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Vega One’s larger-than-life personality shining through in retirement

26 October 2023

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Vega One RETIRED 2023
Tony Gollan Next Racing

By Andrew Smith 

Mount Beppo is a long way from the pristine turf of the Eagle Farm racecourse – about 125km in fact.

It’s where we find former Queensland Horse of the Year Vega One enjoying his next chapter in life.

Trained by Tony Gollan, the gelding was a superstar on the track with six wins and seven placings in a glittering 32-start career, netting over $1.8 million in earnings.

It was the 2020-21 season where he posted a dramatic win in the Group 1 Kingsford Smith Cup, triumphantly steered by premier jockey Jamie Kah.

That same year, he also placed second in the Group 2 Victory Stakes, as well as in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap after starting as favourite.

Running his last race in The Archer in April of 2023, Vega One has now transitioned to retirement as part of the Queensland Off-The-Track Program.

He now spends his days on the property of QOTT Acknowledged Retrainer Kate Rogers.

“Vega is a bigger-than-life personality of a horse so slightly different to retrain but he’s got a real grit and determination that’s shone through obviously post racing and he’s going to make someone a very good competition horse into the future,” Rogers said.

“I don’t think you’d call him a horse - he’s more like a larger-than-life puppy dog that just wants to be with you, on top of you, play with you and be in your space so he’s certainly got a character and a half.”

Rogers is currently guiding the Group 1-winner through a 12-week program designed to provide him with a new set of skills.

“The first two weeks is about teaching the horse to be able to be lunged, doing some groundwork, desensitisation and sometimes we go back to long reining and from there we gradually build up their program,” Rogers explains.

Kate Rogers aboard Vega One.

“Depending on if the horse has finished racing and had a long spell or a short spell and what muscles they’ve sort of built up with their racing, we have to rebuild them so we take it slowly -  it’s a bit like starting a new program at the gym.

“He is particularly fond of jumping, he finished his racing quite sound so he’s got the bones there to start off with a career that might involve those athletic abilities and he certainly seems to be enjoying it.

“He likes to have a job to do, he can be very playful both on the ground and under saddle and he just likes to be busy but he’s settled down into his work now and he really loves it.”

The Gollan name is synonymous with Vega One, with trainer Tony and wife Jane both playing a significant role in the champion galloper’s life both on and off the track.

The seven-year-old came through the Transitioning Thoroughbreds Foundation which was founded in 2019 by Jane.

“He is a bit of a pin-up boy which is always quite exciting to have those semi-celebrities in the program, but he did win a Magic Millions and a Group 1,” Jane said.

“He was very good at his job and he was very tenacious and had a really great racing career.

Kate Rogers with Vega One.

“We’re very fortunate the owners wanted to do what they could for his retirement and were happy to fund his re-training into the program.”

Jane said that whilst Vega One was a very successful racehorse, when they all come through the program – no matter how good they were – they are all treated the same way.

“We’re giving him a really broad-brush foundation set of skills, and a really valuable education,” Jane said.

“I truly believe that the education they get is so paramount for them having a really successful and purposeful life post-racing.

“As I said, he loved his job in racing and when the penny dropped in that field, he knuckled down and it probably took him a couple of months to realise that he was jumping now and having to lift his legs up but he really is enjoying that.

“He really is working hard and trying hard to do his best. We saw him out recently at a jump training day and he didn’t put a foot wrong and he just knew that he was out there to do that job and behaved himself so well.”

Rogers has been retraining thoroughbreds for the best part of 20 years, working as a track work and eventing rider on thoroughbreds, and jumped at the chance to be part of the QOTT Program.

“I joined up with Jane and we were doing the Transitioning Thoroughbreds Foundation so it was something that I was heavily involved with and passionately retraining quite a few racehorses each year,” Rogers said.

Vega One in his racing days.

“A couple of years ago when Racing Queensland onboarded the Acknowledged Retrainers Program, it was one of the first things I thought ‘wow I want to be part of this,’ so I put in my application as soon as they opened it up and I’ve been on board with them ever since.

“I think it’s essential that horses post racing go through a retraining program - that way we can take a bit of a snapshot with what they finished their career like, and if there’s anything we need to manage into the future, they can get a basic education which makes it suitable for a less-educated rider to take them on.

“Some horses when they come through a retraining program, they will show an aptitude for high level performance and some might make a really nice pleasure horse.

“But, we get to find out what the horse is athletically capable of, and where their mindset’s at.

“They get let down properly, they get transitioned on to a feed that will support them, they get built back up muscularly so they can handle what’s required of them into the future.”

As for Vega, he’s already showing signs he’ll be one to watch on the show jumping circuit after impressing at Laidley recently. 

“Trying to get these horses out and give them some exposure off property is key to part of their transitioning program,” Rogers said.

“From there, we will start to find him his perfect match, checking out riders how they suit Vega and how Vega suits them and what their set-up is like so we can find him a perfect home for the future.

“I think Vega’s going to make someone a great performance horse, he’s certainly had that desire to win on the track and he’s going to continue that into his career post-racing.”