Connections of Queensland warrior Buffering on Saturday were reminiscing over one of the great stories in sports as the nine-year-old prepares for life at Melbourne’s Living Legends with other former champions of the turf.
After 55 starts and a career that netted $7.28 million, Buffering was retired on Friday night after fading out of the placings in the Manikato Stakes, the race where he broke through for his first — long overdue — Group 1 win three years earlier.
“It’s an overriding sense of relief,” trainer Rob Heathcote said. “We have come to the end of the journey with a happy, healthy, sound horse.
“He has done what everyone dreams about and he’s done it 10-fold. He took us to the top of Everest so many times. He’s been a beautiful horse, not just for the owners, but the fans too.
“His owners have cherished the journey, created lifelong friendships and the coin didn’t hurt either! What he’s done for Queensland through a difficult period of change and upheaval should not be underestimated either.
Buffering holds on to win the 2013 Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley.
“He never won a Group 1 in Queensland, but he ran some great races in the big ones up there, including two seconds in the Stradbroke with 58kg, and the Magic Millions win was a nice way for him to go out on his home soil as it turned out.”
The Buffering team was prepared for Friday being his final fling and before Damian Browne had even returned to scale, Heathcote indicated the journey was all over.
“If I had any doubts about the decision, I woke up (Saturday) with 50 text messages of congratulations, so it was the right thing to do.,” Heathcote said. “We have public property here and we had to treat him with respect.
“He’s been an enormous part of my life. I’ve been training 19 years. He’s only been there seven of them, but it feels like he’s been there the whole time.”
A deal has been brokered with Living Legends for Buffering to live half his time at the farm with other champions like Might And Power, Apache Cat, Fields Of Omagh and Efficient.
“We have spoken with Andrew Clarke at Living Legends and he will be there in the warmer months and then come back to Queensland to enjoy the warmer winter up here,” Heathcote said.
“Andrew does a magnificent job at Living Legends and no doubt there will be a lot of people who want to see him. They also take the horses to a lot of different racing events and Buff will love that stuff.”
Part-owner Bruce Harry has a property just outside Brisbane where Buffering is likely to live during his time in Queensland.
Pressed for a favourite memory among the 20 wins, Heathcote nominated two.
“The Manikato Stakes in 2013 will always be special because it was an enormous sense of relief to finally get that Group 1 win. That’s a photo finish in front of winning in Dubai, which was just out of this world. I’m going to miss him enormously, but I have a pile of DVDs all with Buffering’s name on them to remember him by.”