at the track before racing. He was often accompanied by Stephen Dunphy (aka “Chippy”) who was with him for all his biggest Grade 1 wins at Aintree, Sandown and Cheltenham. These trips led Chippy to describe him as “A different horse, he loves it” when he could travel. I reckon Mr T adored the special attention.
Mr T had the worst kissing spine imaginable. This is extraordinary when you consider his athleticism and enthusiasm over a fence.
Mr T nearly always worked alone. He liked nothing more than flybucking and hammering up the gallop in splendid isolation, even at age 12.
As many recognised, he needed good ground to excel. Although he won the Desert Orchid Chase and other races on soft ground, he needed the faster ground to quicken away from his fences and the other horses.
This really brought his accurate and brave jumping into play. With better ground, would he have won more graded races?
I was so proud of Mr T – even before he won the Queen Mother in 2017, I established the perpetual Special Tiara Classic at West Berks Golf Club near Lambourn in 2015. A different Special Tiara Classic was run over a mile on the turf at Gulfstream Park in Florida in 2016.
I could never get enough of sharing my beautiful horse. I loved spending every moment I could with Mr T. He was a gentle, loving and kind soul.
At Knockeen, I loved to be alongside him in his box or the field, gazing at the countryside together.
At the races, I would always be with him in the saddling box. I loved seeing his excitement at the prospect of his run. And at the end of each race, regardless of his placing, I would run down to the track to praise him and hear first-hand from the jockey on the performance.
On February 2nd, I arrived from Florida to Leopardstown and met him once more in the saddling box. He was bursting with health, dancing about as Henry tacked him up this last time.
Per my customary ritual, I kissed Mr T on the nose and asked for a safe run. As the tapes went up, he flew into the lead as enthusiastic as ever.
Just past the stand, however, Robbie Power quickly pulled him up. Terrified, I ran out to the track to be with Mr T, this final time. I will never forget his raised hind leg, his big ears flicking about and the confused look in his eye as I kissed him goodbye behind the green screen. Horrific.
Now I must dwell instead on the happy reunions with him – the thrilling wait for him at the chute as the name Special Tiara splashed across the big screen for winning the Champion Chase. And then leading him in – Mr T, Noel, Chippy and me all so ecstatic.
I am so grateful to all who had a hand in developing this magnificent horse: to Henry and his entire team at Knockeen, to Noel for building that amazing partnership, plus Rosemary for her years of expert flatwork, Mikey for his sports massages, Ted the chiropractor, Gavin the farrier, and John at Ballyogue Stud for managing his well-being over his holidays.
I am so touched by the outpouring of emotion and sympathy on social media and through emails, calls and messages. I miss him hugely and will carry a hole in my heart inscribed with his name. But I also have a dream that through his full-sister, I can breed a champion like Special Tiara – my imperious, beautiful, glorious and legendary Mr T.