The Orange Agent and Tony Herlihy, winning the Breeders Stakes at Addington last year. Photo: Race Images.
The curtain has come down on the career of champion mare The Orange Agent.
Her connections made the tough call to retire her on Monday after she pulled up lame from her fast work that morning.
“She’s gone amiss,” said Brian Hughes, who prepared her for all 33 career starts.
“She trialed good on Saturday, was fine on Sunday, and was working nicely Monday but when I asked her to stride out over the last 400, something went wrong.
“Exactly what is broken is unclear as there was too much swelling for the x-rays to show anything, but there is a fracture in a hind leg somewhere.”
It’s a familiar story for Hughes – The Orange Agent has previously broken a tibia, cannon bone and pastern in her hind legs.
The legacy of that is that she only raced 33 times and had just one seven-start campaign in the last two-and-a-half years.
The six-year-old daughter of American Ideal was a six-time Group 1 winner, including twice in Australia, and retires with over $746,000 in stakes.
In early 2016 The Orange Agent was found to have fractured a pastern and, after three months in a box, was then found to have fractured a tibia, requiring another three months confined.
Eventually she made it back to the track in early 2017, defeating Smolda in the City Of Auckland FFA at Alexandra Park. and Piccadilly Princess in the New Zealand Breeder’s Stakes at Addington.
She then flew across the Tasman and recorded a clean sweep of three Victorian features, culminating in her final race start, the Queen Of The Pacific, in May last year.
The Orange Agent was unbeaten in Australia, going five-for-five, including the Australasian Breeders Crown title as a three-year-old in 2015.
Hughes says she was a one-of-a-kind horse and had an unwavering will to win.
“She’s right up there with the best ones I’ve had, if not the best.
“I’m not going to declare that though, because it’s hard to compare horses from different eras.”
Given Hughes trained former champion Chokin, that is quite some rap on his part.
“She had such a determination to win.
“At times, a mind of her own, but as a racehorse she just wanted to go out there and win.”
He singled out her New Zealand record win at the 2015 Harness Jewels, in 1.51.1, as his favourite.
“When she won the Jewels at Ashburton, that was a really good win.
“It was an impressive win, though all of her big wins were good, really.”
It was a tough Monday for Hughes and his training partner son, Gareth, as they initially feared the worst.
“When it happened, my only concern was getting her off the track without anything major happening.
“She’s never been this lame before and there was a worry she had a major issue.”
She’ll stay in a box and be re-scanned in ten days where it will be determined whether she needs surgery.
Hughes says he and Gareth will soldier on and try and find their next star.
“You’ve just got to keep going; we’ll go through all the young ones and try and find another one just as good.
“They are few and far between but you can only hope.”
The Orange Agent took filly/mare of the year honours at the national awards in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and she retires with four national records, two at all-age classification for females.
She was raced by her breeders, John, Trish and Moira Green and Peter Bult.