Village whip round buys retired racehorse for the stable boy who saved its life a decade ago

Villagers had a whip round to buy a retired racehorse for the stable boy who saved its life 10 years ago.

Ellerslie Tom was facing the knacker’s yard after deliberately throwing off top jockeys during races.

But stable boy Paul Sheldrake won the horse’s trust and it went on to win almost £100,000 at meetings across the country.

Paul was heartbroken when the owner moved “Tom” to another racing stable and it only won one more race before being retired five years ago.

He ended up being advertised on Facebook where eagle-eyed horse lover Kay Sinclair-James spotted the distinctive white blaze down his face.

Kay lives near Paul in Clarbeston, Pembrokeshire, and knew of the strong bond between the horse and his former stable boy.

She got in touch with other equestrians in the area and overnight they raised £500 to buy Tom as a gift for Paul who filled up with tears at seeing his beloved horse again.

Paul, 45, said: “He’s my favourite of all the horses I’ve looked after – I can’t thank everyone enough do to such a lovely thing for me.

“It is fantastic to have Tom back and I will look after him until the end of his days.”

Paul was working for racehorse trainer Peter Bowen in Pembrokeshire when he was asked to try and knock the four-year-old into shape.

Ellerslie Tom had just deliberately thrown off champion jockey Richard Johnson at Plumpton racecourse where he was the 2/1 favourite.

Paul said: “He was a gladiator of a horse but everyone thought he was a lunatic and people were scared of him.

“He had a terrible temper when he was handed over to me and I knew he’d be off to the knacker’s yard if I couldn’t do something with him.

“It took me a while but I found a way of befriending him and letting him know he was safe with me.

“I would talk to him all the time and he understood my language.

“Before long I loved him and he knew it. I can still remember waking up every morning and knowing it was going to be a good day because I would be riding Tom.”

The powerful hurdler went on to race at Cheltenham and Aintree winning a total of £97,372 in his career. In the summer of 2006 he romped home in four consecutive races and jockeys were queuing up to ride him.

But Paul’s relationship with the horse was shortlived – his owner moved him to another racing stable and he only won one more race before being retired in 2011.

Paul, who now has his own yard in Pembrokeshire, said: “I never forgot him, he was like a warrior for me. I couldn’t believe it when Kay rang me to say, ‘We’ve found Tom.’”

But Paul had just become a dad to baby Talitha and locals knew he was in no position to buy the horse.

But Kay, 55, and her friends came to the rescue.

She said: “When we told him he was up for sale he said he would have him back in a heart beat.

“That was all it took we had a whip round and raised the money in no time.

“It was a lovely moment when they were reunited for the first time – I have no doubt Ellerslie Tom remembered Paul from 10 years ago.

“Paul was close to tears and just said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got my mate back.’”

Tom was lame from a fractured pelvis and had lost his sparkle but is making good progress at Paul’s stables where he will spend the rest of his days.