May 2019

I have recently returned from  Australia where once again I had a wonderful time catching up with shareowners in Melbourne and Sydney. Clodagh accompanied me on her first trip “down under” and unsurprisingly has become a big fan of both cities!

Our trip started in Melbourne and there I was able to catch up with my daughter Chloe who lives in the city working for a very cool and successful advertising…

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Beautiful Polporro

Our trip started in Melbourne and there I was able to catch up with my daughter Chloe who lives in the city working for a very cool and successful advertising company called Taboo. She organised a wonderful day trip to Mornington Peninsula which started with a beautiful walk followed by an outstanding lunch at Polporro where I think I had one of the best fish dishes I have ever eaten which was Barramundi, smoked bone broth, tom yum and fennel! Washed down of course with a delicious Pinot Noir.

After a couple of days it was then up to Sydney for the Inglis Easter yearling sale and where Clodagh was due to unveil her Winx Pavlova dessert which was served across the main restaurants at Royal Randwick on that memorable day when the great mare won her 32nd consecutive race, retiring in style as the greatest filly to grace the Australian turf.

Inspecting yearlings at Inglis Easter

Meanwhile at the sales Dane had whittled his short list down to a select few and then it was a case of getting those that I liked vetted. As is so often the case the first day’s action saw us blown away in a red hot market but the second day interestingly started more slowly and we soon struck on a couple of absolute stars, a Zoustar colt and a Fastnet Rock filly. I know that owning a piece of a horse in Australia might seem a bit odd and far away but I can assure you that those owners of ours that have done so absolutely love it as you can get up early to see the races on Channel 415 and the prizemoney is simply staggering. A sound half decent animal will more than pay for itself which is quite something!

Zoustar ex Rosie Quadrille Colt

Fastnet Rock ex Sacred Eye Filly

Just before I was due to give a speech that evening I heard the news that my mother had been taken gravely ill so we took the next flight out to head home. My darling Ma passed away peacefully at her home. She was the most wonderful kind caring and loving person and we will all miss her hugely.

Here we have enjoyed some really fun stable visits with lots of banter! They really are so special and give you a proper chance to get to know how your horse is getting on as well as to meet your trainer and fellow owners. If you haven’t booked in do get in touch as soon as possible to get a date in the diary!

The horses are running well and it was exciting to see our first two year old runner, Audio, finish third on his two starts to date. He looks a sure fire winner in the making as do plenty of others as they now go a stride or two faster. Overall they look a much more precocious bunch than we have had for a while and the trainers seem more than happy with their progress. The older horses are also in full fast work and we are looking forward to Nicklaus starting his season at Newbury on Saturday 18th May on Al Shaqab Lockinge Day.

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

While we did not manage a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, a number of our horses ran with great credit. Crievehill was probably best of the bunch when battling on bravely to finish fourth in the Kim Muir. Posh Trish looked sure to feature in the Dawn Run right up until two from home when she was unable to quicken and eventually finishing eighth. She has given her owners a fabulous season, winning on four occasions (twice between Christmas and New Year!) and looks sure to give plenty more excitement when moving on to fences next season.  Style de Garde also put up a game effort in the Martin Pipe, at one stage leading before fading up the famous Cheltenham hill.

Naturally thoughts turn to the start of the flat season and Knighted was our first runner on the turf where he put up a solid effort up at Nottingham. Camber…

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Naturally thoughts turn to the start of the flat season and Knighted was our first runner on the turf where he put up a solid effort up at Nottingham. Camber was even more game when winning his first race at Newcastle. This big son of Garswood was weak last year and given careful handling by his trainer Richard Fahey but has strengthened up well over the winter. He finished second on his next start at Redcar and looks as if he can win again once he steps up in trip. Showroom looked to have improved again when finishing fourth at Leicester on his first run this year but the clearly failed to stay when moving up to a mile and a half next time at Newcastle on Good Friday.

Camber winning on seasonal debut at Newcastle

Audio was one of our very earliest two year old runners and had been impressing on the home gallops before running at Kempton. He looked a winner in the making when finishing third to two horses with previous experience. In search of a victory Richard Hannon sent him to Brighton last time where he again finished third but only beaten by half a length. It surely won’t be long before this likeable son of Equiano gets into the winners enclosure. Durston is also a horse with a future and looked to have made really pleasing progress from two to three when finishing fourth in a very hot contest at the first Windsor Monday evening meeting.

Durston - 3yo colt by Sea The Moon in training with David Simcock

Immoral made his long awaited debut and shaped with promise at Salisbury.

Rolf's Ramblings

Let’s face it

It has been my privilege, for many years, to describe the action for Dubai Duty Free on the occasion of their multiple racing sponsorships – starting always with the Dubai Duty Free Spring Trials Weekend at Newbury. And possibly my endeavours will not be required in future since I can’t resist recounting the controversial story of the lady in Dubai who got into trouble for likening the woman, by whom she had been replaced in her (now deceased) ex-husband’s affections, to a “horse”. Given the (recognised) claims of that area of the world to be the cradle of the thoroughbred, you’d have thought the description was a compliment.

Roll on 2020

If you want a bet on next year’s Grand National do it now - on Tiger Roll. So it’s only stating the bleeding (he had a trickle…

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Roll on 2020

If you want a bet on next year’s Grand National do it now - on Tiger Roll. So it’s only stating the bleeding (he had a trickle from a nostril after his second consecutive Aintree victory) obvious: scoff not. The bet will be settled in your favour whether or not our ‘modern day Red Rum’ gets to turn up in 2020. Just ask (and don’t exclude the know-alls) the question: “Was there a course and distance winner in this year’s Grand National field?” Even the most venal punter will reply: “Can’t take your money, that’s as daft a question as anything on Pointless.” Everyone, form buffs, once a year punters, know what the diminutive steeplechaser, a ‘National treasure’, has achieved at Aintree for the past two years.

So he has, but in 2018 Becher’s Brook, the most famous fence in the world (give or take Donald Trump’s Mexican wall) was dolled off second time round. So only twenty nine of the scheduled thirty jumps were taken, and the ‘chicane’ around Becher’s second time extended the race distance too. And the same happened this year; this time the 17th was avoided. No, Tiger Roll has not quite emulated Red Rum: collect your winnings and scarper.

Racing needs a plug

In the first week of April I did the rounds on the hospital ward that is European racing: not that Australian racing, wracked by scandals, and American, Santa Anita closed for horse safety, are in better shape. In India the foal population has dropped again. In New Zealand the Government have stepped in – when politicians take notice you know things are desperate. Italy and Germany are basket cases; Norwegian racing, since the abandonment of whips, is chaotic.

In France they’re shutting the only racecourse that has three winning posts; which along with Newmarket has the world’s only ten furlong straight; and where they race left-handed and right-handed – on the same card! In north-west Paris the stately Hotel de Ville of the svelte suburb of Maisons is draped with “Sauvé notre hippodrome” banners. France-Galop are pulling the plug on this unique track founded in 1892 by Joseph Oller, who also introduced the Pari-Mutuel. Oller wouldn’t know which way to turn in his grave because apart from the demise of his racecourse the PM’s revenue has fallen by billions of euros in recent years: the ‘Tabacs’ take more on PSG. The Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris, France’s Gold Cup, is to be sponsored by a Malta-based online bookmaker ZEturf – news greeted in the Press Room at Auteuil, France’s Cheltenham, with more champagne than incredulity – but a shock to the ailing French racing scene, all the same.

Lightning strikes struck French racetracks on important occasions last year. I’d booked my Eurostar well in advance of our nation’s departure date (from the EU) April 12th but spent an anxious evening on the 11th in my Paris hotel waiting for an extension to be granted to Brexit. I’d always been pretty sure about being let into France; less confident about being let out, or the Channel tunnel not being bricked up. Sure enough, French passport and customs held everyone up and my delayed Eurostar (I suppose I should be grateful the delay wasn’t as long as the one negotiated by Mrs May) cost me my London connection. I think I’ll save my breath invoicing Brussels.  

If French racing is going through trying times - we Brits point out with schadenfreude (jolie maligne - French trans.) the ‘death’ of the turfiste – we forget our (totally forgettable) midweek racemeetings which take place in ghostly atmospheres. Great British Racing advocates targeting older audiences to boost attendances; Windsor’s twin attractions of face painting and Easter egg hunting probably won’t have pensioners flocking and they’re too wily anyway to pay £20, and the rest, to watch desperate divisions of 0-50 Classified Stakes and 1-14 novices’ race walkovers. Trainers struck, refusing to declare horses on two occasions at Lingfield as prize money collapsed.

Point less popular

‘Serried (packed) ranks’ of lumpy four-wheel monsters lined up at recent Point-to-Points I attended - Barbury Castle and Larkhill both former strongholds of jumping’s amateur branch. I find the rolling Marlborough Downs and even the endless Salisbury Plain conducive settings but pointing, once kindergarten for National Hunt, is in dire straits. There wasn’t a double-figure field, half that for most races, at either venue. And as for the quality – everything in the winners’ enclosure at Cheltenham and Aintree nowadays is (FR) or (IRE) – the days of British-bred graduates from the hunting field, such as See More Business, are history.

The mainstays of pointing were the farmers on whose land meetings took place. But the British landscape is now in contractors’ hands, the days bygone when family-bred horses, and the horse mad kids that rode them, have moved on.

At least at Barbary Castle there was a singular glimpse of the past. Since computerisation bookmakers distribute anonymous scraps of paper which, even if they record your bet’s details indisputably, inevitably get jumbled up in pockets with old petrol receipts and assorted tissues. The transaction of a bet, “the last truly democratic act” used to be recorded by receipt of brightly coloured, ‘collectable’ even, oblong cards. One bookmaker, Peter Balmain, still hands them out for his transactions. I’ll bet with him in future.

Winds of change

‘X’ hundreds and thousands arrive for the Grand National, as they do on other high days and holidays. But so many race-meetings now rely on wedding parties, stag do’s, pop concerts, for their existence. Scant few bookmakers turn up at all-weather meetings where the big ‘gambles’ are on how long the aforesaid marriages will last. At Windsor, gates reopened in early April, ‘fings’ ain’t what they used to be. The pollarded trees, the half-empty Thames ferry (mockingly one them got stuck on a sandbank) from the town, domestic swans and migrant geese - they turned up again, as they have done since 1868. But few punters emerged from winter hibernation on a blustery April day – without the showers. The fare was humdrum and Windsor aspires to little more. Two meetings later – “free entry to the ‘cheap’ ring” will seek to attract a lost audience. Maybe the regulars who gathered for time immemorial for Monday evening meetings, have been pensioned off. Royal Windsor is not the regal course of old.

Powell power

Brendan Powell made many a comeback from injury during a career whose finest hour was 1988 Grand National-winning jockey on Rhyme ‘N’ Reason. But he has handed in his trainer’s licence for good and joined Joseph O’Brien’s staff. Some years back my wife and I owned a lovely old staying hurdler, Whiskey Grain. We ran him on unfavourable fast ground at Chepstow but he still won. I couldn’t be there but my wife cheered ‘Whisk’ home, steered by Brendan. My wife came back flushed (no other way to describe it) with excitement. “That’s saved our marriage,” she said. Whenever I meet Brendan I grab him by the lapels: “You’re the bastard that saved my marriage.”

Would that his training career could have been salvaged.

Alex's Restaurant Tip

For those of you who haven’t been I would thoroughly recommend the Red Lion at East Chisenbury. Not far from Pewsey (and Ralph Beckett’s yard!) this Michelin starred restaurant has a short, interesting menu and a decent wine list. The quality of the cooking is very high and it has managed to retain its “pubby” feel making a great place for lunch or dinner. The bedrooms have also been done to a high standard, so well worth a visit if you are in the area!

Exciting New NH Horse

This is Hijack, a cracking 4yo gelding by a very exciting sire in Fame and Glory who sadly died as an eleven year old in 2017. He himself was a top class middle distance stayer, winning multiple Group 1 races and was second in the Epsom Derby to Sea The Stars. His oldest progeny are five year olds and he has already produced a Grade 1 hurdler in Commander of Fleet, owned by Gigginstown and trained by Gordon Elliott.

This gelding’s dam, Etoile Margot was a winner both on the flat and over fences. She is the dam of four winners from six runners, the most notable being Village…

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This gelding’s dam, Etoile Margot was a winner both on the flat and over fences. She is the dam of four winners from six runners, the most notable being Village Vic, a hugely successful jumper trained by Philip Hobbs. This dual Grade 3 winner had seven career wins in total earning nearly £200,000 in prize money. 

Hijack has done nothing but impress Nicky Henderson since he has been at Seven Barrows - click here to watch him cruising up the gallop last week. He will now head off for his holiday and we look forward to having this lovely 4yo back in training early Autumn, where he will be aimed at a bumper before going novice hurdling. 

There are still a couple of shares available and more information can be found here

Out and about with the Highclere camera

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