Retired Stakes winner Super Impressive one of three Off the Track thoroughbreds on show as Victoria Police open its Mounted Branch to the public
Few could dispute his courage on the racetrack but the post-racing deeds of former Lee Freedman-trained galloper Super Impressive have given new meaning to the term bravery.
The 18-year-old son of Zabeel is one of three Off the Track thoroughbreds currently serving a vital role in Victoria Police’s Mounted Branch, which will open its doors to the public as part of this weekend’s Open House Melbourne initiative.
It’s a career the multiple Stakes winner has excelled in since his retirement from racing in 2005 and Acting Sergeant of the South Melbourne Mounted Branch, Rachael Dunkinson, said he and the other thoroughbred members were valued members of the force.
“We currently have three ex-racehorses that are still performing operational duties,” Sergeant Dunkinson said.
“They have all kept their racing names; we’ve got Haripil, Noble Duty and probably the best known would be Super Impressive.
“The Thoroughbreds we currently have working are brave and sensible. They are very calm and not flighty.”
Super Impressive lived up to his name on the racetrack with his 50-start career for Hall of Fame horseman Freedman netting 11 wins and just shy of $800,000 in prizemoney for connections.
A dual winner of the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Nerw Year’s Day, Super Impressive was also Group 1-placed in the 2003 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and the 2002 Railway Stakes (1200m), the latter in his native New Zealand.
His gentle temperament around the stable and on raceday was a hallmark of his racing days and a trait that made him, as well as 20-year-old veteran Haripil and ex-Anthony Cummings-trained Noble Duty, perfectly suited to a career on the beat.
Horses are required to meet a number of basic benchmarks before being considered for active duty, most notably being over 16.1hh, having a calm temperament and a good, sound conformation.
The trainability of thoroughbreds is another trait valued by Dunkinson who said other breeds, including Warmbloods, Strandardbreds and Clydesdale crosses, were also represented in the team of horses that range from six to 20 years of age.
Regardless of their history, Dunkinson said all horses complete an intensive trial period to assess their suitability to the role and their behaviour in different environments before being officially inducted into the force where they continue their education and development.
“Our training is extensive, and ongoing and even horses that have been here for 10 years are still constantly training to keep their skills and obedience at an optimum level,” Sergeant Dunkinson said.
“Horses undergo assessments at different levels of their training before they become an official troop horse and each phase is structured by performance rather than time.
“Each horse improves at a different rate and the training program here is followed diligently to create safe, happy and relaxed horses that do an exceptional job in any environment.”
While they are a common feature at major sporting and community events around Melbourne, members of the Mounted Branch are active on a daily basis to assist Victoria Police’s efforts to deliver a safe state.
“A general day will see the horses rostered to attend a deployment – whether that is public order management duties at a demonstration or a planned patrol in an area where we have been requested by local police,” Sergeant Dunkinson said.
“We also assist at searches, major sporting fixtures and community events.
“Most often, riders work with one horse at a time but this is not a strict rule as rostering, training sessions and deployment can often require changes.”
South Melbourne’s Dodds Street Mounted Branch will open its doors to the public between 10am and 4pm today and tomorrow as part of Open House Melbourne and racing fans will have the opportunity to meet Super Impressive, Haripil and Noble Duty.
Click here to watch a feature video on the Victoria Police Mounted Branch.
More information on the Open Days are available here.