Natasha works her Magic with Rocky

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Legendary racehorse Rock Magic has quite a few quirks but his strapper Natasha Barbarich understands and loves all of them.

The champion, trained by Chris and Michael Gangemi, ran his last race in the Winterbottom Stakes on 27 November 2021.

At the age of 12, he moves on from his first career of 16 wins for $1.7 million in prizemoney to his second at Tash’s home.

She’s planning to look after Rocky for the rest of his life and add a new mural to her water tank, alongside the one painted of his paddock-mate Barzinho.

“I’ve done most of the handling with Rocky for a while now because I know his quirks and I said I’d take him when he retired from the track and keep him,” Tash said.

“I’ve rehomed about seven horses from the Gangemis but I keep the difficult ones – like the ones who don’t get along with other horses, are moody or won’t be caught.

“Rocky can spend a few months just chilling out then we’ll start going on trail rides in the national park by my house and take some trips to the beach.”

The soundtrack of his life will switch from the Rocky theme tune Eye of the Tiger pumping out on race days to the gentle rumble of wheelie bins at his new home in the Perth hills.

Tash adapted to a similar change when she joined the racing world about five years ago following a varied career including jobs in accounts, as a flight attendant and running a retail business.

“I had a bad divorce and couldn’t cope with going to work in a real job for a while, so I went to Chris and Michael and started in the yard,” she said.

“I was doing the dirtiest, most basic jobs and it was my dream, working with horses and not having to deal with anyone.”

Having had horses since she was a child, Tash soon took on more responsibilities and eventually started retraining and rehoming some of the racehorses moving on to retirement.

“The Gangemis pay for food for a couple of months and I take the horses out for bush rides, do some in-hand work and give them to new homes,” she said.

“My passion is to make sure they go to good homes and are loved. We stay in contact and I still get photos of what they’re doing.

“A girl who goes to school with my daughter was looking for a horse recently but her parents didn’t think a thoroughbred would be suitable. I said: ‘You have to find the right horse’.

“I got a horse called League of Nations and said she could come and feed him every night, groom and spend time with him and see what she thought.

“Within four days he was whinnying to her when she opened the gate and now he lives two doors down.”

At home, when Tash leaves the gates open, the horses wander up to the house looking for carrots and joining her for tea on the verandah.

“I’ll work from 4am to 7pm on a big race day and when I get home I’ll still have a smile on my face and go out to make sure my horses have their rugs on and give them a hug.

“You don’t do this for the money, you do it for the love. It’s not a normal life.”