Horses ran in the family as far as Alex and Janet Card are concerned, through either parents or grandparents, and when Alex’s cousin Gordon suggested a dozen years ago they bought a racehorse, they did just that.
They’ve not regretted it, and in August came the coup de grace, a victory in Europe’s most valuable Flat handicap, the Ebor, with Nakeeta.
Selkirk-based Stuart Coltherd was their first trainer and jumping their first venture, an enjoyable experience that whetted the appetite. The Cards’ first horse, Casterflo, was a winner.
A little later, after a spell with Jamie Poulton, cousin Gordon was asked to recommend another trainer in Scotland with more of a Flat bias, and the name in the frame was Iain Jardine, who was soon to expand his operation.
Double Whammy and Push Me are two of the horses the Cards have had with Jardine, and both have provided their owners with some fantastic days, and with Push Me having had a foal, and being in foal again, she will do so again in future.
“Double Whammy has won five races for us, at Wetherby, Liverpool, two at Kelso and the Highland National,” says Alex Card. “Push Me won eight races for us, including at Sandown. She was a good, gutsy little mare.
“She’s had a foal by Heeraat, whose first yearlings are doing very well at the sales, and she’s in foal to Sixties Icon; you’ll never guess why…!”
Nakeeta is by Sixties Icon – that’s why!
“We’ve had about a dozen horses now,” continues Card, “and had 20 winners, so we’ve not done too badly to say the least.”
The Cards, living in Deal in Kent, are not exactly handy for Jardine’s yard in Carrutherstown, Dumfries and Galloway, but they visit four or five times a year and have a relationship with Jardine and partner Val that is more friendship than trainer/client.
“Iain and Val and their lads and lasses are wonderful,” says Card. “They’ve done fantastically for us and we thoroughly enjoy it.”
That enjoyment came to a head at the Ebor meeting when Nakeeta and apprentice Callum Rodriguez ensured the Card family had a day they’ll never forget.
Reflecting on his best racing days, Card says: “The first would be our first winner with our first horse. I’d never really had an experience like it.
“Then there was Push Me winning at Sandown, and Double Whammy winning the Highland National.
“But I guess everything else now plays second fiddle to Nakeeta. You’d never dream it could happen although Iain has always said he’d be capable of winning the Ebor, or at least having a good chance. He’d missed out on getting a run by 1lb the year before.
“We went up on the Friday and stayed in a hotel. We knew the horse was fit, strong and had the ability, but you always need a little bit of luck, and it was Nakeeta’s day.
“It was a fantastic day and we were in a dream world. We’re only small owners with just two horses in training at the moment – our other horse is Arkadian Empire, who’s only three and we can look forward to him running next year as well.”
Nakeeta was raised 5lb for his Ebor success to a mark of 108, and on the Thursday after York was on the front page of the Racing Post – again – after featuring in the nominations for the Melbourne Cup. He was subsequently allotted a weight of 53kg – which should be enough to guarantee a run – and bags will shortly be packed for what promises to be a trip of dreams.
“There could be a dozen or more of us,” says Card, “a great expedition. Why miss it? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
With quarantine requirements it means Nakeeta won’t be running again until the ‘race that stops a nation’ on November 7, but the Cards understand the need for patience and the Ebor was only Nakeeta’s fourth run of the year.
“Twenty-four hours is a long time in the life of a racehorse,” says Card. “We’ve travelled up to Scotland before only for the meeting to be called off due to a frozen track, and we’ve had the trainer ring up to say a horse is lame, or has got mucus and is on antibiotics.
“It can be frustrating, and you can find yourself thinking, ‘If the horse is fit, let’s just run!’ so you need a lot of patience. But we couldn’t be in better hands than with Iain and Val, and the Ebor was the icing on the cake.”
Though 73, Card still works a couple of days a week for the family business, which supplies and fits all types of flooring. Son Julian, daughter Sharon and even grandchildren Reece and Owen are involved with the firm, and with the family nature of both work and play, it’s not surprising to hear Card conclude: “I’m more than happy with my life right now!”
It is far from inconceivable it could soon be taken to another level again on a racecourse on the other side of the world. As Elton John might have sung, ‘Oh Nakeeta, you never know’.