All cards on the table


Easy to read, understand and work with – there was never a poker face hiding the true nature of six year-old gelding Blakjak Paperback.

Unsuccessful in ten race starts, the son of former Arrowfield stallion All American has turned out to be a winning hand for owner Jacqueline Ling. By the same sire as multiple Group 1-winning filly Yankee Rose, Blakjak Paperback was bred by Grant Briscoe out of Paperback (by King’s Best). Sent to the 2013 Inglis Classic Sale and bought for $65,000, he was trained by Michael Costa at New Breed Racing for a Blueblood Thoroughbreds syndicate.

However, life as a competitive racehorse just wasn’t Blakjak Paperback’s favourite game. Fortunately for him, both Blueblood Thoroughbreds and New Breed Racing are passionate about aftercare and life after racing. Michael Costa explains how Blakjak Paperback found a new home:

“The versatility of every horse is different and it is important to match a horse’s mannerisms and physical capabilities with the ambitions of the new off the track owner.

“In the case of Blakjak he was a big gentle giant. He was a lovely mover, just not very quick. He was a horse that just wanted to please and did not have a bad bone in his body.

“When Jacqueline got in contact I felt that they would be the perfect fit. She has given him a fantastic life after racing and a home I could only wish all of my off the track horses to have once they have retired.”

On the day of his last race, Jacqueline went to visit him. “I did some groundwork and handling, watched a jockey take him through his paces and then had a little bareback ride in the roll pit before hand-leading him through the back streets of Warwick Farm.

“To be honest, I didn’t really know what potential he had but I just had a connection with him. When he passed the vet check I knew he was mine for life.”

Now known as BJ, Blakjack Paperback has settled into his new life as a performance horse. BJ had had limited exposure to riding beyond the racetrack, so the transition was slow as Jacqueline endeavoured to ensure that he was feeling happy and comfortable, and to build a level of trust between the pair.

 At first, he was very wary of new people, so his transition program included exposure to new environments, and trail rides. Over time, Jacqueline continued to expand his skillset by educating him in dressage and jumping.

“He is so honest and has been so easy to train – probably the most trainable horse I’ve ever ridden. I’ve had lots of offers for him because of his attitude and his talent. When I teach him new things all he does is try, he never resists or gets upset. There is no amount of money in the world I would ever accept for him, he’s stuck with me for life!

“It was actually a smooth and easy process transitioning out of ‘race mode’ – he already knew how to stop and the gait change aids. I think this could be attributed to the way he had been trained.”

BJ’s easy transition highlights the pivotal role stud and stable staff play in developing the attitudes and skill sets of thoroughbreds. The skill and kindness of everyone who nurtures and educates young thoroughbreds on the farm, at the breaker’s and in the stable establishes a strong foundation for their whole lives, as racehorses and beyond. Moreover, under the experienced eye of Michael Costa, Blakjack Paperback progressed and matured to the gentle horse Jacqueline purchased in 2015.

Many experiences later, Jacqueline reflects on her favourite memory of riding BJ. “We were competing as novices in a dressage competition for the first time and he was foot perfect, on my every aid, the dreamiest, easiest ride, I hardly had to do anything! I had to pinch myself that this was my horse – and we took home the blue! Prior to that he’d always been quite tense and shy at competitions but that day it all just clicked for him.”

Jacqueline and BJ make the most of the ample competitions available to them, competing in the Sydney Show Jumping Club every fortnight and also in events organised by Northside Riding Club in both dressage and jumping.

Once a horse-obsessed little girl and now a successful rider and owner, Jacqueline is a passionate advocate for off the track thoroughbreds and sees great value in them as performance horses.

“They are worth their weight in gold. If you have the time and patience to really, truly build a bond with them and work to have them gain their trust in you, they are the most generous horses in the world.

“You can’t beat them for trainability and honesty. They are sensitive creatures and for me, this has only helped with training because they are so tuned to your every move and are always trying to understand what you want.

“I am still in touch with Michael and some of BJ’s syndicate owners on Facebook – they love seeing how he’s excelling in his new life!”

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