“Angels can fill our hearts with love”
“Earth Angels come to help, encourage and support us.”
Angels are our constant companions. Many people have encountered Angels, whether it is a spiritual experience of actually seeing an Angel with wings, or an Angel appearing to you in a dream, or a kind, helpful stranger who appears out of nowhere to offer assistance just at the moment when you need it the most. These experiences fill our lives with wonder, hope and enchantment. Angels may also come into our lives as our pets or animal companions. This touching story shows the deep connection between people and their animals, and how Angels come into our lives in many forms.
Persian Punch the Peoples ChampionMy experience has taught me that Angels do not just come in human form, nor do they always have wings which we can see. I grew up in California but always wanted to live in England. I moved here when I was 24. One of the interests I had was in the Thoroughbred and my Father passed to me a great affinity for all horses. The courage of racehorses touched me deeply and I felt privileged to be in England, the origin of racing and the thoroughbred. Racing became a part of my life and I owned shares in racehorses and studied breeding. Racehorses brought many of us together and we forged friendships that will remain unbroken down the years. From all walks of life there was a small core of us who shared horses we liked, stories, wins and losses. Steve Parrott from York, Carol and Alan Morrison from London, Catrin Nack and John James Clark from Germany, Michele and Sarah from Ireland. One of the racehorses who we had the pleasure to encounter was a huge chestnut gelding named Persian Punch. Punch was what is known as a stayer, he contested gruelling long distance races and he liked to lead from start to finish, usually getting headed near the finish and fighting back. Punch was placed in but never won a Group 1 race so he could not be known as a champion but he was ‘the people’s champion’ and prized above champions who disappear off to stud at early ages due to their monetary value. To all of us Persian Punch was priceless. He became known as the most popular racehorse in Europe and despite having horses of our own we ran a fan club for him and a website. (www.persianpunch.co.uk) He was a gentleman on and off the track, but in 7 photo finishes he never lost once. His motto was, ‘they shall not pass’ and when they came at him he would look them in eye and go on. In all he ran 63 times winning 20 and over one million pounds in prize money. Punch had the heart of a lion and he always gave his best in every race. He was more than a horse to us, he was our hero in a time when we badly needed them, and he was a friend. His owners and trainer shared him willingly with the public and his last victory, at the age of 10, over much younger rivals, saw scenes of jubilation not seen on a British racecourse since racing s golden age, decades before. He frequently made the covers of the racing press, headlines proclaimed him as, the bravest of them all . He owed us nothing but we all hoped he would stay in training one more year and so it was that he made a seasonal debut at the age of 11 on a rainy April day in 2004. As usual he led the field but something was amiss and he wavered, his jockey pulled him up and dismounted as the gentle giant fell to the ground of a suspected heart attack in front of his adoring fans and connections. The papers said that on that day a racehorse, and a little bit of racing had died on that turf. He had literally run his heart out for us. All of us who knew him, and many who did not were grief stricken at the loss of our friend. On the day he died his website received over 150 emails thanking him for all he gave to racing, mourning him and asking what we could do to ensure that he was not forgotten. Geldings do not feature large in memorials of racehorses. Stallions and broodmares are remembered, geldings are forgotten as they cannot contribute to the breed, or to the vast sums of money that is generated by the breeding industry. But Punch was not about money at all, he represented racing at it’s best, he made us all better racegoers because he tried so hard that we willed him to win and celebrated him loudly forgetting our inhibitions. People who had not backed him cheered him home. His love of life and joy in racing was simply irresistible. We were all so much richer for having known him. Persian Punch was fearless. In life he never asked anything of us, he was perfectly behaved and loved all of the attention given to him. He never shirked a battle, he was a warrior and he died on the battlefield. Our hearts were broken at his sacrifice and loss and the idea that he would never get the recognition he deserved, history would forget him. In death it seems that he asked one thing to be remembered. Reading the emails I was so distraught that I had to take a walk to clear my thoughts. I really wanted to help his fans, to put all of this grief to some use. And above all I wanted very badly that Persian Punch was remembered. The fan club founders had discussed the idea of a memorial for him and feared it would be impossible to obtain, but we agreed in our hearts that it was what was right and that we would not give up trying to find a solution. It was still cloudy but almost at once light broke through a small patch in the distance and there were white clouds against a heavenly azure sky. Without trying I could make out the outline of a giant war horse thundering across the sky with a field behind him. It was Punch. I knew it was him, but I could also feel his presence with me wanting to ease my sorrow and give me hope and courage. In that instant I knew that what he wanted was a memorial and that we had to ask for a lifesize bronze of him at Newmarket Racecourse which is the headquarters of British racing and breeding and known as the Home of Champions. The odds were greatly stacked against us being able to get him a statue there but as we shared the idea everyone agreed that it must be done. People we had never known reached out to us and we united in this cause. We met with obstacles but I never once doubted that it would happen and that Punch would have a memorial at that course. I sent an email to the course telling them our idea and shared some of the emails from the fans with them. Despite it being such an odd request the course were eager to help us as they had been the place of his last victory and more wins than at any other course and they too were devastated by his death. By October of that year, 6 months after his death, the Persian Punch Memorial Fund was launched, and by October the following year a lifesize bronze of Persian Punch was unveiled at an emotional meeting 2 years after his last victory. Fans now make pilgrimages to pay their respects to this horse who gave us so much, and who represents all of those who take part. New racegoers see his magnificent bronze and wonder who this great horse was and are inspired to learn the history of horseracing and to appreciate the racehorses who live for our pleasure. He will be remembered long after we are gone. The love which fans and connections felt for this horse and the faith that Newmarket Racecourse and everyone had in us are what made this possible. The statue was funded partly by contributions from fans and with the help of his owners. But without the image of a horse appearing to me in a clearing of the clouds I would never have had the inspiration to undertake such a huge task. When the statue was unveiled it was just as I had seen him on that day, stretched out in battle, reaching forward for that eternal victory. The air was heavy with the presence of Persian Punch at the unveiling and we are all sure that he was there with us to see his memorial completed. In accomplishing this the grief of his fans and the great loss of his owners began to heal. We knew that this was what he had wanted and why he had contacted us to ask us to do this one thing for him. Persian Punch will never be just a horse to us, in life he taught us never to give up and in death he made us really believe. Our lives were brightened by his presence and continue to be so. We will never stop missing him but we like to think that he has simply gone on ahead. He did like to lead in his races. We used this poem on his website to remember him with. A Comrade Rides Ahead ~By Douglas Malloch Time brings us change and leaves us fretting; We weep when every comrade goes — Perhaps too much, perhaps forgetting That ever yonder there are those To whom he comes and whom he knows. I would not hold our loss too lightly; God knows, and he, how deep the pain; But, friends, I see still shining brightly The brightest link in all our chain That links us to a new domain. For this I swear, because believing: Time breaks no circle such as this. However hurt, however grieving, However much a friend we miss, Between the worlds is no abyss. For friendship binds the worlds together — World over there, world over here. From earth to heaven is the tether That brings the earth and heaven near And makes them both a bit more dear. Not weaker now our chain, but stronger; In all our loss and all our ill We now shall look a little longer At every star above the hill And think of him, and have him still. Whatever vales we yet may wander, What sorrow, what tempest blow, We have a friend, a friend out yonder To greet us when we have to go — Out yonder, someone that we know. To all eternity he binds us; He links this planet with the star; He rides ahead, the trail he finds us, And where he is and where we are Will never seem again so far. This beautiful and heart touching story was written by Lee Ann Day and used with permission. Pleas take the time to visit Persian Punches’ website at www.persianpunch.co.uk Do you have an Angel story you would like to share with us?