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Johnny’s new life

27 October 2022 Written by Michael Lynch

Denis Pagan had a dream come true when his horse Johnny Get Angry won the 2020 Penfolds Victoria Derby. No racing fan can forget the emotional scenes when the trainer and jockey Lachie King took out one of Australia’s great races. Two years later, the gelding has been retired to Living Legends, where he finds a new home and a new career.

Success in one sporting sphere doesn’t guarantee that you will be a winner in another.

But the determination, planning, painstaking attention to detail and empathy with elite athletes – key qualities required to become an AFL premiership coach – are a strong platform for transitioning from one “game” to another.

And Denis Pagan, the premiership-winning former North Melbourne mentor has certainly shown that neither age nor a late switch in professions is any barrier to success in the ultra-competitive world of racing.

Pagan “lived the dream” when he won the $1 million Penfolds Victoria Derby with his fan favourite Johnny Get Angry in 2020.

After the excitement and emotion had settled following his Derby triumph, however, Pagan decided to spell the horse for several months. In so doing he missed the chance to run in multi-million dollar derbies in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, but the trainer was optimistic. His high regard for the young stayer made it an easy decision not to run him in the autumn, to allow him time to develop with spring 2021 in mind.

However, the gelding struggled to find form after his stunning Derby win, and has been retired after two starts this spring.

He will now enjoy a post-racing life and career at Living Legends, amongst many other champions, including fellow Victoria Derby winner, Efficient, who won the prestigious staying event in 2006. He will arrive on October 26, on the eve of his incredible victory just two years previously.

Living Legends CEO Andrew Clarke and the team are excited to have him. “He’s a Group-winning horse with a wonderful story, a legendary story. All indications are that he’s going to be a great horse for our Legends Under Saddle program as well. I’m sure he’ll be a big hit with our visitors.”

What is Legends Under Saddle?

Legends Under Saddle is a program where Living Legends retired champions are ridden regularly, as it provides a multitude of benefits for the horses, staff, students and visitors.

These include:

  • Additional activity and exercise for the horses.
  • An opportunity for staff and volunteer professional development (some dressage and show jumping coaching is provided for our 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.

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

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