Sixty starts. Nineteen wins, including five stakes wins. Twenty-one placings and $1.4 million in prizemoney. Not bad for a little homebred gelding that was by an under-the-radar stallion and out of a mare who didn’t manage to break her maiden in 14 starts. The horse…Burning Front.
Of that massive purse, $151,400 of the $1.4 million was bonuses won through the Victorian Owners and Breeders Incentive Scheme (VOBIS). The chestnut gelding’s results on the track won him cult-hero status amongst Victorian racegoers and he would go one to provide his owner and breeder Justin Lovatt, with the accolade of 2017/18 VOBIS Owner of the Year and himself VOBIS Horse of the Year.
“We just could not be prouder of everything that Burning Front has achieved,” said Justin, taking a moment to reflect on his racehorse’s career.
“He completely changed our lives. I’d never done a TV interview in my life before he won. He was easy to train, had such a big will to win and not many can say they’ve owned a horse that beat Humidor. He was my little horse with a big heart!”
The Humidor victory Justin refers was the 2017 TS Carlyon Cup. With an uncontested lead for most of the race, including a 2 length lead at the home turn, he held off a late charge by Humidor to win by a neck.It was back-to-back wins in the race as Burning Front also took out the 2016 edition, beating Sydney stablemates Red Excitement and Dances on Stars.
Not breaking his maiden until his eighth start, Burning Front worked his way through the grades. He won a number of the VOBIS feature races – the Gold Star (twice), the Gold Eldorado, the Gold Mile and the Gold Bullion – as well as the time-honoured Chester Manifold Stakes at Flemington.
By the stallion Primus, Burning Front’s dam She’s A Knockout is still owned by Justin and is currently in foal to Sun Stud’s Palentino. Her other winning progeny are Cajo Kellila, Burning Front’s older full brother Apollo Creed and Casino Star, however it’s Burning Front’s 3-year-old full brother that currently has Justin’s attention.
“The little colt is currently in work with trainer Tony McEvoy,” said Justin. “Tony really likes him and we’re hoping he’s got as big a heart as his big brother!”
Since retiring from racing in 2018, Burning Front now calls Romsey’s Springmount Farm home. It was where he spelled prior to the commencement of what would become his final racing campaign.
“Springmount’s Michael and Anna Flannery are very good friends,” said Justin. “Anna fell in love with him while he was with them and she always said he had a home with them when his racing career was over.”
Having settled in well to farm life, “Burnie” has this season commenced his secondary career as a weanling nanny. In a role he has taken to with ease, the sensible and relaxed gelding is currently sharing a paddock with three playful colts.
Initially giving him time to settle into the property and retired life, this breeding season is his first under his new role. As a weanling nanny, Burnie acts like a big brother to the younger horses. He helps them get used to being separated from their mothers, plays with them but also keeps them in line if they get too cheeky.
“We eased him into it,” said Springmount’s Anna Flannery. “At first he was a little confused, you could see him thinking ‘what is this?’ but he’s taken to being a nanny so quickly. I’ve seen him grooming the weanlings and letting them groom him. He’s not nasty, is so sensible and has the perfect temperament for the job.”
As he stands in the paddock getting a brush down from Michael, you can see Burnie peering out of the corner of his eye. He’s keeping a look out for his three young charges, like a parent looks out for their adventurous toddler. He might not be a big horse but Burnie still has the presence of a champion. And, keeping their own look out too, it seems the young ones know it.
HOOF NOTE: “Where Are They Now?” is a new monthly series from TBV that will look at Victorian bred retired racehorses enjoying secondary careers off the racetrack. With an ongoing commitment to equine welfare, our aim is to further promote and highlight the work done in that area. If you have a story to share, please email email@example.com