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Buffering loving retirement on Brisbane's southern outskirts

 

 

Damain-Browne-with-Connections-Buffering.JPGBy Jordan Gerrans

Every now and again, Brisbane businessman Bruce Harry will sit in the backyard of his Burbank property and have a few drinks with an old mate.

The friend is an equine companion: legendary Queensland racehorse Buffering.

The great Buff took Harry and the other 30-odd owners on a ride of a lifetime around the world chasing his feats and now in retirement, he is ensuring the 14-year-old gelding is happy and healthy.

Harry and his sons will be down at the stables of their big property on Brisbane's southern outskirts every afternoon, feeding Buffering and his retirement mate Privlaka - also a former Rob Heathcote galloper.

When he was racing at the highest level in Australia and across the globe, Harry likened the seven-time Group 1 champion to one of his children, just wanting him to race well, and safely, and do his owners proud.

Now, he is lucky enough to look after the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame member like he is one of his own progeny.

“He does it pretty comfortably, he relaxes and has some fun from time to time,” Harry said of Buffering’s life in retirement.

“He took us on a pretty wonderful journey as owners and he looked after us, so I feel proud to be able to return the favour.

“He has a roll around, he gets dirty and when it rains, he gets full of mud, he enjoys himself. He does what normal horses do.”

Buffering is living out his days at Burbank but he will often make a return trip to his old Eagle Farm stable, which is plastered with photos and memorabilia from his greatest achievements.

Experienced Brisbane trainer Heathcote will often take his former stable star back to racing headquarters to get his dental and worming requirements looked after, generally tidy him up and just give him a little tender loving care.

On a Monday afternoon in late August when his new stable star, Rothfire, was edging closer to a return to the racetrack, Heathcote made the drive to Burbank reminisce on some of the highest points in his life with Buffering.

“It is one of my most favourite places to come to, look at the surrounds here and to see Buff in an environment like this and being well looked after,” Heathcote said of where Buffering lives now.

“He is enjoying a well-earned retirement. I am fortunate that every day I drive into Eagle Farm for work, I come out of that tunnel and see the statue of Buff and I give him a little salute every morning.

“He was a major part of not only my life, but he took a bunch of owners – 30 of us – for not a very expensive horse, he took us on a ride of a lifetime that dreams are made of.”

Buffering-4.JPGThe Mossman gelding was one of the greatest to ever grace a racing surface in the Sunshine State, seven victories at the highest level – collecting over $7 million in stakes – after being purchased for just over $20,000 on the Gold Coast at the Magic Millions complex.

While he is a legend in Queensland, his most significant triumphs were recorded on the road.

A trio of Moir Stakes triumphs in Melbourne, two Winterbottom Stakes in beautiful Western Australia and the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night in 2016.

The 2021 Moir Stakes will be run this Friday night at The Valley, and will no doubt bring back the famous memories from 2012, 2014 and 2015 for Buffering's connections. 

Heathcote described the unique trip to Dubai as a rare “adventure”, with all the owners and stable staff there in the Middle East on that day to enjoy the experience.

For Harry, winning down the straight of Flemington in the VRC Sprint of 2013 was the greatest victory Buffering earned.

For Heathcote, the Manikato Stakes that same year was his standout win across his career.

On that night at The Valley, Heathcote believes that was Buffering’s time to shine, after racing against elite opposition for some time without yet breaking through at Group 1 level.

“I think what endeared him to the public was that he was the bulldog that just kept getting knocked down, it took him 18 attempts to win a Group 1 and then he finally won that memorable Group 1 at The Valley, the Manikato Stakes in 2013,” Heathcote said.

“He won another six Group 1s in his next 13 starts.

“He has the enviable record of having the most Group 1 starts of any horse in Australia.

“I think he is my favourite horse I have ever trained…they can put this cap with Buffering written on the front on top of my box when they put me in the ground.”

Harry and his family have been at Burbank for 13 years, housing a handful of different former racehorses over the time.

Buffering and Privlaka are enjoying life together, going for a run, buck and a play most afternoon with Harry remarking that he can hear the pair running up and down the hills of the property later on at night.

With around 30 owners in Buffering – as well as Heathcote and all his stable staff enjoying the ride – Harry needed to be quick to declare his interest in taking on the popular galloper in retirement.

“I do not think too many had a property that was big enough to take horses like this one, we did not have any arguments around who would take him, but I did get in early and flagged my interest,” Harry said.

“I got in a couple of years early. Privlaka, he did a pretty good job for us as well, so you need to have a mate for Buff, he has had a few mates over the years but it is him today.

“They have a swim in the lake every day and a splash.”

As an owner, Harry says he was never really able to enjoy Buffering’s performances, filled with stress before and during the races, but was able to appreciate the great gelding after each race.

Buffering's transition from racing to retirement encapsulates the purpose of the recently formed Queensland Off-The-Track program, established in 2020 and governed by Racing Queensland and the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission.x5418lro.jpeg

Its purpose is to operate and manage the QOTT Program and is responsible for the policies, programs and reporting relating to the retirement of horses from racing and breeding activities, a concept Heathcote believes is key for the industry.

“I think it is fantastic for the industry and shows the love, care and admiration we have for these equine athletes,” Heathcote said.

“We look after them as participants in the racing industry but the fact we look after them, with a nice slice of prizemoney going towards the welfare of these horses – it is a great program.

“My life, 24 years in the equine industry, we have rehoused and rehomed every horse that has come through our stable and I am very proud of that.”

Robert Heathcote Next Racing