By Julieanne Horsman
Mr Manhattan was the type of racehorse anyone would love to own. He won six of his 16 starts and rarely finished outside the top three. He was easy to handle, adored by Joe Pride’s Warwick Farm stable staff and loved a treat and a cuddle when his owners came to visit.
Disappointingly, Mr Manhattan’s racing career was cut short by a condition known as Chondritis. As it worsened it affected his breathing and his form deteriorated. The decision was made to retire him straight away and he was sent to Limitless Lodge at Wyong for a well-earned rest.
Not far up the road in Kulnura 26-year-old Mitch Carraro and girlfriend Anna Stenberg operate their equine feed and hay store, Storm Park Produce. Both are talented showjumpers who have trained off the track thoroughbreds so Limitless Lodge’s foreman decided to give them the first offer of Mr Manhattan. With several horses already in their care, they didn’t really want or need another but agreed to go and see him anyway. When they got there, they changed their minds.
“We’ve got a lot of racing clients as well as spelling farms and pre-trainers so we get offered retired racehorses fairly regularly,” Mitch said. “We’ve had about 10 thoroughbreds so far and they’ve all been great. Really athletic and willing. Mr Manhattan was a nice type and walked well so we decided to take him home.”
Mitch and Anna gave Mr Manhattan a month off to let down before attempting anything with him. Anna was too busy with her horses so Mr Manhattan became Mitch’s new project.
“We decided to see if he could jump and he showed ability straight away,” Mitch said. “I took him to his first competition at Tamworth Show in late 2017 and he went well. There was a lot for him to look at but he behaved himself.”
Since then Mitch has enjoyed taking Mr Manhattan through his grades and didn’t take long before he was jumping 1m.
“We only planned to compete him up to 1m but he showed talent so we started trying him over 1.05m and 1.10m at home,” Mitch said. “The bigger the jumps got, the harder he tried.”
Earlier this month Mr Manhattan and Mitch finished just outside the top 20 in the Group 2 1.10m Thoroughbred Championship at the Aquis Champions Tour on the Gold Coast. It was the biggest competition they had entered together. Next weekend they will step up to 1.15m for the first time at the Camden Winter Showjumping Festival.
“It’s all just a bit of fun for us,” Mitch said. “We don’t set out to win, I’d be happy to jump a few clear rounds and have fun. I enjoy the whole process of preparing a horse and it’s satisfying to see how far Mr Manhattan has come. There are no concrete plans for him. We’ll just make sure he keeps his confidence.”
As for the chondritis, it hasn’t affected Mr Manhattan’s showjumping ability or given him any trouble.
“It definitely hasn’t held him back since we’ve had him,” Mitch said. “He’s a real cool dude with plenty of character. He loves attention and lets us know if we’re not giving him enough.”