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January 2019

First and foremost may I wish you a very Happy New Year and here’s to much success in 2019!

January is the month when we visit the trainers to see all our horses and how they are progressing. It really is incredible how much they change through the winter months and with the yearlings having just turned two it is fascinating seeing how they are adapting to their new surroundings. Nothing is more exciting than seeing these babies now ridden away and cantering up Warren Hill in Newmarket.

Already you can sense what they might be but of course I am hopelessly optimistic about all of them unless they move like crabs which thankfully is extremely rare! The…

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Sermon - a gorgeous Dark Angel colt for the David Hockney Syndicate, heading up to Cheshire this week to be trained by Tom Dascombe.

Already you can sense what they might be but of course I am hopelessly optimistic about all of them unless they move like crabs which thankfully is extremely rare! The Highclere racing team left the trainers with a spring in their step as all our horses appeared to be thriving.

Last year’s two-year olds have all done well physically and have a proper chance of competing at decent levels this season whilst the older horses - Consultant, Knighted, Showroom and Nicklaus -have also progressed to the next stage as fully mature animals. Hopefully they will provide some thrills at the Festival Meetings this year!

Nicklaus has done incredibly well for his winter break and is now back in training at Somerville Lodge.

Meanwhile the National Hunt team of horses are flying and plans for several of them are being finalised for a raid on Cheltenham which is incredibly exciting. Much can go amiss between now and the middle of March but if they all hold together we could have as many as four runners at the great meeting.

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

Our success on the National Hunt circuit continued through December and the Christmas period with a string of winners. Posh Trish has turned many heads having already notched up four victories this season, the last a Listed Mares race at Taunton on Boxing day having dotted up at Wincanton only four days earlier!! Paul Nicholls has deemed her worthy of a race at the Cheltenham Festival this year and she will line up in the Trull House Stud Mares Novice Hurdle on Thursday March 14th.

Style de Garde returned to the scene of his earlier victory at Huntingdon only to duck in left at the start and find himself on the hurdles course, thereby disqualifying…

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Style de Garde returned to the scene of his earlier victory at Huntingdon only to duck in left at the start and find himself on the hurdles course, thereby disqualifying himself from taking part. Nicky Henderson took no chances on his next start at Taunton with one of his stronger men down at the start to make sure the five year old gelding got away. He ran with his usual enthusiasm and looked as if he might win jumping the last, but having to give nearly a stone to the hotly fancied Not That Fuisse proved too much. He too may head to the Cheltenham Festival for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle on the Friday.

Ballywood looked a totally different animal on better ground at Taunton before Christmas, putting in a superb jumping display to win comfortably. He followed up in really good style at Doncaster just after Christmas and Alan King is delighted that he has finally found the key to the horse. His next target is likely to be a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Doncaster this Saturday 26th January. Precious Bounty is another to have seemingly turned a corner after a quiet start, finishing second on two occasions at Leicester and Exeter and giving his owners plenty of encouragement for the future.

Crievehill showed that he was more than capable of handling the fences at Aintree when finishing a good sixth in the Grand Sefton and looked sure to go close at Wetherby next time where he possibly found the conditions unsuitable. He really seems to thrive in very testing conditions.

Shares Available

Harry was approached by a number of our jumps trainers before Christmas who were attending the Cheltenham sale and interestingly one horse in particular appeared on every list and that was this magnificent son of Jeremy called Carry On The Magic. Paul Nicholls described him as “the star of the sale and the one horse I was determined to come away with” Tom Malone duly bought him.

His syndicate (the Magic syndicate) consists of 20 shares at £10,500 per share. We do have a handful of shares available left in this magnificent horse so do get in touch…

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His syndicate (the Magic syndicate) consists of 20 shares at £10,500 per share. We do have a handful of shares available left in this magnificent horse so do get in touch if you would like to get involved.

Please click here to watch a video.

On the flat side of things we do have a few shares left in Precocity a really attractive and precious daughter of Kodiac in training with Richard Fahey. This filly really captures the eye as you can clearly see from the video taken this week. This is a 20 share syndicate at only £9,500 per share so do get in touch if you would like some early flat action.

Rolf's Ramblings

Life changing events bombarded us in the past century: World wars, nuclear weapons, walking on the moon, Berlin Wall and, personally speaking, the agony of having my football team relegated. In the context of such traumas racing’s problems, shamefully neglected, seem insignificant – even soluble.

2019 will be a monumental year though events will have to go some to match this random selection of headlines from the book ‘Back Page Racing, A Century of newspaper coverage’:

5 June 1913, Daily Sketch, “Suffragette killed at Derby”.

7 June 1962, Daily Mail, “Favourite in seven horse Derby pile-up”.

Daily Telegraph, 14 September 1970, “Nijinsky earns place among immortals”.

3 April 1977, Sunday Express, “Red Rum is no horse – he’s a National Hero!”.

10 February 1983, Sporting Life; “Hunt for Super-Horse, £2m ransom for Shergar”.

3 April 2006, The Guardian, “Jockey Club falls on its sword”.

21 Oct 2012, Racing Post, “Frankel: Perfect ending for perfect racehorse”.

We’ve got eight impatient months wait for Enable’s third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Sea of Class and gilets jaunes permitting). But the immediate future is leaden with apprehension; menacing…

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We’ve got eight impatient months wait for Enable’s third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Sea of Class and gilets jaunes permitting). But the immediate future is leaden with apprehension; menacing headlines are threatening: ‘Racing goes skint as Government (whatever hue) stamps on betting’: BHA hold review.  ‘Racing abolished as Animal Rights activists grab Government’s (whatever hue) ear’: BHA hold review.

Too fanciful? Racing used to sell newspapers; who sells racing today? When I worked on the Daily Express coverage devoured half a dozen pages on Bank Holidays; today? snippets. The whole of Press and the Racing Post’s decline remind me of the Soviet dailies Izvestia (News) and Pravda (Truth). “No news in Truth, no truth in News” the Russian intelligentsia scoffed (not too loudly). Unfair? The Post surrendered a whole page to a scribe to denigrate syndicates (none named) under the contradictory headline “Now is the time to promote syndicates as BHA looks to attract more owners”. The writer complained, ambivalently “only 43 (only 43!?) were listed on the Racecourse Syndicates Association website”, suggested the dysfunctional BHA should take over syndication. At least the view was balanced by another writer in our trade paper as “the ultimate hope for ownership”. (This, by the way, is the paper of a staff correspondent who complained to me that he had been reprimanded for going racing!).

We should be prepared for a ‘no deal’ betting war this year when thousands of betting shops (not to be confused with charity shops) on High Streets resembling Spaghetti Western sets are forecast to close due to Government edict emasculating one-arm bandits. Bookmakers standing on the track are another endangered species.

Cometh the hour cometh…the New Tote. When our Totalisator was born the Daily Mail of 3 July 1929 headlined, “The Bookmakers’ Rival: Contempt of the layers”. And a contemporary piece by ‘Hotspur’ of the Daily Telegraph was pessimistic yet percipient: “If I am wrong then a mistake will never be so cheerfully admitted, the day is very distant before enrichment comes to racing and breeding from betting”. The new Tote, with Chinese involvement, is without a pedigree: still, now is hardly the time to geld it before it has had a run.

Government “recognizes how essential betting is to racing”. But for how long? And what about the other pincer, Animal Rights Activists who are relentlessly hounding racing? If (as is said) a million monkeys with typewriters will reproduce Shakespeare somewhere along the way they’d deliver a BHA Review (the original joke was a Jeffrey Archer novel). BHA intervention, not least the 2018 Review of horse welfare focussing on deaths at Cheltenham, does no more than gave antis adrenalin. Awarding ride of the year and a whip ban to the jockey for the same feat wasn’t the cleverest move. Antis couldn’t care if jockeys carried a cricket bat or a feather duster.

Such people are indifferent to argument or entreaty: they yearn to eliminate racing, all animal ‘activities’ in fact though whether they would interfere with lions chasing zebras or sharks attacking round the world yachtspersons is problematical. Abolishing coursing or hunting may promote the expansion of the fox and hare population: another consequence will be the extinction of breeds of dogs and horses.

And all the while the BHA is bent on increasing the number of horses in training, scheduling more meetings in a desperate attempt to boost betting revenues - as staff bleed from the game. The headline numbers are 6,734 registered (including an increasing number part-time) in Britain, with an estimated shortfall of 1,000 workers: only official figures, it’s true.

Racing’s other problems pale by comparison with staffing. I read the sheet, last week in the Coolmore museum at Fethard, of Vincent O’Brien’s meticulous instructions, setting standards for grooming matched only by St James’s Gentlemen’s Clubs. The precision O’Brien required is beyond the means of all but a tiny minority of current racing operations.

In the Post Welsh trainer Evan Williams retaliated to those like Nicky Henderson “frightened to death” by the staff situation. “Doom and gloom merchants get you nowhere,” said Williams who offered nothing practical. The racing world beats a path to record breaking Mark Johnston’s door. In his Kingsley Klarion he lumps bookies and racecourses together profiting nicely, enhancing profits with their hotel chains. Meanwhile jump racing’s shooting star Dan Skelton has built a ‘hotel’ - a staff hostel a match for any Premier Inn: and still the paucity of the right kind of staff alarms him. “The problem is if trainers have a downturn in prize-money the owners win less, so we have to put up our fees to pay people more – we aren’t being directly supported by our industry to pay more.”

Gary Moore who runs a ‘family’ business also articulated the problem. “How much can you charge owners? It’s a vicious circle. They’re (lads) only doing 40-hour weeks now, so you want more staff to compensate for the staff who are there less of the time.”

Don’t doubt it, 2019 is going to be a seminal year. In 1989 the foreword to Back Page Racing concluded: “The love of horses, the fascination with them as racing machines and the intangible attractions of the racing world are much the same as they have been throughout the century and long may this continue.”

My forecast then, for the closing headline of 2019? “Racing defies the odds (and sods)”.

Out and about with the Highclere camera

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