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Monday, March 09, 2015

Sire De Grugy's Sporty White Horseshoes Go Beyond Fashion for Cheltenham Festival Jump Race

Sire De Grugy, 2014 British Jumps Horse of the Year, won his last race wearing Ezy-Fit white polyurethane shoes with steel cores and is expected to continue to wear them when he defends his Cheltenham Festival title in the Queen Mother Champion Chase this week. (Shane Francis photo)

White shoes. The first thing you wonder is if he has a girth to match, right? But Sire De Grugy is going after more than gentlemanly fashion this week when he puts his best feet forward to uphold his reputation earned last year, and his 2014 title as British Jumps Horse of the Year.

He'll just do it with a little flash, and a lot less pain.

The 2014 winner of the Cheltenham Festival's Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase almost didn't make the trip to Cheltenham this year. Last month, the horse was discovered to be hosting a painful corn under the heel of one of his raceplates.

A corn in a racehorse is akin to an infected bruise. And it hurts. Needless to say, landing on one repeatedly during a jump race would hardly encourage the best performance from a horse.

To further complicate matters, the horse is difficult to shoe and needed to be sedated.

But it is Cheltenham, Britain's four-day championship series of jump races, and there was some time, so the trainer and veterinarian went to work. The painful tissue area was excavated by the vet.

Another view of Sire De Grugy's left front foot, from Getty Images.

Farrier Shane Francis, DipWCF from East Sussex suggested that the horse be shod with a wider polyurethane shoe rather than the traditional aluminum raceplate. The team considered his suggestion and agreed to try the Ezy-fit shoe on the horse.

Farrier Shane Francis, DipWCF 
of East Sussex, England
Shane told The Hoof Blog that he opted to nail instead of glue the shoes. "I nailed on but (they) can also be glued, which I debated as (there was) not a lot of wall left where the vet cut the corn out."

There was time for a race to test the horse's condition and ability to race and jump with the shoes on. British horseshoe regulations for racing are tight, without much wiggle room for new materials and odd dimensions, but the shoes were on and the horse was permitted to race at Chepstow two weeks ago.

And he won. Just watch:

"They must be Guccis as they are quite expensive!" the trainer told He has asked Shane to be present at Cheltenham on the day when the horse runs, just in case, which has had Shane scurrying around trying to take care of his clients and re-arrange his schedule.

The shoes are a relatively new product in Britain. Available in straight bar and heart bar models, the shoes have a steel core and can be shaped on the anvil.

In this file photo, a corn was active in a racehorse's foot in New York. A corn can be caused by improper or neglected shoeing, but it is often an after-effect of long, sheared or underrun heels or repeated pressure on the heel area, such as jumping, without any support or protection to the vulnerable area. A loose shoe, a too-tight shoe, or a short shoe can aggravate tissue as well. A horse with a corn may start to land differently, stand differently or refuse to jump. This is NOT Sire De Grugy's foot.

This horse's corn is less inflamed than the one above, but the horse has the added problem of thrush, as well. Corns respond well to rest, soaking, medication and protection but if ignored can lead to larger infections and lameness. They're usually a working horse's problem, but show up frequently on racehorses and jumping horses as well. Any horse that lands excessively hard on its heels or that is protecting another part of its foot and loading one heel more is susceptible to a corn. This is NOT Sire De Grugy's foot.

A corn can be an overlooked problem when diagnosing heel pain. They are one of the easiest to see and should respond quickly to proper care.

British shoeing regulations have always specified how far above (or below, depending on how you look at it) the nailheads can protrude from the shoe, so you will see the small-headed nails that Shane selected to use rather than the typical e-head nails usually seen in British shoeing.

In this final video, you can't see his feet, but you have to think that his trainer might be clever enough to know that a romp in the sea would be therapeutic for his horse's healing foot. This is a lovely bit of filming, and a great way to think of this horse as the races begin on Tuesday.


Sire De Grugy finished fourth in the 16-furlong Queen Mother Champion Chase's nine horse field. Sadly, he was never a threat. Favorite Sprinter Sacre was even further back. According to the British Horseracing Authority report, Sire De Grugy's trainer, Gary Moore, is not pleased with the track maintenance.

"The ground wasn't soft enough for him...He showed at Chepstow how good he was when it's deep, but on ground like this, he wants two and a half miles these days.

"They call it our Olympics of racing and they don't produce good ground. It's dead ground. Why they don't water I'll never know."

To learn more:

Get some insight into the Cheltenham Festival, read Fran Jurga's exclusive interview with Ireland's Gail Carlisle in "Head Girl at Cheltenham" on The Jurga Report. Gail is groom to superstar jump racer Hurricane Fly and his trainer, leading Irish National Hunt conditioner Willie Mullins.

And...Cheltenham always has some good pranks associated with the Festival. The famous hillside horse of England suddenly had a jockey for the first time in 3000 years in 2011.

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