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Enjoying his twilight years

22 February 2022 Written by VRC

2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment has joined the illustrious team of thoroughbreds at Living Legends and is relishing retirement.

In recent months, the pace of life has slowed down for 2020 Lexus Melbourne Cup winner, Twilight Payment. In December, the retired Cup champion left his Macedon Lodge home to take up residence at the Living Legends stables in Greenvale.

Within hours of arriving, the Irish-born horse was happily picking at grass and bemusedly watching the local kangaroos springing across his paddock.

Twilight Payment gave jockey Jye McNeil his first Lexus Melbourne Cup win. Trained by Joseph O’Brien, he raced again in the 2021 Lexus Melbourne Cup, finished 11th and owner, Nick Williams, then announced the horse’s retirement. During his career, the 9yo earned almost $6 million in prizemoney.

Andrew Clarke, CEO of Living Legends, had already made it clear that there was a paddock waiting for Twilight Payment at the 1,730-acre Woodlands Historic Park where Living Legends is based. The estate north of Melbourne is home to a number of renowned retired racehorses who are popular drawcards for national and international visitors who want to get up close to retired champions.

“In the lead up to the 2021 Spring Carnival, Nick Williams was at Living Legends with Shane Crawford. They were filming with two of our other Cup champions, Almandin and Prince Of Penzance, and I asked Nick what his plans were for Twilight Payment,” said Clarke.

“After the 2021 Melbourne Cup I heard mention that Twilight Payment was going to retire so I texted Nick straightaway and reminded him that we’d love to have the horse here. I got a thumbs-up text from Nick – that was all it took – and I couldn’t have been happier.”

Lexus Melbourne Cup, finished 11th and owner, Nick Williams, then announced the horse’s retirement. During his career, the 9yo earned almost $6 million in prizemoney. Andrew Clarke, CEO of Living Legends, had already made it clear that there was a paddock waiting for Twilight Payment at the 1,730-acre Woodlands Historic Park where Living Legends is based. The estate north of Melbourne is home to a number of renowned retired racehorses who are popular drawcards for national and international visitors who want to get up close to retired champions.

Living Legends’ famous residents include Almandin, Prince Of Penzance, Brew, Efficient, Fawkner and Rogan Josh. After his arrival, Twilight Payment – or ‘Twiggy’ as he is now known to the staff looking after him – settled in instantly.

“He’s a lovely, quiet horse with a beautiful temperament. He’s not a big horse, he’s quite finely built, which is why we’ve called him ‘Twiggy’,” said Clarke.

“The first morning he arrived we took him down to one of our smaller paddocks. There were a couple of kangaroos there but he didn’t blink an eyelid. Kangaroos do all the things horses don’t like – they make sudden jerky movements – but Twiggy was very relaxed around them.

“He had a good run around and stood to the side of the paddock, just over the path from Almandin. It was as if he’s been here all his life. He’s a straightforward horse without any quirks so far.”

After a six-month break from racing and being ridden, Clarke and his team will start to train Twilight Payment for the Legends Under Saddle program. The retired champions can then be ridden by staff, students and visitors and some of the horses go on to take part in eventing or dressage events and make guest appearances at the Flemington races.

“Twiggy will have a good break before anything else so he can get used to not racing competitively. Then we will start handling him by taking him to the horse walker, weighing him, and working with him in the round yard. Initially, he’ll trot and canter without a rider, but we expect he will settle into the saddle very quickly,” said Clarke.

“We have a lot of veterinary and agricultural students who do placements here and they learn a lot through working with horses like Twilight Payment. He is a bold horse so he may be an eventer or he may do some dressage work – we’re excited to see how things go with him.”

In his retirement, Twilight Payment can also look forward to being spoiled with plenty of carrots and pats.

“He loves his carrots and so he will love being fed by visitors,” said Clarke.

“It’s always rewarding to see the reaction of visitors when they are able to get up close to a Melbourne Cup winner. Everyone has a Cup story that either makes you laugh out loud or moves you to tears. We feel very privileged to work with these horses and to see how much enjoyment they bring people.”

Legends under saddle

Twilight Payment will be part of Living Legends’ ‘Legends Under Saddle’ program, where their retired champions are regularly ridden. It provides a multitude of benefits for the horses, staff, students and visitors.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Additional activity and exercise for the horses.
  • An opportunity for staff and volunteer professional development (LL provides some dressage and showjumping coaching for its riders).
  • An opportunity for industry placement students to gain a better understanding of the training and riding of horses. Not all of the students are riders, so the insights provided are beneficial. For those who are riders, it provides a wonderful experience to take the legends for a ride in the Woodlands Park.
  • Providing the public with an opportunity to see horses in action. Metropolitan visitors are particularly interested as they do not often have the opportunity to see this.
  • Taking horses to shows and events.

Not all of the champions are suitable for riding for a range of reasons, however Living Legends endeavours to work with any horse that is willing.

To find out more visit www.livinglegends.org.au.

Image caption: Jye McNeil caught up with his partner in Cup victory, Twilight Payment, at Flemington in January.

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