By Emma Berry
Just the name Reynaldothewizard instantly conjures up an image of Meydan. The son of Speightstown became a standing dish at the Dubai Carnival, during which he made 25 of his 31 lifetime starts across seven seasons.
He was the horse for whom the Emirates Racing Authority rewrote the rules, to allow him to race beyond his ten years, and rightly so. Reynaldothewizard finally bowed out from his long and honourable career in 2018, at the age of 12, with 11 wins to his name including the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2013, the first of his five appearances on the Dubai World Cup card.
A half-brother to the dual Grade I-winning filly Seventh Street (Street Cry), Reynaldothewizard, with a scopey elegance uncommon in sprinters, turned heads from an early age. The $400,000 Keeneland September yearling became a $775,000 breezer just six months later when offered at the Calder Selected 2-Year-Olds Sale, and he started his racing career for Eoin Harty in style when winning his maiden at Churchill Downs that July. A third-place finish in the GII Saratoga Special S. the following month would prove to be his best performance on American soil and, after making just three starts as a 3-year-old, he was exported to the Dubai stable of Satish Seemar where, over the next nine years, he would become the fans' favourite.
Now 14, he is living in retirement on Godolphin's estate in Newmarket, where he is the star resident of Wellbottom Yard. But he is much missed by those who were closest to him in Dubai, especially Seemar's stable jockey Richard Mullen, who rode Reynaldothewizard in 24 of his 25 races at Meydan and shared his reminiscences of the horse he now regards as a member of his family.
“The thing that stands out for me is his longevity,” said Mullen from Dubai last week. “Yes, he did only race four or five times in a year but the programme here, even though it's a short season, is quite tough. Generally our horses come in at the end of July and start walking and trotting, and by August they are cantering away. He would have generally started a little bit later because his programme was always the Carnival, so we would work back from the World Cup meeting. But he would certainly have been cantering in August time and getting into his work around October or November. We only work our horses once a week. It's very much based on an American type of training and the work is tough but he never had any injuries whatsoever. He missed just one World Cup when he had a temperature.”
For all his exploits on the track, including three consecutive victories in the listed Dubawi S., Reynaldothewizard gave few hints of his racing prowess when it came to his homework, as Mullen recalled.
“The one thing that I think helped him maintain that longevity was the fact that he was a terrible workhorse,” said the jockey. “He would barely get by whatever horse you worked with so there was no way we were ever going to rush him and try to force him into something. He saved it all for the races.
“The only time I didn't ride him was his very first run for us when he'd come from America and we had two in the race and I opted to ride Captain Rio (Ire), who was a horse who had shown plenty of speed. Reynaldo had given me no feel when I'd ridden him in the mornings. It was that long ago that Harry Bentley was still claiming seven, and I remember in the race I finished fourth and I was dying, and the next thing I saw this black cap and yellow silks come flying past me and it was Reynaldo. I rode him next time, he won by 5½ lengths and I never got off him ever again. Away from the racecourse I rode him in every piece of work he ever did.”
British-born Mullen is now resident in Dubai but has visited 'Reynaldo' every summer since his retirement. This year that may not be possible with COVID-19 restrictions making travelling more difficult, but he is kept up to date on the horse's wellbeing by Godolphin's Marie Sullivan, who can see Reynaldo's stable from her desk.
“He'll always be a favourite of mine,” said Mullen. “I could win a Derby or a World Cup and I don't think any other horse would have the effect that he has had on me. He is an unbelievable horse and such a great character.”
He continued, “To me he's not just a horse but he is part of the Mullen family. My kids always used to visit him in the stables here and he's amazingly intelligent. When we went to see him in Newmarket last summer the children were there and he took off from one end of the paddock to the other, galloping over to see us, and he knew the children. The amazing thing is whenever I go near him he bites me, yet when the kids are around him butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He's always been the same.”
Mullen added, “It's fantastic for him to have been given a paddock for the rest of his days now. Marie Sullivan and everyone at Wellbottom are doing an amazing job for him. He's the apple of their eye as well. What I'll always remember is how he ran with his heart on his sleeve and that's a jockey's dream, to have a partner underneath you that wants it as much as you do.”