August-September 2017

As the yearling sales approach I have to admit to getting those similar dreadful feelings of apprehension that I got as I packed my bags to head back to boarding school in days gone by!  Working a sale takes a lot of energy especially when John Warren is your leader so the next three to four weeks will be a relentless quest to find the next Highclere stars as we look at around 1,500 yearlings over that period. I am always staggered that I seem to put on pounds rather than lose weight during the sales season. A mighty full English breakfast followed by constant nibbles before lunch with various consignors known for their food as much as their yearlings could of course have something to do with it! 

Joking apart though what makes John so good at what he does is his remarkable attention to detail looking at all these horses before he even considers bidding. Many he…

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Joking apart though what makes John so good at what he does is his remarkable attention to detail looking at all these horses before he even considers bidding. Many he goes off just before they enter the sales arena with a shake of the head followed by a "no, not good enough"! And so we move on to the next one, which is a "must have" that inevitably sells for more than we can afford! By the time we get to the yearling parades at Highclere those weeks at the sales have gone by in the blink of an eye. When the horses are paraded at the Stud at Highclere on that first morning John, Jake and I are incredibly nervous but as the last horse goes back into his or her box we inevitably look at one another and I will say "corkers Johnny - corkers galore!!"

Ian Dimmer with Mam'selle following her very brave third in a £100,000 at Ascot last Saturday

I am so pleased that the winners have continued to flow and that we are still enjoying an excellent winner to runner strike rate of 23% percent. There is a huge amount of excitement still to come as yet more two year olds make their debuts and looking at the older horses we have plenty of ammunition lurking to have a chance of breaking our record number of wins in a season, which stands at 42. 

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

This month has been all about the two-year-olds with three individual juvenile winners coming out of the woodwork, as they so often do at this time of year. The most impressive was undoubtedly Showroom (Motivator), who recorded a no-nonsense five-length victory in a valuable sire-restricted maiden at Goodwood last week. He is a scopey sort that will be seen at this best next year, so it was highly encouraging to see him fly out of the stalls and take control of the race from the outset. His trainer Mark Johnston has made entries in the Royal Lodge Stakes (Gr 2) and Racing Post Trophy (Gr 1), so at this stage his owners are dreaming big and we hope he can confirm his ability next time out. 

Another two-year-old to make a winning racecourse debut was Luminate (Lawman) who delighted her trainer Freddy Head by getting up on the line to win a mile maiden at Deauville…

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Another two-year-old to make a winning racecourse debut was Luminate (Lawman) who delighted her trainer Freddy Head by getting up on the line to win a mile maiden at Deauville in August. She has been incredibly straightforward from the start allowing Freddy to identify a starting date three months in advance and sticking to it, a rare feat for a trainer! This filly has rather large hooves to fill having to follow Chartreuse, our last horse with Freddy, who achieved black type and sold for a 825,000 Guineas at the Breeding Stock Sale last December, but so far Luminate is singing from the same hymn sheet and all being well may target a stakes race on her next outing.

Luminate in full stretch at Deauville where she won on debut

The third two-year-old to break her maiden was Elation (Invincible Spirit) who was a more recent purchase at the Craven Breeze Up Sale in April. She made a really promisingly debut at Newbury in July where she came from a mile back to finish fifth to a decent filly Mayyasah and followed that run up with a win at Ripon over six furlongs. She had to do it the hard way that day from a bad draw and was caught wide with no cover the whole way, but her ability got her there in the end. Roger Varian has always liked her and even though she came through the breeze ups, she has a sweet temperament and is quite relaxed, so a step up to seven furlongs may be on the cards next time.

The Lord Byron Syndicate has had a fruitful month with both horses in the syndicate losing their maiden tag. Precision led the way with a win in a mile and six furlong handicap at Sandown justifying favouritisim under Andrea Atzeni. He then ran a commendable race when upped in class next time, but having raced very wide he wasn’t quite able to finish his race, eventually finishing fourth, beaten two lengths. Ludorum, who is the other half of the Lord Byron Syndicate, then sprung a bit of a surprise to get the better of an odds-on shot at Ripon. He was only having his third start and given his size and scope, he can only get better with time.

Mam'selle winning at Newbury under Carol Bartley

Archetype winning at Sandown for the second time this season under Oisin Murphy

Having given the two-year-olds the limelight I must now give their elders some credit because Mam’selle and Archetype both recorded their third victory of the campaign in recent weeks. With a record of three wins from four starts Mam’selle was then thrown in at the deep end by William Haggas to line up in a £100,000 handicap at Ascot on Saturday. After a being outpaced and bumped around early, she finished with a flourish to claim third position and remains very much on the upgrade after only five starts.  Archetype is another that is climbing up the handicap and after a convincing win at Sandown on his most recent start he has been hiked up to 96. This horse wears his heart on his sleeve, but his exuberance has been brilliantly channelled be his trainer Simon Crisford, whose decision to drop him back to a mile turned out to be a very smart move.

It has been a month to remember for Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing who have cheered home three winners, including one over hurdles! The syndicate flag bearer and yard favourite is five-year-old entire Johnny Barnes, who came up trumps in a valuable handicap at Goodwood, two years since his last victory. He had run two very good races previous to his run at Goodwood, but as we know in these big field sprint handicaps, unless you get the gaps and the race goes to plan, winning is incredibly difficult. Thankfully Johnny had a dream run up the rail under Robert Tart, storming to a length victory over Burnt Sugar, who subsequently won a valuable Premier Handicap in Ireland. 

Johnny Barnes kicking clear under Robert Tart to win a valuable handicap at Goodwood

Great Sound taking control of the race under Frankie Dettori

The other half of the syndicate is made up by Horseshoe Bay, who finished fourth in the Bahrain Trophy (Gr 3) during his flat career with Sir Michael Stoute and after nearly 800 days off the track made a winning debut over hurdles for Dan Skelton at Worcester. His jumping was a little novicey as was to be expected, but his class and ability shone through to get him home in front under a very gentle ride from Harry Skelton. Bermuda’s third winner of the month came at Newbury where Frankie Dettori rode Great Sound to a comfortable victory in a mile and six-furlong handicap. He was raised to 92 for that performance, becoming the fourth horse from six to have achieved that rating or higher for Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing, which is a significant statistic for such a young syndicate.

Horseshoe Bay jumping into the lead over the last at Worcester

Syndicate In Focus

Roger Charlton

This month’s ‘Syndicate In Focus’ is the Waddesdon, which is a one-horse syndicate with Roger Charlton. Roger enjoyed a weekend to remember in Ireland where his flag bearer Decorated Knight caused a big upset in the Irish Champion Stakes, coming from last to first to claim victory under a superb ride from Andrea Atzeni. This five-year-old son of Galileo was recording his third success at the highest level having been on the go since February. Roger’s two sons Harry and Tom both now work for the family business and together form a brilliant team. John Warren will be buying a horse for 100,000 Guineas for this twenty-share syndicate at a cost of £10,500 + VAT per share. 

Decorated Knight hits the front in the Irish Champion Stakes (Gr 1)

Out and about with the Highclere camera

This month's gallery includes photographs from Highclere's annual visit to Greatwood, a charity that re-homes ex-racehorses and also uses ex-racehorses to educate disadvantaged children and young adults with special educational needs.

A Spring In Our Step Down Under

Arguably, the most exciting time of year in Australia is upon us! The lead up to the Melbourne Spring Carnival over the coming months will showcase the best horse flesh in the country, headlined by the world’s highest rated horse, Winx. The darling of Australian racing has come back in tremendous form at her two starts so far, grabbing victory in the final strides of both to boost her winning record to nineteen straight and prize money excess of $13.1 million. While Winx will be looking for her third straight Cox Plate victory this year, she will have to contest with not only this year’s upcoming crop of three-year-olds, but also the contingent of overseas imports who are looking to dismantle the world’s best racehorse over the coming months as racing really begins to heat up Down Under.

This Month's Runners 

Highclere Australia’s runners are also starting to come to boil, and we were delighted to see the return of Libran to the racecourse at Randwick at his…

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This Month's Runners 

Highclere Australia’s runners are also starting to come to boil, and we were delighted to see the return of Libran to the racecourse at Randwick at his first time out since a disappointing Autumn thanks to the deluge of rain that Sydney experience during March and April. Firmer footing brought about a highly encouraging return to form for our Group 2 winner, one that his trainer Chris Waller was “wrapt” with when finishing sixth to stablemate Winx over the mile trip. We are hoping to see Libran back to his best once up to his preferred mile and a half trip in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap on the 30th September.

Another who has returned to form, is our most recent import Foundation who was unlucky not to have won at his most recent attempt at Moonee Valley in which his trainer David Hayes said he “should have won by two lengths” with luck in running. With any luck next time out, we’re hopeful of Foundation getting back to the winner’s circle in the Group 3 JRA Cup back at Moonee Valley on the 29th September.  

Not to be outdone in the black-type stakes by the older duo, Pageantry will line up at Listed level against her own age and sex on Saturday 16th in the Cap D’Antibes Stakes at Flemington for her share owners in the hope of earning further black-type to her pedigree after a promising two-year-old season. Anthony Freedman has been delighted with this daughter of I Am Invincible and expects her to provide her share owners with plenty of enjoyment during her three-year-old season.

Foundation is finding his form under the care of David & Ben Hayes, and Tom Dabernig. He will aim towards the Group 3 JRA Cup at Moonee Valley on the 29th September.


Regal Monarch and Knighthood round out the complement of Highclere runners, with the former progressing in good fashion and will be ready to fire once over a staying trip come October, while Knighthood has been off the seen for nine months with his share of problems but enjoying the beach life at Terry Robinson’s and will be ready to reward share owner patience when he hits the track, hopefully September 23rd.

Highclere Australia runners over the next month:

  • Libran - 16th September – G3 Kingston Town Stakes, Randwick, and 30th September – G1 Metropolitan Handicap, Randwick
  • Foundation - 29th September – G3 JRA Cup, Moonee Valley
  • Pageantry - 16th September – Listed Cap D’Antibes Stakes, Flemington
  • Regal Monarch - 2nd October – Benchmark 80, Warwick Farm
  • Knighthood - 23rd September – Class 1 Handicap, Kembla Grange 

Flying Fillies

Another highlight of this time of year are the emergence of the two-year-olds who are beginning to finalise preparations for their debuts. This is equalling as an exciting time as it is nervous one for many share owners and, for both of Highclere's fillies purchased at the Magic Millions, this is shaping up to be a highly anticipated time as they head to the first official two-year-old trials this month. The Smart Missile ex Miss Vandal filly, for the Highclere Ladies Syndicate, has been delighting her co-trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and will line up on Monday in her first official barrier trial at Canterbury Park. Speedy Kitty (Exceed And Excel ex Ashley's Kitty) is also aiming at her debut trial in the coming month, and showing all the right signs at this very early stage.  

Where are they now?

As we are all too aware the careers of racehorses can be short and in many cases they are fit to do another job after racing. At Highclere we always take the utmost care when it comes to moving our horses on, whether it be through the sale ring or finding them a home.  In this month’s newsletter we bring you news on two jumpers who both had short careers under rules and are now excelling in a different sphere. 

The Last Euro or ‘Yoyo’ as he is referred to by those who know him had four starts for Emma Lavelle, one of which was behind Minella Rocco who finished…

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The Last Euro or ‘Yoyo’ as he is referred to by those who know him had four starts for Emma Lavelle, one of which was behind Minella Rocco who finished second in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. We certainly had high hopes for him as he worked very well at home, but sadly he was unable to translate his homework onto the racecourse. He was taken on by one of the owners in the syndicate to send eventing with Kitty King and over the course of two seasons has won four events and reached Novice level. 

One More Hero

One More Hero is a horse that was retired from racing more recently having had only one start for trainer Paul Nicholls. He is a grand big horse by Milan, but unfortunately his wind deteriorated severely enough that we decided to do the kindest thing and find him a suitable home. He was sent to Stephanie Thomas in Wales, who has taken a few Highclere horses over the years, and after a break out in the field he has now been successfully rehomed to have a career as a showjumper. He is competing at British Novice level and only had one pole down in his first competition. 

Share owner Julian Lowes in Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

Who was it who said, “Take care what you dream about because you might just get it”?

As a coastal yachtsman of many years Julian Lowes, husband of Maureen - a member of our Edward Bevan syndicate, has wanted to take part in the biannual ‘Clipper Round the World Yacht Race’; a yacht race like no other!

With the prospect of a retired husband grumping away about getting older and having unfulfilled dreams and challenges, Maureen contacted the Clipper organisation to give him just what he wanted.…

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Julian Lowes

With the prospect of a retired husband grumping away about getting older and having unfulfilled dreams and challenges, Maureen contacted the Clipper organisation to give him just what he wanted. Having accepted the challenge, been accepted on the race, passed through four weeks of ocean race training at sea and two safety and survival courses on shore, Julian is ready to go on yacht ‘Qingdao’!

While the race started on 20th August from Liverpool, Julian is due to join for the second half which will see him sail from Eastern Australian in mid-January 2018, cover 21,000 Nautical miles during nearly 6 months at sea, and all being well arrive back in Liverpool at the end of July 2018.

The yacht - Qingdao

As well as wishing him God Speed, fair weather and a following wind we thought it would be nice to share Julian’s involvement with our Highclere family and let everyone know that he also hopes to raise money for six very deserving charities – British Heart Foundation, Essex Air Ambulance, The Trussell Trust, Unicef, MS Society and East Anglian Sailing Trust. If any of our readers would consider supporting Julian’s fundraising efforts or would like to learn more, his donation page can be found at

You can follow the yachts’ progress, including Julian’s yacht ‘Qingdao’ (which at the time of writing has been in the lead for about 10 days as they head to Punta del Este, Uruguay) use this live link

Five to Follow

As the Five to Follow competition reaches it’s final hurdle we wanted to remind everyone about the wonderful prizes that have been kindly donated by Oxford Private Travel and their exquisite hotel partners.

Oxford Private Travel is an industry-leading luxury travel specialist. They place a great importance on personal knowledge of the properties that they feature, and know the best suppliers for luxury…

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Oxford Private Travel is an industry-leading luxury travel specialist. They place a great importance on personal knowledge of the properties that they feature, and know the best suppliers for luxury travel experiences all over the world, so when you speak to one of their team you will be speaking to a travel expert with extensive, accurate and in-depth knowledge. They are members of Virtuoso, an invitation-only luxury travel network, made up of the best leisure travel agencies in the world. For you this means complimentary room upgrades, airport transfers, special dining experiences and custom itineraries when booking through Oxford Private Travel. Whether you are a lucky winner of one of the wonderful prizes below or whether you are looking to arrange your next travel experience we recommend contacting their wonderful team on 01993 899 430 or

The Anam - Lagoon Pool

First prize for this years' competition is a five night stay at the beautiful 5 star colonial beach resort of The Anam, Vietnam. A simply philosophy is echoed here 'No Shoes. No News. No Stress' - a wonderful place to relax and unwind. The prize is for two people in a sea view pool villa including breakfast, airport transfer and 1 x 60 minute treatment for two people.

Second prize is a three night stay for two people at the truly elegant The Vasilicos,  on the island of Santorini, Greece, in one of their incredible Honeymoon Suites. Perched high on the Caldera cliff, in the exclusive yet central area of the Agios Nicolaos Monastery, the hotel consists of a constellation of cave-like structures typical of Santorini architecture that have been transformed into 8 stunning suites with exceptional Caldera views.  All honeymoon suites have either a private outdoor Jacuzzi or heated plunge pool.  The prize also includes breakfast and a private dining experience.

The Vasilicos, Santorini

The current standings for the competition are shown in the table below.

Rolf's Ramblings

It’s not that my wife is anti-racing (far from it) and neither is she antagonistic to my over indulgence in the game (well not that much). But my neglect of family obligations (births and deaths) helps make her more aware than most travellers on the Clapham omnibus that all is not right with racing.

The 888 online betting company, hammered for over £7m by the Gambling Commission for inducing vulnerable punters to go skint, doesn’t have notorious FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) – the…

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The 888 online betting company, hammered for over £7m by the Gambling Commission for inducing vulnerable punters to go skint, doesn’t have notorious FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) – the crack cocaine of gambling - to put out to grass. But the machines are racing’s bête noires and at the same time the reason for bookmakers to keep betting shops open: racing’s income from media rights for pictures to the shops would be decimated were a cap to be placed on the amount FOBT addicts can lose in them: the punter population would decline faster than endangered species in disappearing jungles.

The self-righteous media have sucked the topic with the relish of a Wertheimer’s Original addict.

With regard to my ‘addiction’ my wife, a one-woman Gaming Commission, strives to ensure our holiday trips do not coincide with race meetings. In Barbados we missed Garrison Savannah’s Cockspur Cup by a day; a Melbourne Cup by five. She had the double up last month in California arranging our landing after the world number one Arrogate’s defeat in the Pacific Classic and departure before the Group One Debutante Stakes victory of Moonshine Memories - and we stayed a bare mile up the road from the Del Mar track! Worse, she hasn’t booked a return with less than a couple of months to go to the Breeders’ Cup meeting at the California course where the turf meets the surf. We saw more surf than turf. (We didn’t see the eclipse – the first in the States for 99 years: “Well, you see one every year at Sandown,” she derided. Her biggest ‘result’ caused me to miss my first St Leger, Moonlight Madness’s, she’d organized a wedding – ours).

Del Mar is hosting the Breeders' Cup in 2017

The West Coast of America never had a racing laureate to rival one of my favourite writers - Damon Runyon – though Del Mar always entertained a host of Hollywood’s stars led by Bing Crosby after whom the November meeting which includes the Breeders’ Cup is named. He opened the gates in 1937.

Runyon’s portrayals of Manhattan low life found immortality in Guys and Dolls with its strong racing dialogue. “It seems that one spring day, a character by the name of Nicely-Nicely Jones arrives in a ward in a hospital in the City of Newark, N.J., with such a severe case of pneumonia that the attending physician, who is a horse player at heart, and very absentminded, writes 100, 40 and 10 on the chart over Nicely-Nicely’s bed. What the physician means is that it is 100 to 1 Nicely-Nicely does not recover at all, 40 to 1 that he will not last a week, and 10 to 1 that if he does get well he will never be the same again. Well, Nicely-Nicely is greatly discouraged, he’s a chalk eater who always plays the short-priced favorites; he does not even feel like taking a little of the price against him to show.” (Show - to be placed).

Similar sentiments were recorded by my oncologist who put my chances of survival as “sixty six per cent”. I appealed: “Aw go on, a bit of 7-4 please?” The Gaming Commission would have applauded her stiff reply: “I have no idea what you are talking about.” She didn’t look like a Runyon aficionado so I didn’t bandy the sentiments of another of his characters, Sam the Gonoph’s, “I long ago come to the conclusion that all life is 6 to 5 against.” Equally famous: “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet” - lifted, almost, straight out of Ecclesiastes.

Damon Runyon

The church in the shape of the Bishop of St Albans is leading protests aimed at stimulating the Gambling Commission, via the dilly-dallying Chancellor of the Exchequer, to “protect vulnerable customers” from the excesses of the ‘one arm bandits’ responsible for the high-rise numbers of gambling addicts. The Bishop and his flock are up in arms (both). And now Davy Russell’s right hook to the head of a recalcitrant horse at the start of a race at Tramore in Ireland last month is another kick in the teeth for racing, especially when Russell looked likely to get off scot-free. Four-days will not be condign to racing’s detractors.

What Russell was thinking of taking a swing at Kings Dolly falls into the same mysterious category as Erica Roe racing topless (on a freezing day) across Twickenham; Leicester City F C sacking their saviour/talisman manager Claudio Ranieri; or the wit of the policeman who felt the need to tell the mime artist he had right to remain silent? (I’m sure you’ve got better ones). Nobody anthropomorphized animals more sympathetically than Rudyard Kipling but he recognised the realities of the relationship – especially with horses:
“Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel,
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel the lash that falls, and the curb that galls, and the sting of the rowelled steel.”

Davy Russell is pictured hitting his mount in the back of the head

Sanctimony took a grip of the Russell saga. It had the editor of racing’s trade paper, the Post, and a leading national newspaper correspondent, foaming at the mouth. The latter, under the heading “Racing has shamed itself”, invoked philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s Principles of Morals and Legislation when rehashing the philosopher’s ‘T-shirt slogan’- “The question is not whether animals can talk or reason but whether they suffer?” to support his contention that racing’s dirty name had been further sullied by Russell’s punch. I respect the 19th century philosopher – but he did call his walking sticks Dobbin and Dapple and slept with his pet pig.

So racing is being attacked on all fronts – scrap the ‘bandits’ and racing’s revenue (to say nothing of the Exchequer’s) will plummet: by failing to exercise extreme punishment on Russell all horse people are all reckoned to be heartless exploiters of a dumb animal. What next? Racing to blame for Brexit, Donald Trump and North Korean missile tests? Worst of all, the wife wants Vietnam as next year’s holiday destination – during Royal Ascot!

Taittinger Moment

This month’s Taittinger Moment has been awarded to Hannah Ashcroft who works for Brian O’Rourke at Old Manor Stables in Lambourn. Over the years we can’t help but notice the love and attention Hannah gives to every horse she cares for. The horses that go to Brian’s after a long season always seem to turn around remarkably quickly and it is thanks to Hannah and Brian’s terrific horsemanship and dedication. Hannah’s favourite horse of Highclere’s is without doubt Contrast (pictured) who she dotes over. On a recent visit to the yard Kathie Phillips and Barrie Gledden very kindly gave her a photo book of her with the horse, but we thought a bottle of champagne wouldn’t go amiss as well!

Hannah with Contrast at Brian O'Rourke's yard in Lambourn

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