Self Assured retired - but the two Jimmys will stay together

By Michael Guerin

Jean Feiss likes knowing her old mate is heading off to be with his best mate.

So there was never any doubt where $2.4million earner Self Assured was going to be living after he bowed out of racing in the Auckland Cup last Friday.

Victorian-based owner Feiss retired her wonderful pacer on the spot after Better Eclipse denied him becoming the first horse ever to win three Auckland Cups, swooping past him late to relegate Self Assured to another feature-race second.

But Self Assured heads off to the good life having won every race that matters on this side of the Tasman.

He won a New Zealand Cup, those two Auckland Cups, the first Race by Grins, two NZ Free-For-Alls, a Messenger, Ashburton Flying Stakes and most appropriately the first Roy Purdon Memorial.

But while his 74 starts brought 30 wins, most at Group level, it is a telling stat that Self Assured won only one of his last 19 starts, that coming when he blew past Akuta in the NZ Free-For-All last November.

Feiss knew it was time.

“He is still racing well enough to be competitive at any level but he is just down on what he has been,” she said.

“He has been a lovely horse and such a big part of my life so I want to see him retire happy and sound so now is the right time.

“And he is going to retire with Jimmy so the two Jimmys (that is Self Assured’s stable name) being together makes me happy.”

Jimmy the human is James Stephens (pictured above), who has been Self Assured’s strapper, travelling companion and best mate throughout his race career.

Stephens asked Feiss last year if he could look after the four-legged Jimmy when he retired and is thrilled to be able to take him home.

“He will actually live just down the road from work (All Stars) where a mate of mine has a nice paddock for him,” says Stephens.

“But he will actually be coming back to work a lot in the next few months.

“I have asked the guys who ride Mark’s gallopers to help me to break him into the saddle so I can ride him during his retirement.

“I have ridden a bit but not for a while so we will be learning together.”

Stephens says he has loved his time with Self Assured and the people who come with the horse.

“Obviously he has had great trainers and Jean is such a lovely kind person who knows so much about horses.

"So to work alongside and for people like that with a horse like this has been a dream come true.

“And I am so thankful to Jean for letting me look after him.”

Self Assured was a late bloomer by modern harness racing standards, not racing until May of his three-year-old season but soon made up for lost time, beating Lochinvar Art in the Queensland Derby at just his sixth start.

An Auckland Cup followed later that year and the New Zealand Cup the following season and at that moment he looked the best pacer in Australasia before starting a see-sawing battle with Copy That, the two winning so many of the same races.

Covid and a Miracle Mile-eve setback curtailed his Australian career and by the time he was five Self Assured started to show signs he was dynamic when able to race handy or swoosh but he was no gate speed charger or bully boy, so New Zealand racing suited him so well.

While the big Cups may be the races we remember horses for most and his NZ Cup triumph was his signature moment, Self Assured did something few open class pacers do these days, winning major mobile races coming from last. And he did it three times.

Twice after unplaced New Zealand Cup runs he came from last to win the NZ Free-For-All, not usually a race horses come from last to win.

And of course he could see every rival at the half way stage of the inaugural Race by Grins at Cambridge before he blew past them, a performance befitting of the $1million race’s first running.

“That was my favourite of his wins,” says Stephens.

“The build up was so big, and it was all new and then for him to come from last to win. That was the most special.”

That will give the Jimmys something to talk about when they go riding together for years to come.

 

 

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