Make A Stand, or Stan as he’s known to his friends, foaled March 21st 1991 in Great Britain. His sire, Master Willie was a runner up in the Derby in 1980. He won the Coronation Cup and Eclipse Stakes the following year before being retired to stud. In the footsteps of his sire, Stan raced for 3 seasons on the flat, trained by Henry Candy. But it’ll be his career of a hurdler that will cement his mark in the history books.
In September 1995 Stan joined Martin Pipe’s stable. His first race over hurdles that season saw him place 6th at Newmarket. Clearly something was seen, despite finishing unplaced, he set off at the 15/8 second favourite at Exeter. He faded out 2 furlongs from the end to finish 9th in a Novice hurdle that October. That was the end of his season for that year.
The following season (96/97) he was raced 15 times over 10 months, winning 10 of those races, starting at Newton Abbot in May. He began with a hat-trick of wins in 24 days, typically leading those races from the front, which is inevitably where he stayed!
That summer (1996) as a 5 year old, he raced on the flat again, clocking up a win and two placings over his 4 starts. The jumps season started again that Autumn and Make A Stand certainly left a mark on where he left off with a victory at Stratford, heading out as the 5/4 favourite. Two disappointing runs followed that November.
He soon picked back up again after claiming a win against a strong field in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Sandown. Just two weeks later he won the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle over 2 ½ miles at Ascot by 5 lengths, again heading out as the favourite under AP McCoy.
In January, Make A Stand won, unchallenged, in the Lanzarote Hurdle, once again under Champion Jockey AP McCoy. AP claimed his first Champion Jockey title the previous year (1995/1996) and went on to hold that title for 20 consecutive years until his retirement in 2015.
His weight continued to rise as he improved, but this didn’t seem to be slowing him down as Stan went on to win the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury under 159 pounds. He “obliterated” the opposition to finish 9 lengths clear. With one month to go until the Cheltenham Festival, would his winning streak continue for him to take his first Grade 1 win?
Arguably his most iconic win was still to come – the 1997 Champion Hurdle on March 11th at the Cheltenham Festival. The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the jumps season; the best hurdlers from Britain and Ireland were no match for Make A Stand as he set off 7-1 to once again lead from the front. Large Action, the favourite heading out on to the track was pulled up lame after the second fence. Make A Stand continued to be at the front of the field. As they pulled past the stands and climbed up the hill, his lead began to shorten. However he continued to effortlessly skip over the hurdles creating a commanding lead. Clear over the last and victory in sight, finishing 5 lengths clear of Theatreworld in second place. AP saluted the crowd and punched the air as Collier Bay, the previous winner trotted in behind after pulling up before the end.
After that incredible season it was thought that Stan would go on to have a long career as a top hurdler – setting out as the 7/4 favourite at Aintree the following month (April) he defeated – a third place in the Aintree Hurdle. He finished up lame after the race, injury then disrupted his career.
After a 3 year break, 1074 days, he was set to race in the 2000 Champion Hurdle. He took an early lead out as he typically did but he seemed to tail off well before the finish. The race was won that year by the mighty Istabraq. In 2001 trainer Martin Pipe announced Make A Stand would retire from racing: “He looks wonderful, he just seems to have lost his enthusiasm.”
The great chestnut horse, with his striking white blaze was then given a second career as a hunter and team chasing. He did a bit of showjumping too at a local level and won a lot as he was so fast – he was so careful and never touched a pole and turned his hoof to a bit of showing too! A horse of many talents he was often used as the lead horse for the point-to-point horses in training and for the young race horses. But maybe, most importantly he had the job of looking after his owners’ grandchildren who adored him he’d stand to be groomed for hours and has given countless rides around to the field!
He will be remembered for being a versatile horse, a gentleman with an utterly charming but cheeky side to him. Even at his age, he likes to teach everyone on his toe! The girls who cared for him said he was always an exciting ride, who took everything in his stride – he kept that passion and fire in his belly from his racing days and was always the leader, wherever he went. He never said no to jumping or going fast! Bold as brass and a total pocket rocket. He also has a little trick – if you ask him if he wants a polo, he’ll paw the ground as if to say “yes!”
“He would always give you the best ride whatever you were asking of him. He truly is one in a million. There could never be another Stan. He is loved by all of us who have cared for him since his retirement. In our eyes he is irreplaceable. A truly fine example of success after racing. Everyone who meets Stan falls in love with him. He is the gentlest of souls and is an utter delight to be around.” It was clear to see when I spoke to Sam who gets to look after Stan, that he’s utterly adored and treated like the legend that he is!
In 2010, Stan returned to the home of jumps racing, Cheltenham, to parade in front of the crowd with many other former champions. Not only was he a versatile horse, with wins both over hurdles and on the flat, he has lived a long and happy retirement. Now 29, he will live out his days in the Berkshire countryside – a fantastic age for any horse, never mind a horse that had such a career as his – a testament to his owners and all that have looked after him.
1996 William Hill Handicap Hurdle, Kennel Gate Novices Hurdle
1997: Lanzarote Hurdle, Tote Gold Trophy, Champion Hurdle