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December 2020

Talking to the Highclere shareowner family throughout this very difficult year all of us in the office have been incredibly uplifted by your good spirits. As Alex poured a Christmas glass of Taittinger champagne for the team in the office last week we all agreed that, despite really challenging times, you, our share owners, were determined to enjoy your racing despite not being able to go to see your horse or suffering the nightmare of being balloted out due to the lack of owners being admitted to racecourses. 

We can’t thank you enough for your patience throughout this time and here’s hoping that in 2021 things will begin to get back to normal as the vaccine is rolled…

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We can’t thank you enough for your patience throughout this time and here’s hoping that in 2021 things will begin to get back to normal as the vaccine is rolled out across the country.

We have a cracking group of yearlings to go to war with next year and nearly all of them are now with their respective trainers. It’s a time of great optimism as dreams begin again of what might lie ahead!

Again, thank you so much for your support and may I take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very happy and safe Christmas with winners galore in 2021!
 

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

By Frances Howard 

We have had a relatively quiet month for what is usually a busy one in the NH world, but from just the five runners we have enjoyed two very exciting…

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We have had a relatively quiet month for what is usually a busy one in the NH world, but from just the five runners we have enjoyed two very exciting victories and one very near miss! The near miss came in the form of the Nicky Henderson trained Hijack, who got going all too late on typically testing ground at Haydock and was beaten just 3/4 lengths. However, it was a good performance and he will no doubt be making amends very soon stepped up in trip.

It was only two days later that our fortunes changed, as Orbys Legend provided our first winner of the season in a hot novice hurdle at Exeter. On what was his first attempt over sticks, he jumped and travelled like a true professional and battled hard at the business end to beat the odds on favourite. He showed all the attributes of a very smart gelding in the making so fingers firmly crossed he can follow up under a penalty next time, in which case we will no doubt be dreaming of big things in the Spring..!

Evander

Evander made it third time lucky over the larger obstacles at Doncaster last time where he cruised to a 14 length victory in fine style. He has needless to say been dealt a heavy hand by the handicapper since, however, it was a smart performance boasting a superior round of jumping, and one would have to imagine he has a lot more to offer in this sphere. 

We have a few runners to look forward to over the festive period, including Crievehill who has disappointed so far this season in two starts but with vaild excuses and hopefully he can make amends at Kempton on the 27th December. Danse Idol put in a lacklustre round of jumping on her seasonal and chasing debut last month - she heads to the same card at Kempton on Sunday, and is expected to show up better with that run under her belt back over hurdles. 

Lorca

On the flat we have just one horse still rolling and that is the Andrew Balding trained Lorca. This colt improved massively for his debut run – finishing a close third in a typically competitive maiden at Kempton ten days ago. He looked to relish every yard of the mile and a quarter trip and will no doubt improve for further next season. In the meantime he is due to return to Kempton in January for a similar event and hopefully he will provide us with an early NY victory!

What I Will Be Drinking This Christmas.....

By Alex Smith

I always look forward to the Christmas break as it gives me the opportunity to delve into the cellar and bring out some special bottles. It would be unthinkable not…

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I always look forward to the Christmas break as it gives me the opportunity to delve into the cellar and bring out some special bottles. It would be unthinkable not to start with a glass of Champagne around 11 O’Clock which is the best time to really taste fizz as the taste buds are at their sharpest! When I was in the wine trade I was much happier doing big tastings in the morning as I always felt that my palate was pretty jaded by the afternoon, can’t think why.

This year I will be opening a bottle (or two) of Laurent Perrier 2008. Good vintage champagne is a real treat as it brings an additional layer of complexity and depth. This champagne house only produces vintage champagne in exceptional years and the 2008 is drinking beautifully right now.

Chateau Palmer

The star of the show will be a claret, still my favourite when it comes to special occasions and I have my eye on Chateau Palmer 2004. Palmer is my favourite wine and sadly I have precious little in the cellar but I am going for broke this year. While 2004 isn’t a great year Palmer made one of the best wines that vintage. With 47% merlot (high for a Margaux) in the blend it has a suppleness and richness which I cannot resist and will go beautifully with the turkey!

I would normally always have a glass of port with the Christmas pud but this year I am going off piste and will be drinking Alois Kracher’s (probably pulling one at the same time) Scheurebe Trockenbeerenauslese 2006. Produced in Austria from golden shrivelled grapes that are picked very late in the autumn by which time they look more like raisins! Carefully picked by hand these grapes have been affected by noble rot and have massively high levels of sugars. The result is a heavenly, hedonistic nectar, tasting of apricots and orange peel but also a racy acidity on the finish to cut through the Christmas pudding.
After the year we have all had I am particularly looking forward to getting stuck in to these wines on Christmas Day!
 

Interviewing The Interviewer

By Rolf Johnson 

The boot on the other foot: chance to put steel toe-capped footwear into some irritating, interjecting know-all. Except that this is Rishi Persad. You’d know what you were in for…

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The boot on the other foot: chance to put steel toe-capped footwear into some irritating, interjecting know-all. Except that this is Rishi Persad. You’d know what you were in for if you took on, hmm, Jeremy Paxman. But Rishi is an altogether different proposition.

The ability to reconcile the tensions between team player and star of the show is a rare gift. “Has charisma” is the accolade doled out promiscuously. “If I’ve seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Isaac Newton, centuries before the glib catch-all of charisma had even been thought of.

And so Rishi’s ascent sees him standing at the top of his profession though somewhat isolated as the foremost black, British, ubiquitous sports presenter and interviewer. There is no major sporting event on the planet missing from his CV; Derbies, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, Open Golf, Olympics, Snooker; and they are repeated.

“Yes, connections have been a great help,” he readily admits. He got his start in the mid-90s through The Sun’s racing correspondent ‘the Punter’s Pal’ Claude Duval.

“Ah, dear Claude. My persistence trying to get into racing was getting nowhere and then through a family friend Claude put me in touch with Philip and Laurie Brannan at Sportsguide.

“Laurie then eased my way into broadcasting. Connections, you can’t beat them!”

Nick Luck needs no prompting applauding his contemporary’s achievements. “Rishi is the best example of a team player that I know. Broadcasting values versatility: technically Rishi is perfect and he has that empathy that comes naturally to those with a vocation.”

What great presenters and commentators contribute becomes an integral part of the event - in particular in racing, divorcing the sport’s debilitating politics from the integrity and the joy of the action. The list of doyens stretches back to Marconi. Rishi has joined them and, one day, if he is not careful, he might attain that questionable status of ‘national treasure’.

It is not just that he is the go-to presenter for all consequential international sporting events. Golfing enthusiasts hark back to the Opens and the ripples and murmurs of Peter Alliss; racing folk to the honeyed yet exhilarating tones of Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s commentaries; Bill Maclaren’s malt whisky rugby macerations; Murray Walker’s catatonic Grand Prix outpourings: Rishi is Mr Everyman. He describes what he sees and unlike, for example, some of the great comics who broadcast all their best lines, Rishi is the person on screen that he is seen off it.

Yes, ‘Mr Equanimity’ - however much you prod and poke there is no way to peel him - spearheads the front line of sports broadcasting while bearing the extra responsibility of his background, as he found when he ventured his hopes for the black community on Sky Sports.

Trinidad-born Rishi’s reaction to hysterical social media insults, baying against him personally and his plea for diversity, was as measured as a Brian Lara drive. “What I was really trying to say was, if we eliminate all discrimination and make the sport more accessible, we’re going to provide the moral case that we can all benefit from being kinder to each other, and the business case is pretty obvious – the more people we can attract to the sport the more money we can bring into the sport and the more people in the sport will benefit from it. What’s bad about that?

“Colour is not a major issue in racing, though personal experience suggests there are still pockets of racial and other types of discrimination: they all demand eradication. The DiRSG (Diversity in Racing Group) needs to be doing more, of that there is no doubt but based on proper research, statistics and analysis.”

Rishi somehow combines Caribbean languor with the Indian animation of his forbears. “Mornings spent with the horses - father had a stud farm among the cane fields - a bit of lunch and then games of cricket with the lads. Bliss. We used to get the best races from the UK broadcast live in Trinidad and I saw Troy win the Derby in 1979 and was smitten with the magic of British racing - magical to a six-year-old living thousands of miles away. Till my dad passed away, I would share all my racing and sporting experiences with him. He was the reason I do what I do now.

“My other heroes are Sir Michael Stoute who once trained horses for our family, and the late Walter Swinburn. I’d like to have more ownership involvement if circumstances and finances allow one day. Perhaps with Highclere?”

“Among the best I’ve had was a bit of was Quizzene who Highclere people will remember beating Forgery one day at Sandown.”

So Highclere was the icebreaker; the other was Sir Learie Constantine, Trinidadian deity. He was the first black peer and first West Indian to take a wicket against the MCC: Sir Learie gave this interviewer his first cricket bat. Cricket ranks second only to racing in Rishi’s “obsessions”. He recalls seeing another hero, Vivian Richards, stopping the fastest of bowlers in their tracks, by the glint in his eye.

Straightway we agreed that responsibility comes with eminence: might he extend his talents to a wider stage? He insists that he has “no political desires”. He was called into the BHA’s DiRSG conflab after that broadcast which so provoked the blockheads (not that they require any provocation).

I feel confident enough now, or has he just relaxed me in the way that he cushions any of his interviewees? So I try, ever so gently, to shake that composure – to see if it is more than skin deep. I provoke him about the lack of black recognition at the Stud & Stable Staff Awards which finally, in a fit of conscience, awarded, justifiably, Zimbabwean James Frank the Employee of the Year Award in 2019. That came after nearly twenty years’ service at Hascombe and Valiant Stud.

“Nick and I have discussed this a few times. Yes, you are right, I’ve heard nothing of James Frank lately nor, now you bring him up, Ricky Alleyne” – he now works for Warren Greatrex having been forecast as the next big name as a jockey and whose biggest day seems to have been leading up the winner of the 2017 November Handicap winner.

“Perhaps more can be done to promote the positive stories,” observes Rishi. “Indeed, the more recognition that events such as you quote – ‘nine of the eleven staff leading up for Stradivarius’s Gold Cup were black’ - are given more prominence.

“I think a patient approach is the only one that will succeed because we are behind the times and change for a sport that is entrenched in tradition: having said that I do think that there are things that we could do tomorrow that could have an immediate effect, such as the images racecourses portray to advertise themselves.

“There are some things that will never change in the sport and that can be a good thing. In fact, the obsession with marketing to attract younger racegoers and viewers is one that I have always felt may be targeting the wrong folk - so many of my friends who are lovers of the sport were, like me, drawn in by older family members and memories and bonds formed for a lifetime, whether it was through gambling or mutual memories.”

I persist, that some racecourses have done their bit with pop concerts, Bollywood and Calypso nights – the posters are still on the walls.

Rishi demurs. “While it is commendable that racecourses have their themed nights, I don’t find it surprising the people who turn up don’t return. If you remove the unique set of circumstances that attracted them there you are back to square one.”

Still, he insists that politics are not his bag: I respect that though I cannot see how his prescription of the message filtering into such communities through marketing men “cleverer than him” will succeed, given the lamentable record of say GBR.

Furthermore I debate Rishi’s point that, “The association with gambling and a lifelong love of the sport is also one that we shy away from but promoted in the right and responsible way it is another example of an inherent element that is part of racing's eternal attraction.” 

“Promoted in the right and responsible way” would be anathema to bookmakers whose lifeblood is, incontrovertibly, maximising their profits. Somebody must pay.

While he is happy to be seen rather than heard when the microphone is switched off and the camera turns away, Rishi would never let an acquaintance, however remote, pass without a “hello” or “how are you?”

“It’s easier to be yourself,” he says but even the slightest suggestion he could be seen as a role model ends with his head resting in his hands. That is simply not him.

“Chance and circumstance have played a major role in my own life and career and as abstract as it may sound, I am a great believer in the universe having a plan which we cannot rail against and must try and harmonise with.”

In Hinduism a Rishi is an accomplished and enlightened individual and of course racing’s Rishi shares his first name with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Incidentally a ‘rishi’ is also the top knot of a Sikh’s uncut hair tucked under his turban. Rishi laughs but like everything that happens around him, the thought is tucked away for future reference. By comparison with accommodating a ‘rishi’, getting Khadijah Mellah’s hijab under her helmet was a doddle).

There used to be one black face on the racecourse – tipster Prince ‘I gotta horse’ Monolulu a technicolour character in the first half of the twentieth century, one of whose more sage sayings was, “Everyone remembers a black man in a white man’s country”.  You could say (I would not) that the late John McCririck was the white Monolulu. Both were the antithesis of the Persad style.

Now, over half a century on, Sean Levey has ridden a Classic winner and there are two black regulars the other side of the running rail. When I first met journalist Ken Pitterson, of Jamaican parentage, I asked: “Do I say, “black or coloured”?

“No,” he replied. “You say Ken”. We’d both contributed to the joke.

And Rishi and I went “Snap!” when we simultaneously came up with the answer to “which black faces will you invariably see on every track?” Answer, the divot treaders; such is the one constant example of ‘diversity on the racecourse’.

Newbury was the course Rishi will remember all his days, for the bombshell moment in February 2017 when AP McCoy rode his 200th winner of the season for the tenth time.

“I had prepared the question to ask him and a lot of the jockeys very often pass credit to the team they work with and never really answer the question about themselves.

“So I asked him to put the achievement into context. AP replied: ‘I’ll tell you something else Rishi, it’s going to be the last time I ride 200 winners. I’m going to be retiring at the end of the season.’

“I was stunned, my producer pleading in my ear for more, more. There was a brief silence as, like a sports fan that I am, I was blown away by surprise.”

You can bet your life McCoy not only chose his moment, but chose his man.

2020 Horse Sales Round Up

By Jimmy George - Director, Tattersalls 

Never have so many people been so pleased to see the back of a calendar year than in 2020, yet somehow it seems as if it could have been so…

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Never have so many people been so pleased to see the back of a calendar year than in 2020, yet somehow it seems as if it could have been so much worse.

As the sheer enormity of the storm which was brewing and then engulfed us all became clear, the prospects of staging thoroughbred sales, let alone reasonably satsifactory ones, seemed daunting at best and unlikely at worst. Monday 23rd March, day one of lockdown one, was precisely ten days before the Tattersalls Ascot Breeze Up Sale and just over three weeks prior to the breeze for the flagship Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale which had millions of pounds worth of pinhooked two year olds waiting to be unleashed.

That the two sales finally took place in the last week of June achieving returns which largely exceeded the most optimistic expectations not only paid a huge tribute to all concerned, but also demonstrated that there was life during COVID; trade could go on, people still wanted to buy thoroughbreds, they still wanted to enjoy racehorse ownership, maybe needing diversions more than ever in a world plagued by uncertainty and starved of joy.

The single most important factor was the resumption of racing on June 1st. No racing, no sales, but June 1st pumped life back into the whole industry and our focus turned to how best to manage the impact of the pandemic on the sales calendar. At Tattersalls our team of yearling inspectors were already out on the road casting COVID – compliant eyes over the cream of the 2020 yearling crop clad in masks, gloves and whatever else was required, but most importantly trying to reassure.

The primary aim was to stage as many Tattersalls sales on the advertised dates and at the advertised location as possible. Delivering clarity and a measure of certainty was the priority and while ‘certainty’ has been an elusive concept in 2020, at least clarity of purpose was deliverable.

The Tattersalls October Yearling Sales would take place as advertised starting with Book 1, Europe’s premier yearling sale, on Tuesday 6th October and ending with Book 4 on Saturday 17th October. The remaining 2020 Tattersalls fixtures would also take place as scheduled culminating with the Tattersalls December Mares Sale from November 30th to December 3rd. Whether anyone truly believed that we would be able to adhere to the stated aims is debatable, but the goals were clear. If the rules and regulations allowed, the sales would take place.

That more than £250 million worth of Europe’s finest bloodstock regularly changes hands at Tattersalls from the beginning of October Book 1 to the end of the December Sales was a compelling motivation for the subsequent display of collective determination and sense of purpose shown by all involved in the bloodstock industry.

What followed does not need to be chronicled in minute detail. What does need to be recorded is the profound sense of gratitude felt by all at Tattersalls for the immense contribution made by every single participant to ensure that the 2020 sales season proceeded miraculously uninterrupted and concluded relatively successfully. The customary vibrance may have been lacking, but when lot 2286, HERON’S NEST, exited the famous Tattersalls sales ring as darkness fell on Thursday 3rd December, a total of £273,853,085 (260,907,700 guineas) had been spent at Tattersalls’ Newmarket base in COVID - ravaged 2020; only 14.6% below turnover in the rather less challenging 2019.

As ever, we can look forward to seeing some of the Tattersalls class of 2020 emerge as Champions of the future. The optimism that drives the sport shines as brightly as ever and let us hope that amongst those Champions is another to carry the famous colours of Highclere Thoroughbreds; perhaps either of the two colts bought at Book 1 of the October Yearling Sale, by NEW APPROACH and WOOTTON BASSETT respectively, having landed a £20,000 Tattersalls October Book 1 Bonus on the way!

As Tattersalls Chairman Edmond Mahony said at the conclusion of the December Sales;

“Few will look back on the 2020 Tattersalls sales season with pleasure, but they can look back with pride and our thanks go to each and everyone who has contributed to a Tattersalls sales season of remarkable resilience."

SHARES AVAILABLE

Please do visit our Highclere Experience site (click here) to have a look at our last remaining yearling shares available. We have also just bought a very smart duo…

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Please do visit our Highclere Experience site (click here) to have a look at our last remaining yearling shares available. We have also just bought a very smart duo of yearlings in the north following our annual trip up there to see the horses.

Acclamation ex Shanooan 2019 B.C

One of which is this absolutely cracking colt by Acclamation. We stopped in to see David O'Meara on our northern tour and was seriously impressed with his state of the art set up - Willow Farm, just outside York. We were also very taken by this yearling who David bought for £30,000 and has insisted on keeping a leg in. He is a colt with real presence and he moves beautifully as you can clearly see from the video.

He also boasts a seriously good pedigree as his dam Shanooan (rated 89 turf, 90 AW) is a daughter of the champion Bright Generation. Shanooan’s half sister Lady Ederle has produced the Coventry (Gr 2) and Dewhurst (Gr 1)winner Arizona and another half sister, Rumoured, has produced the champion 2yo colt in Europe Dabirsim. It’s a pedigree packed full of black type so if this horse wins group races he will be very sought-after as a stallion, being also a son of sire of sires Acclamation.  

The Monkey Puzzle Syndicate consists of 20 shares at at a cost of only £4,900 (plus vat) per share.

Starspangledbanner ex Queen Elsa 2019 B.F

Kevin Ryan had a proper twinkle in his eye when he showed us this Starspangledbanner filly and it was very much a case of love at first sight for all of us. As you can see she is simply gorgeous and has a seriously athletic way of going - click here for the video. She only cost £30,000 from the Goffs Orby sale and when Kevin said that he wanted to stay in for 50% of her it was a no brainer to snap her up.

We have decided on a very exclusive syndicate (The Cedar Tree) of 10 shares at a cost of only £6,000 (plus vat) per share. As Kevin owns 50% he has asked that this filly be sold by the end of her three year old career, so slightly shorter than our usual syndicates although as you know we tend to sell most of our horses before they reach four.

If one or both of these lovely horses is of interest to you please do not heistate to get in touch for more information - enquires@highclere.co.uk.

Full grown Hollie ready to wear the crown

By Rolf Johnson

Adieu to 2020 and as thoroughbred generations turn the corner on December 31 to begin, on January 1, a year older. you’d think that would be that. Except racing’s seasons…

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Adieu to 2020 and as thoroughbred generations turn the corner on December 31 to begin, on January 1, a year older. you’d think that would be that. Except racing’s seasons have no end - as 2020 disappears unmourned there’s no rest for the wicked: even covid-19 must be disenchanted.

20-20 vision was lacking last year (despite Old Moore’s Almanac forecasting the pandemic; Radio 4’s racing tips lost £147). But for the foreseeable future the three Press Room slots a week I manage maintain essential connection with the ‘reality’ of racing – if you can call desolate stands, boarded up Tote windows and absent bookmakers, reality. But then racing loves fantasy and now we have time to fantasize about the future to our hearts content.

When I spoke to Hollie Doyle for the Highclere Newsletter in the summer she hadn’t ridden a five-timer, or a Group One winner, or broken the record for the number of victories in a season by a female jockey. Difficult as it was for her to ‘light up’ deserted Lingfield this week with her 150th of the season, Hollie’s stature continues to grow. The records that she breaks now are mainly her own.

In 2020 Hollie has been a beacon, a redeemer. An enduring image of the year, for this observer anyway,  is of her partner Tom Marquand, with whom one day soon she will be neck and neck in the race for the jockeys’ title, patting her mount’s backside (careful Tom)  as she and Glen Shiel returned to the Group One winners circle at Ascot on Champions Day.

Had this not been the year Lewis Hamilton broke all Grand Prix racing records, Hollie would have been even closer in the photo for Sportsperson of the Year. How can she follow that? Strictly Come Dancing; Great British Bake Off?

If you don’t learn from history you repeat it. If you do learn you repeat it – just look at Coolmore who get it right year after year; Derby and Oaks wins seemed as incidental as they were inevitable. Their Group One winners flowed worldwide halted only by the sensation of exclusion from the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting as result of positive tests on contaminated foodstuffs.

And the vigilant French (whoever thought those two words would occupy the same sentence) found that our champion jockey Oisin Murphy had a drug issue too, in his case contracted probably via liaison with a certain Mademoiselle de Armentieres and costing him a three months ban. With such as Marquand and Doyle on his tail Murphy won’t want to give them such a start in 2021.

Will we, Highclere, repeat 2020’s successes? Singling out our horses for the next year is invidious for the ones overlooked or underplayed and the owners of same. For instance, in  July, was Thunderous’s Dante a sweeter fish than Warranty’s unpredictable victory in a handicap at Beverley later that month? Was Sermon’s metronomic consistency any less uplifting than Posh Trish’s 118,000 guineas (bargain!) sales price: will we be able to afford her offspring?

All the aforementioned bar Thunderous have, naturally, moved on. It’s worth recalling that Harbinger didn’t come of age until he was four. At the end of his three-year-old career Harbinger was rated 112: at the climax he was 134. Thunderous at the end of his three-year-old career victory was rated…112.

Salvation from the covid-19 virus will come with the vaccine. Racing’s ‘salvation’ so some would say, is of minor consequence. But many workers in a variety of trades made redundant or furloughed have returned whence they came – back to racing which is good news for all thoroughbreds. I read in a brilliant American book on racing reminiscences, ‘Laughing in the Hills’, the author quoted an unknown poet who wrote “everything horses have to give we steal from them”.

But our connection with horses is not exploitative. Trainers and their staff  are dedicated to raising thoroughbreds to a level of fitness and performance that only human involvement could realize. We should be proud of our association – the welfare of our horses, of all horses, has priority from the time of their purchase to the time of their sale, to the time of retirement.

Roll on the spring. Racing’s crisis isn’t a matter of life or imminent mortality. But recognizing the game is in intensive care is the spur to solutions. Impotent toing and froing on self-perpetuating ‘topics’ such as the levy, the whip, endless still born reviews, are obliterated by the memories of Enable, Battash, Stradivarius among so many more who kept the flame alive in benighted 2020.

Be assured, Highclere’s team will play its part fanning the flames of 2021. 

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