A HELPERBY couple have thanked the hundreds of friends and well-wishers who have offered their support after the death of a much-loved racehorse in the Grand National.
According to Pete was bred by Peter and Anne Nelson at their home in Helperby. He had to be put down after he fell at Becher’s Brook, the 22nd fence on the tough Aintree circuit.
The Nelsons have been inundated with messages of support and condolences, and the loss brought the national press spotlight onto the village.
Anne said: “We’ve had more than 150 cards so far. The postman arrived with a bundle this morning and said he wished he didn’t have to bring these to us. We couldn’t believe it. We would like to thank everyone for all the lovely cards and flowers.”
Messages have come from across the racing community, as well as from the Nelsons’ friends and neighbours.
Racing presenter Clare Balding, who interviewed Peter and Anne in the run up to the race, and her father have been in touch, and in the hour I spent at the Nelson’s home on Tuesday lunch time a steady stream of visitors, including the parish vicar, came to offer their support.
The family said they are heartbroken by the loss of a promising horse that was also a much-loved pet.
Peter said: “Our horses are part of the family because we have them from foals. They’re just like kids to us.”
Even though the horse, known as Pete in the stable, was in training in Malcolm Jefferson’s Malton yard he was a familiar figure in Helperby.
“We had a card from a neighbour that said the whole village is in mourning, and it’s true,” Anne added.
“Pete was such a bonny horse you could always follow him on a racecourse. Everybody backed him. When my daughter went into Easingwold to put a bet on for the National the bookie told her so many people had backed Pete that he’d have to sell the shop to pay out if Pete won.”
The heartbroken couple said they had been looking forward to bringing Pete home after his Grand National adventure.
“I would have loved him to come home safe. He was such a good horse. I would have loved to walk him down the village for the open gardens and show him off. I had it all planned,” Peter said.
The Nelson family could not have imagined how the day would turn out when they set off for Aintree.
“The day started on a good note. We’d had a right good week, and off we went to Aintree. We were looking forward to it. We got there by about 11.30 and had a picnic in the car park. We thought we were going to have a good day. I know it’s a hard race but we were taking the positive view. All we wanted was for him to come home safe and sound. Anything else would have been a bonus,” Peter said.
“We saw him on parade and he looked magnificent. He was full of himself, and wanted to be at it. Tony McCoy’s horse threw him off at the start, but our boy was as cool as a cucumber.
It was the last time Peter and Anne saw Pete.
“We watched the race on the big screen and he jumped the first round brilliantly.
“We heard he had been brought down, but someone said he’d got up so we thought he must be alright.
“At the finish we watched as the other horses came in, but our boy never came,” Peter said.
They found out later Pete had got up after his fall, but another horse and jumped on top of him and broke his shoulder. Vets put Pete down on the course, and the Nelsons never saw him again.
But the couple say they are sure their horse would have gone on to be a champion.
“He was jumping like he had springs in his feet. If he’d got round he would have been in the winners enclosure,” Anne said.
“He was a horse that loved to win and loved to be at the front.”
Losing their beloved horse has not put the couple off racing. Peter, who grew up in Helperby the eldest of seven children of a farm worker, bought his first racehorse in 1992.
“My dad was a horse man, and had a good eye for a horse. I used to go to Wetherby races and lean on the rails looking at the horses. I never thought I’d own one.”
According to Pete is the son of the Nelson’s second horse, the mare Magic Bloom. His unusual name was inspired by his sire, Accordion, Peter’s own name, and a phrase Anne used to tease her husband with.
“I always say ‘according to Pete, you should be doing such-and-such’,” Anne said.
Despite their sorrow Pete and Anne are looking to the future and Pete will not be forgotten. The Nelsons still have the blood line with According to Pete’s dam, Magic Bloom, and half brother, Magic Bishop, who ran at Market Rasen the day after the National.