Wednesday 21 March 2012

Blind Horse Wins 19 Races

This is Laghat, a nine-year-old Italian racehorse who has won an incredible 19 times - despite being blind.

Laghat, whose name means 'kick', was born with a fungal infection in both his eyes which left him virtually unable to see.

But he has stunned his jockey owner and punters by overcoming the disability to win nearly 100,000 euros in prize money.

His success has won him an army of admirers on Facebook since his winning streak became widely known.

Based in San Rossore near Pisa, where former prime minister Tony Blair used to go on his holidays.

Laghat is owned and trained by jockey Federico De Paola and shares his stable with a fellow horse jokingly described as 'his girlfriend'.

His owner has no idea how he manages to steer clear of other horses when he competes and even kicks in with an extra burst off speed as he nears the finishing line.

Federico said today: 'It's amazing. I really don't know how he does it. He had a fungal infection in his eyes when he was born and it has left him virtually blind. He can make out shadows but that's about it.

'I only entered him for the races because I thought it would be some exercise for him, but I was amazed when he won and he has kept on winning.

'He has won 19 races and some of them have been important ones - in one race he won the 25,000-euro top prize.
'He has a sixth sense which tells him where to put his legs - when we approach the finish line it's him who gives me the signal and gives me that extra burst of speed.

'We have never had a crash with any of the other horses in any of the races we have been in and sometimes there can be as many as 16 in a field. I have never had a horse like this before in my time as a jockey and an owner.'

He added: 'His intelligence is phenomenal and after every race, Laghat comes towards me bowing his head for an affectionate hug.

'We have become very close, it's as if we have our own language. He has his own stable and shares it with another horse who is his partner.'

Mr De Paola added: 'I take him on the gallop near the stables every morning and it is a fantastic sensation to ride him.
'He has another big race coming up in a few days and we are training hard for this one and of course we hope to win it.'
It is not clear what regulations are in place in Italy with regard to blind horses competing. 

But as most horses wear blinkers in races around the world to restrict their field of vision and reduce any potential distractions, it appears that Laghat's limited visibility is not a safety issue.

Laghat's success story is at odds with Irish greyhound Jack Sprat who never won any race he entered until it was discovered last year that he was blind.

Jack was entered for several races last year after he hit speeds of 40mph in training, but despite his owner's high hopes he came last every time and it was later discovered he had not been able to see the hare because of his blindness.