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March 2018

My travels have taken me to Doha and Bequia in the last two weeks with the Bequia bit being very much an all too short holiday! Staying with my friends Harry and Dinah Marriott this was a wonderful break away in the sun. Harry has now moved from property developing into cocoa with an amazing farming operation based in St Vincent. His delicious Islands Chocolate will soon be shipped to the UK and I will ensure that all of our owners will have the chance to sample this magical chocolate. Harry even bought the Bequia to St Vincent ferry to ensure that the local community could flourish commuting between the islands. It’s all a far cry from his former life!

Being away for a few days at this time of year when reports from the office are that it’s closed indefinitely due to snow bring a guilty smile as the…

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Being away for a few days at this time of year when reports from the office are that it’s closed indefinitely due to snow bring a guilty smile as the sun shone down from clear blue skies on to Bequia’s perfect aquamarine waters! Joking apart though I love to receive all the news on the horses from the team and to watch the videos of the HTR string warming up for the forthcoming season wherever I am in the world. This of course shows the vital importance of our communication to our share owners and how exciting it is to see our horses on video and to hear how they are progressing. I especially like seeing how the horses are changing physically whatever age they are. Some literally turn themselves inside out through the winter which is so often a positive sign of how much improvement they hopefully should make on the racecourse. Others sometimes don’t grow or strengthen as one would have hoped but often these do start to change when the warmer weather comes in the spring especially the fillies who tend to thrive in the warmth. I remember Petrushka setting the gallops alight whilst still hanging onto her winter coat and Sir Michael saying quietly “she will change when the weather warms up and be a very different filly.” How right Sir Michael was!

By the time I returned to the office this week the snow had disappeared and the sun shone on a perfect spring day which brought a chorus of “don’t you dare go there” from the team! I can’t tell you how excited I am as the new season approaches with the horses beginning now to move into fast work. At this stage we have a strong team to go to war with and with Contrast winning impressively for Highclere and Headway for The Royal Ascot Racing Club it sets the scene for a thrilling year ahead.

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

With a number of the jumpers having a break and combined with the ferocious weather conditions, action was somewhat limited since the last newsletter. However those that ran performed (on the whole) very well. Following a couple of disappointing efforts, Caro de Flos put up a much improved performance to finish second at Thurles. Hertford Street’s Whatswrongwithyou continued on an upward curve when looking a convincing winner at Newbury on February 10th. He will line up for the Imperial Cup at Sandown this Saturday.

The ultra-consistent If You Say Run finished and admirable second in The Grade 2 Weatherby's Stud Book Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown which should put her spot on…

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The ultra-consistent If You Say Run finished and admirable second in The Grade 2 Weatherby's Stud Book Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown which should put her spot on for the mares final race at Newbury on March 23rd, a target that her trainer Paul Nichols has had in mind for some time. Crievehill, another consistent performer, looked all over the winner at Haydock before losing out in the dying strides, whilst Peculiar Places put his poor run at Hereford (on heavy ground) well and truly behind him when finishing second in a bumper at Kempton. Unfortunately Ballywood got off to a terrible start when eased down on his first run for his owners at Kempton. Alan King was very surprised as Ballywood had been working well at home and was expected to run well. Hopefully he can put up a much better performance next time.

On the flat Pak Choi, who is improving with every run, finished second at Newcastle, the form subsequently franked when the winner followed up next time. Contrast was a very impressive winner in a decent handicap at Lingfield and will head to Kempton on March 31st for the very valuable Rosebery handicap. That performance was topped by the Royal Ascot Racing Club’s Headway, back at the same track, who showed an electrifying burst of acceleration to run down the long time leader and win going away, prompting his trainer William Haggas to enter him in the 2,000 Guineas.

Down under our star Libran showed that he is in better form than ever when finishing fourth behind the awesome Winx in the Chipping Norton Stakes (Group 1). The race was over a mile and well short of his optimum trip and he is expected to run in the Sky High Stakes next time before a tilt at the Sydney Cup over two miles in April and worth over $750,000 to the winner!

Out and about with the Highclere camera

(Please click on the thumbnails to enlarge photos and see captions)

Alex's Insights

I’m sure you will forgive me writing about Garonga Safari Camp in South Africa which was built by my brother over twenty years ago. Bernardo had been a soldier in the Green Jackets and did several tours of Northern Ireland before joining the Rhodesian police force where he was stationed in Bulawayo. Bernie, as he is known, fell in love with Africa as a teenager, following a family safari to Kenya in the late 70’s where the first ten day were undertaken without vehicles and transport was by Arab ponies and camels. Ever since that holiday he wanted to find a way back to Africa and while stationed in Bulawayo by chance met a Rhodesian couple who had built and run a number of camps and suggested to Bernie that they help him find some suitable land in South Africa. After some research they alighted upon a farm near (well ninety miles near) the Kruger park and in the Makalali reserve, already populated with a number of well-known lodges. Together they designed and built Garonga which has become a very successful camp run by Bernie and his team.

Garonga started with a lodge and six “tents” which overlook a riverbed which is usually dry but I have seen literally fill in a matter of minutes after heavy rainfall…

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Garonga started with a lodge and six “tents” which overlook a riverbed which is usually dry but I have seen literally fill in a matter of minutes after heavy rainfall (all too rare in that part of the world). I say “tents” but these are extremely comfortable with a solid floor and sides and canvas tops, so that they retain the feel of camping in the wild but are rather more secure! Later on Little Garonga was added, consisting of three air-conditioned suites and its own outside area complete with pool and serviced by its own chef and housekeeper. This has proved very popular with families. The food at Garonga is of a very high standard and of course I have made sure that the wines are up to scratch!

 

The rhythm of the day is very much as with most camps, an early start for the morning game drive (those who like walking are taken by an experienced ranger), followed by a Jockey Club Rooms type breakfast! (often in the bush) after which guests can lounge by the pool before the afternoon drive, with a sundowner before returning to camp. The game is superb and I personally have seen all big five (and much more) on the occasions I have visited. The atmosphere is relaxed and my brother is the most genial of hosts and a stickler for high standards. Garonga has recently been completely refurbished and  has been voted Trip Advisor small camp of the year on at least two occasions. Bernie has deliberately priced himself below the more well- known camps around the Kruger despite being on a par in terms of quality.

As I know that many of our owners are frequent visitor to South Africa I have persuaded Bernie to offer 15% discount for anyone who books a stay there this year. Please make sure to book direct at reservations@garonga.com and mention Highclere. He would be delighted to see you.

Highclere Australia

As Highclere continues to broaden its reach into the Southern Hemisphere we are delighted to announce the launch of our Highclere Australia - The Experience feature piece which we invite you to take a look at by clicking HERE. In the footage you will hear from trainers and owners alike about their experience of Highclere Australia and why the land down under is the fastest growing racing jurisdiction in the world today. 

We will also be starting the Highclere Australia Newsletter, so please keep any eye out for that over the coming week to catch up on all the latest news, reviews and industry feature pieces for Australia.  

The Sydney Autumn Carnival is well underway and we were delighted to see the return of Libran in the Gr 1 Chipping Norton Stakes last weekend. While nine lengths behind the World's Best…

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The Sydney Autumn Carnival is well underway and we were delighted to see the return of Libran in the Gr 1 Chipping Norton Stakes last weekend. While nine lengths behind the World's Best in Winx, we were encouraged to see him find the line well, over the unsuitably short mile trip, to only be beaten one and a half lengths for second behind Gr 1 winner Prized Icon. Please click here to watch the replay.

Libran has given share owners plenty to look forward to heading into his next start in the Gr 3 Sky High Stakes which is the equivalent race to his last start triumph in the Gr 3 Kingston Town in the Spring. We will be hoping for a repeat performance on Saturday 17th of March before he progresses on to the Gr 1 H.E. Tancred Stakes and the $2 million G1 Sydney Cup on the second day of The Championships. 

 

Feature Horse - Written Tycoon ex Mirage Rouge colt 

This son of the red-hot Written Tycoon is a full brother to a Gr 3 winner and already receiving top-class reports from his breaker Adrian Corboy after completing his education with ease. Adrian described him as his pick of Ciaron’s yearling purchases this year. Being a beautiful moving and well-muscled individual, who poses striking similarities to Written Tycoon’s two best performed two-year-olds Capitalist (Gr 1 Golden Slipper Stakes) and Written By (Gr 1 Blue Diamond Stakes). This colt is showing all the signs of a quality two-year-old prospect for next season. Please click here (or the picture, below) to see the latest video report from Ciaron's team. 

His two-year-old full brother, Design Rouge, is shaping up like another quality prospect and hence why Ciaron and Highclere have teamed up to purchase what Ciaron described as the 'stronger version' who ticks all the boxes. 

The Tycoon Syndicate is an exclusively offered syndicate at $24,619 per 5% share, including GST and twelve months training and mortality insurance, to race in partnership with multiple Gr 1 winning trainer Ciaron Maher. If this quality colt is of interest, please do get in touch with Dane on dane@highclere.co.uk.

Rolf's Ramblings

The CheltenhamFestival.net site is fully entitled to place the world’s premier four day jump meeting alongside Britain’s top sporting attractions - Wimbledon (tennis), the British Open (golf), the British Grand Prix (Formula 1) and the Cup Final (football). But what about the Derby, where’s racing’s loyalty? Epsom and Cheltenham are both Jockey Club racecourses! One Cheltenham Festival ends, the countdown to the next begins – as the winner of the Timico Gold Cup passes the post bookmakers’ representatives’ paper aeroplanes bombard us with prices for a repeat next March. Nine winners from last year could return to the winners’ enclosure – for Cause of Causes (Glenfarclas Cross Country) it would be a fourth year running: a week beforehand six of the ‘returners’ were shorter odds than in 2017: a horse’s familiarity with Cheltenham does not breed contempt among the punters.

There’d never have been a Cheltenham meeting if Reverend Close had had his way. In 1827, nine years after the first, the sanctimonious preacher thundered: “The Heathen Festivals of Venus…

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There’d never have been a Cheltenham meeting if Reverend Close had had his way. In 1827, nine years after the first, the sanctimonious preacher thundered: “The Heathen Festivals of Venus and Bacchus are exceeded on a Christian race ground”. Some say not a lot has changed. The Close Brothers Handicap Chase (Jessica Harrington’s Jett is in with a shout) on the first day can’t have anything to do with old curmudgeon, can it?

Either you accept the earnest denials of the Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College that her prim pupils had nothing to do with the origin of a word to describe their contempt for the town’s less eligible males – CHAV - Cheltenham Mr Average; or you don’t. Tell-tale signs are industrial application of hair gel and i-phone (cracked screen) dependence – these are also the ‘millennials’, the future courted by racing. So the cocktail teeming into Prestbury Park next week, of Chavs with their Chavettes, the Irish invaders, and the trilby and tweed light brigade (they’re the ones with binoculars) ought to be a combustible mix. Fortunately there is no need for a ‘hard border’ - great racing is the distraction, though certain enclaves like the Turf Club are sanctuaries.  “I’m about level” isn’t the Cheltenham punter’s cliché – and not only the Irish bet as though the end of the world were nigh (to which Rev Close would have said “aye aye”). Cheltenham is unique in that bookmakers emerge from their bunkers to take you on. Shop around for the best odds and if that means backing more than one in a race, so be it. For example Willie Mullins will almost certainly throw a battalion at Gordon Elliott’s Samcro in the Ballymore Hurdle on Wednesday – maybe Mullins’ Scarpeta will come nearest to upsetting one of the ‘certainties’ of the week.

All the sensations and inevitable sorrows attending this fiercest of sporting events play on a historical background: the first of the truly great jockeys, Fred Archer, hailed from Prestbury (his father rode a Grand National winner). Lester Piggott had a jumping career before surpassing Archer’s flat records. Piggott won the Birdlip Selling Hurdle on Champion Hurdle day in 1954 having won the last hurdle at Worcester the night before; four days later he took the JCB Triumph Hurdle then run at Hurst Park.  Oh the giants of the weighing room, contemporary and from yesteryear: Sir A P McCoy the non pareil; Ruby Walsh, none better. Fred Winter won the Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle (and the Grand National) both as jockey and trainer. The unlikely dual Olympian Victoria Pendleton swapped a bicycle seat for a more substantial one in the 2016 Foxhunter Chase. She has been succeeded as ‘leading lady’ by petite Bryony Frost ‘born in the saddle’ and who will be cheered every inch of the way in the RSA Chase aboard Black Corton.

And the trainers: statistics can be a burden but not to Willie Mullins who has trained eighteen winners of the twenty five renewals of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper: Nicky Henderson leads him for the overall top spot. Approaching this year’s proceedings Henderson had assembled a team of forty; Mullins thirty nine, but last year both were trumped as leading trainer last year by the shooting star of another Irishman, Gordon Elliott. The Irish had nineteen of the twenty eight winners a year ago.  Paul Nicholls has won the Festival trainer’s title the most, six times though his challenge this year isn’t his most formidable: pity one his stronger candidates, Malaya, is competition for Style de Garde in the Fred Winter Hurdle. The Irish ‘discovered’ Cheltenham through the heroics of Tipperary’s most famous son, Vincent O’Brien. His first runner in Britain was his first winner here – Cottage Rake the 1948 Gold Cup winner. Cottage Rake failed the vet the number of times he won the Gold Cup – three. O’Brien would translate his ascendancy to the Flat: Michael Dickinson, unchallenged for notions of training excellence, saddled the first five home in the 1983 Gold Cup, yet when he transferred to the flat his results couldn’t have been more contrasting.  Last year they were betting Somerset farmer Colin Tizzard would have the first three home in the Gold Cup; the nearest he got was third with Native River: this horse might go two places better this year scrapping, perhaps, with Killultagh Vic who fell at the last in the Irish Gold Cup when looking the likely winner. At least Tizzard no longer milks his cows before going racing; Welsh farmer Sirrell Griffiths did - before saddling one of his three-horse stable, Norton’s Coin to win the 1990 Gold Cup at 100-1.

Every sport has its titans and every country a different one. Paul Nicholls’ stablemates Kauto Star and Denman took one another on in 2009 when the former became the first horse to regain the chasers’ crown. That race may have topped Arkle v Mill House for those who weren’t around in 1964 to see “Himself”, the highest-rated chaser of all time, topple the previous record holder. For those of us privileged to be there for both, memories make debate redundant.  Preview panels saturate the pre-Cheltenham build up (there’s one near you) debating, exhausting every possibility. But ignore them at your peril. Sitting alongside Noel Fehily in 2012, in his casual Cork way, Noel urged our pub audience to ‘get on’ his mount Rock On Ruby in the Champion Hurdle. I turned a deaf, expensive ear. Now I will be astounded if the slickest jumper of a hurdle I’ve seen, Buveur d’Air doesn’t retain his hurdles’ crown for Nicky Henderson.  Altior is as brilliant a two- mile chaser as I’ve seen and as was the case with his predecessor at Seven Barrows, Sprinter Sacre, it appears as if the genius of Henderson has overcome maladies. Altior is another banker though those getting rich at Cheltenham often do so by ignoring the obvious – that’ll be the day when bookmakers pay out in  cryptocurrency – if it’s too good to be true…

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