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May 2020

As we face yet another week of isolation I do hope that you enjoy this newsletter with its very varied content. I am so grateful to Brough Scott, Julia Lukas, Barry Weisbord, Clive Hamblin, Henry Beeby and Clodagh McKenna for their contributions which add so much interest to this our second lockdown newsletter. And thanks too to Alex for his fascinating piece on wine, and to Rolf’s inspired interview with up and coming star jockey Tom Marquand.

At the time of writing it appears that there is a real chance that racing might resume behind closed doors by the end of May. Government are keen for sport…

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At the time of writing it appears that there is a real chance that racing might resume behind closed doors by the end of May. Government are keen for sport to resume to build morale across the nation and the news that football is aiming to be back in early June was great to hear. The BHA are also in discussions with government to restart provided that the Coronavirus pandemic is seen to be declining and also that those racecourses wanting to participate can prove that they can operate in as safe and secure a manner that fits the strict medical criteria.

Field sizes are likely to be limited to only twelve runners and behind closed doors means keeping the number of people on the racecourse to an absolute minimum. This means no owners and only the trainer or a representative, no media and the minimum number of cameramen etc. The BHA are currently working on an emergency revised fixture list which will hopefully see a broad range of races that includes a programme for two year olds. Inevitably there will be a revised Pattern due to the late start of the season and news on dates for Classic races will be announced shortly.

Sadly all races will see a significant reduction in prizemoney which is inevitable given that all betting shops remain closed. Also with little media rights income together with greatly reduced sponsorship, it will be down to the Levy board to help fund racing through these very choppy waters. A restart of racing though will give us all so much to cheer about and will raise our spirits massively as your horses can at last be unleashed, and we can see those pale blue silks in action again!

Thank you so much for your very kind words of encouragement regarding the “Highclere’s special moments” videos. I have so enjoyed seeing those stars of old winning (or nearly winning!) such important races and your feedback has been amazing so we will continue to keep them coming provided of course that we can find the race footage!

I do hope that you are well and that you are managing to get through this sustained period of isolation. There is hopefully now light at the end of the tunnel with regard to the restart of racing but sadly it will still be some time before we are all able to meet up, compare notes on the horses and raise a glass or two to happier times ahead. All of my team are well and send their very best wishes to everyone.

Stay safe,

Harry

Harry Herbert, Chairman

A Postcard From America

By Barry Weisbord 

The article you are about to read is written by Barry Weisbord, who was my mentor for a number of key years when I first got into the racing world. I…

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The article you are about to read is written by Barry Weisbord, who was my mentor for a number of key years when I first got into the racing world. I worked for him in Lexington, Kentucky in the early eighties when he started Matchmaker, a sales platform for selling stallion shares and nominations. The business grew to include advisory services to racecourses and I was lucky enough to work with him on the Laurel Park International Turf Festival as well as the Hollywood Park International Turf Festival.

Barry also sponsored the Matchmaker International (formerly the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup) and the Matchmaker Yorkshire Oaks at York after the tobacco company was forced to pull out. Together we named it the International, now of course sponsored by Juddmonte and one of the most important all ages mile and a quarter races in the world. Barry is now involved in Trakus, an amazing system that pinpoints on the big screen where a horse's position is and tracks every metre that horse runs.

The system is used on the big screen of many of the leading racecourses around the world including Santa Anita, Belmont, Churchill Downs, Flemington, Meydan, Happy Valley and Sha Tin. Barry also founded the Thoroughbred Daily News, now regarded as the most important electronic daily news service that covers the industry worldwide. This service is used by every professional in the racing industry around the world and is another example of why Barry is regarded as one of the great forward thinkers in our sport. He is a special friend and my life might have been very different had we not met in Kentucky all those years back in 1984.

Thank you Barry for taking the time to write this letter from America..

Like most of you reading this, we are consumed with pandemic news and restrictions. It is more all-encompassing here, as I live in the New York City area that has been the hardest hit in the world. Unfortunately, the U.S. leads the world in deaths now, and half of those come from just two states, New York and New Jersey. I have been in self-isolation since March 17 when my son took sick. I followed a few days later with a much milder case. We are both on the mend. 

Racing is in much the same spot. We have a few tracks still running without fans. We still have to care for the horses which has so many challenges, as unlike your private yard system, most of ours train at public tracks or training centers, where it is almost impossible to keep the virus out. Racing is a state regulated activity as is the pandemic response here. That means that states will start to lift restrictions as they feel it’s safe to resume more activities. I expect there will be more racing in May and June without fans. I don’t see fans being part of the mix for a long time and possibly till a vaccine exists. If this feels like all gloom, I do feel there is an opportunity for racing. American racing has had a trifecta of challenges in the last year.

1. Sports betting. Sports betting co-exists with racing all over the world. The relative popularity of sports in America, combined with the constantly higher price (takeout) charged by tracks to consumers vs fairer priced sports betting, make racing a challenging sell. Sports betting will expand quickly around the U.S.

2. Animal rights. Santa Anita had a rash of deaths on the track last winter which drew the attention of the California press and government. It is not a pro-racing environment. 

3. Doping. Some prominent trainers, including the winning trainer of the Saudi Cup, and vets, were indicted by the federal government in an elaborate cheating scandal. They were not caught by drug testing, but by old-fashioned police work. There might be others to follow.   

These challenges are formidable. The American Jockey Club has been supporting federal legislation that would place racing under one umbrella for rules, enforcement, and testing, all of which are done state by state presently. The current system does not help us deal effectively with the challenges and competition.

But during the pre- and post-pandemic comes the opportunity for a recipe for progress. There is nothing better for a business than reduced competition. The pandemic has shuttered sports across the country. The few tracks racing are the only sports operating. With our parimutuel betting system both on and off track, racing in America can survive without fans until a vaccine is distributed. Other sports will have a harder time. 

What’s the recipe? 

To enhance our digital presentation of racing so that our pictures, graphics, data, second screen, archived web content are all state of the art. To modernize our betting to include exchange wagering, fixed odds, more innovative parimutuel pricing and bet types to give us a fighting chance to engage the sports bettor. 

To improve our national structure, rules, calendar, major stakes schedule, drug enforcement, and penalties, by passing federal legislation, or by creating an opt in major league association of top tracks. 

The pandemic could present a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

I hope we’ll take advantage of it. 

Nijinsky RIP

By Brough Scott

They will never bury him. He now lies beneath three feet of Kentucky earth but the memory gallops free. The best I have ever seen. Other things happened in the…

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Brough Scott

They will never bury him. He now lies beneath three feet of Kentucky earth but the memory gallops free. The best I have ever seen. Other things happened in the summer of 1970. Nixon sent troops into Cambodia. Edward Heath confounded the pollsters by winning the election. England got beaten by the heat and West Germany in Mexico. But to us it belonged to Nijinsky, his Derby, his Triple Crown.

To be exact it belonged to him and to his people. To really evoke the magic you have also to mention the men who rode and trained him. You have to introduce Lester Piggott and Vincent O’Brien.

Nijinsky was the horse they were born to share. A giant of a beast, as light on his feet and as taut in his temperament as his spring-heeled namesake, Nijinsky seemed the complete runner that their combined riding and training talents had been bound to spawn. This time, we thought, Lester and Vincent were bringing us the ultimate.

They had brought us so much already. In 1970 Piggott was 34, O’Brien 53, both at the absolute height of their powers and the only truly acknowledged geniuses in their respective professions.

Piggott had been centre stage since his first freakish victory at the age of 12. He had ridden his first Derby winner at 18, and after ruling the roost in association with Noel Murless up to the mid-60s, had found even that that great trainer’s horses not enough to satisfy him.

O’Brien had a legend even longer. Between 1948 and 1955 “the little doctor” from Tipperary had won four Gold Cups and saddled horses to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Grand National three times in a row. It  remains an untouchable sequence. Switching to the flat he had won the Arc de Triomphe with Ballymoss in ’58  and the Derby with Larkspur in ‘62. Vincent O’Brien was the foil supreme for Lester Piggott.

Lester Piggott and Vincent O'Brien

They were both great actors. O’Brien playing the shy, studious perfectionist on whose soft-spoken words millionaires and punters alike would ponder - Piggott even more sparing of speech and mercurially difficult to understand both on a horse and off it. As a double act Vincent and Lester added mystery to match the excitement.

In 1968 they delivered. Sir Ivor won the 2,000 Guineas, The Derby and The Washington International. Piggott refined the big bay’s finishing kick into an art form. Sir Ivor was as thrilling as anything ever witnessed before, but he was beaten in both the Arc and the Eclipse. O’Brien and Piggott had given us the great,  but not quite the ultimate.

Nijinsky

Two years later we thought that they had found it. Back then everything they touched had an aura about it. Excitement grew as news came through from Ireland of a huge horse with a beautiful name. Nijinsky, the new star from Tipperary, unbeaten, un-extended at home, he was to come over for our Dewhurst and treat his rivals like ageing donkeys.

Now, as a three year old, he was to be Lester’s ride in the Derby and all the Classics. This was Lester’s prime. The nation would share the showdown with him.

Sadly it all tailed off at the finish. Debilitated by a mid-season attack of ringworm and the effort of staying the mile and three quarter distance of the St Leger, Nijinsky just failed in the Arc and signed off in sad, muck-sweat, nervous breakdown defeat in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket. But that’s not what we remember.

We remember the arrogant ease with which he beat our best milers in the 2,000 Guineas, the sensational destruction of Blakeney and the best older horses in the King George at Ascot. But above all we remember The Derby.

The French thought they had one to beat him, a big chestnut brute called Gyr, a son of the immortal Sea Bird, whose trainer Etienne Pollet had postponed retirement for this final shot. There were doubts whether Nijinsky would stay a mile and a half or handle the helter-skelter gradients of the Epsom track. Two furlongs out Gyr and his fellow Frenchman Stintino (trained by a young Francois Boutin) were powering and Lester was working without response.

In those days Piggott cast a sort of diabolic spell across a horse race, his whip the conjuring stick. Just once its tongue flicked fast and hard on to Nijinsky’s quarters. “I had switched him off too much,” Lester said quietly next morning, “but once he woke up it was easy.”

Much has happened since that glorious June, not all of it too comfortable. Nijinsky has had the best deal. Lauded as a superstud, he actually covered a mare on the Monday before he died. Active as they say to the very end. O’Brien and Piggott are in the last glimmerings of their careers and the news of Nijinsky’s end comes in the same month as the Francois Boutin trained Arazi bids to rob him of his place in the pantheon.

Little Arazi has already accomplished more than his giant predecessor had done at a comparative stage by winning in the USA as a two year old, and his target of a Kentucky Derby – Epsom Derby double is something even O’Brien never contemplated. If he pulls it off, he will deserve all the superlatives in the lexicon.

But in the meantime an arctic wind blows across the heath at Newmarket. A silver haired grandfather, still lean and leathery from age defying days in the saddle, looks back at the images of him and Nijinsky at their height.

Nijinsky completing the Triple Crown

The old man will not be drawn into exact comparisons. He just mutters the thought that Nijinsky was “the most imposing”. But something about the way he watches the video pictures make you feel Lester knows what we know. That we will never see their like again.

My Introduction To Racing

By Julia Budd

As a long term owner with HTR and now involved in some aspects of the racing game, I am definitely the opposite of Harry, who is considered racing aristocracy. I…

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As a long term owner with HTR and now involved in some aspects of the racing game, I am definitely the opposite of Harry, who is considered racing aristocracy. I would be more in the Johnny-come-lately camp. Other than trips to Newbury for the Hennessy meeting and to The Bullingdon Point to Point (less with horses in mind), I would have struggled to differentiate a Group race from a lesser handicap in my early twenties.

Harry and I met at this time through our mutual love of acting, sharing the stage in a number of productions at The Westminster Theatre; generally with Harry as the heart throb lead and me variously as the French maid, an RSPCA lady and a shopkeeper’s daughter. When Harry decided to found Highclere Thoroughbred Racing in the early 1990s, with the aim of establishing syndicates as serious force at the higher echelons of racing, he asked various friends if they might like to become involved. As we all know, Harry’s enthusiasm knows no bounds and from that moment I became well and truly hooked.

Although I can lay claim to having a share in Highclere’s first ever winner Alcove in 1993, trained by Richard Hannon Senior, it is fair to say that the early years also had their share of disappointments. Not for me Lake Coniston or Delilah. However, it made one realistic about the ups and downs of racing - reveling in the highs and phlegmatic about the lows. Appreciative too of the simple pleasures of a beautiful morning on Warren Hill or the gallops at Kingclere. It is almost thirty years since I became involved and I can honestly say that racing has become a hugely important part of my life.

Bonfire winning the Dante at York in 2012

Hard to remember all the horses in which one has had a share, although the photographs in various loos and the boot room do help. However, the privilege of having four runners in the Derby and the Oaks during that time are all standout moments: Housemaster, trained by Michael Bell in 1999, Regime, also trained by Michael Bell in 2008 and Bonfire and Vow, trained by Andrew Balding and William Haggas in 2012.

Standing next to Harry watching Housemaster go to post at the start of the Derby, both of us were incapable of speech. For those of you who know either of us, that is rare indeed. I don’t think I fully appreciated then, as I do now as Chair of Epsom Downs racecourse, quite how hard it is even to have a runner in The Derby , let alone a winner. The likes of Coolmore, Godolphin and Juddmonte put an awful lot in.

Housemaster in the 1999 Derby

It has bred in me a particular love of middle distance horses and stayers. My stand out horse over the years would be Distinction trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who recently featured in one of HTR ‘special moments’. Big D raced for many years, took us down to Melbourne for the Cup, won the Goodwood and Esher Cups and came a heart stopping second in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot at York. The Melbourne Cup is an amazing race, so brilliantly hosted by the Victoria Racing Club under the superb chairmanship of Amanda Elliot who was a fellow owner of Libran, the second HTR horse to run in the race.

Distinction - Goodwood Cup 2005

My racing involvements have grown, from becoming a racecourse steward for 10 years, joining the board of Sandown and in more recent years the board of Epsom. I became a Steward of The Jockey Club in 2012 and have been a trustee of Racing to School and much more recently The British Racing School, both inspiring organisations educating the next generation of racing lovers as well as training the future stable staff on whom our industry depends.

Much is made of racing’s ability to fight amongst its various constituents over an ever reducing pie and we have all seen that behaviour. However, in the current situation of racing (and life!) in  lockdown, there are many more examples of racing working together to plan for a resumption, which we all desperately want and need. The Horsemen, the BHA and the Racecourse Association (of which the Jockey Club with its 15 courses is a key part) are engaging with each other, with Government and with other sports to work out a way of bringing back racing, initially ‘Behind Closed Doors’. This, whilst avoiding using vital health and security services unnecessarily.

The Jockey Club has postponed the four Classics from their normal place in the racing calendar. However just as with Newmarket and the Guineas, we at Epsom are working hard to see if the Oaks and the Derby might be safely run behind closed doors in early July, possibly on the same day. Three months ago, I would have been devastated by this prospect. Now I would be overjoyed. 

I have so many people to thank for giving me both a leg up in racing and an introduction to its many pleasures, but it would definitely have to start with Harry and HTR!

The End Of En Primeur?

By Alex Smith

As a lover of Bordeaux and an ex wine merchant, I succumbed early on to the ritual of buying claret “en primeur”.  Also known as Wine Futures, En Primeur refers…

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As a lover of Bordeaux and an ex wine merchant, I succumbed early on to the ritual of buying claret “en primeur”.  Also known as Wine Futures, En Primeur refers to the process of buying wines before they are bottled and released onto the market. Wines are purchased exclusive of Duty and VAT and then usually shipped 2-3 years after the vintage. They can only be purchased by the unmixed case (12 bottles, 24 half bottles, 6 magnums etc.). The wines most commonly offered en primeur are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône Valley and Port, although other regions are adopting the practice.

Wine regions of France

A recent article by Jancis Robinson summed up the passion for wine collectors but also the dilemma. So strong is the collecting instinct that many of those who start to buy wine seriously end up with wine collections that would take a couple of lifetimes, even pre-coronavirus, to consume. As one particularly avid collector put it to me when I asked how long he would have to live to consume every bottle, ‘I’ve never done the calculation because (unless I lose my taste buds and have a garage sale), I know I shall die with far more wine in my cellar than I can possibly drink. And I’m still buying almost as fast as I can drink, if not faster.’

Bordeaux City

Every year wine merchants and journalists descend on Bordeaux to taste the latest vintage from barrels and herald the endless round of press releases from the top and lesser know chateaux. Tasting an unfinished wine and trying to predict how it will evolve over time is not so far apart from the bloodstock agent studying a yearling and trying to work out how he or she will develop with age.

Barrel samples

It sounds glamorous but it isn’t (a bloodstock agent will tell you the same thing) as the early enthusiasm to taste the first wine begins to wane as the palate becomes ever more jaded through tasting hundreds of deep purple samples leaving the experts with brightly coloured lips and stained teeth. Book 3 at the end of an exhaustive sales season will result in many a bloodstock agent feeling pretty knackered!

Then the Chateaux start releasing their prices. This will happen over the course of several weeks with some days busier than others. Of course the biggest noise surrounds the release of the first growths - Chateau Latour, Lafite, Cheval Blanc et al. It never ceases to amaze the more cynical of us that wines are regularly described as being the “best in the last ten years” or even “twenty” and sometimes impossibly lavish praise, perhaps exaggerated to justify the hefty price of the top wines which are well out of the range of most of us. Emails have meant that collectors are swamped with excitable releases every day with tasting notes and prices form numerous merchants.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Still the collector’s urge meant that I continued buying year after year (with the occasional exception for a very poor year), enjoying looking through my portfolio from time to time and picking off those that were ready to drink. There is something rather special about bringing out a bottle that you have been keeping for fifeteen or even twenty years and enjoying it with family and friends. There is of course the odd disappointment of either a corked bottle (less so these days) or even a wine that hasn’t lived up to expectations, but there is also the pleasure of drinking something of real quality that is worth a good deal more than you paid for it, although that is one of the contentious issues resulting in some in the trade no longer offering en primeur.

This year the pandemic-inspired lockdown put paid to the Bordeaux en primeur campaign that should now be underway. Bordeaux is still the most popular category of tradable fine wine, even if it has been losing ground to Burgundy and Italian and American wine. So, when the 2019 en primeur circus had to be abandoned – admittedly at the last minute and only when President Macron locked down the whole of France - it has caused much soul-searching in the fine-wine trade, not least in Bordeaux itself.

Jancis Robinson has her own view on the annual round of tasting young wines from the barrel. “It should be said that we are no great fans of tasting wines designed to be aged for decades in bottle as cask samples when they are only a few months old. The 'tradition' of offering bordeaux en primeur is relatively recent. It would be so much more sensible to show the wines when they are more evolved – in an ideal world when they are in bottle so we can be sure that what we are tasting is as close as possible to what people will buy. This of course would require the Bordelais to forego their annual injection of cash at the usual time, which would be painful for some of the smaller operators but no great sweat for the bigger ones. (And of course it is the smaller producers who have been suffering most for years, but they are not the principal participants in the en primeur campaign”.

Should the current crisis of the coronavirus pandemic be seen as an opportunity to re-think the Bordeaux en primeur campaign completely?  

This campaign has been twisted almost totally out of recognition during the past 25+ years, by a combination of châteaux, négociants and commentators coming together with traders to praise vintages – sometimes excessively – while the wines were unfinished, and before prices had been declared. For some years, buying Bordeaux vintages en primeur has been making less and less sense for wine lovers. Level-headed traders have always been able to find good buys each vintage at en primeur time, as certain suppliers, while making delicious wines, have kept their feet on the ground when deciding on prices. But, broadly, the whole concept needs a re-think.

Buying bordeaux en primeur, in the spring after the harvest, has been financially rewarding only for the vintages 2008, 2012 and 2014 in recent years. The most obvious examples of this were the 2009 first growth Bordeaux. Some examples: Ch Lafite 2009 released in 2010 at £13,000 and peaked at £14,500 in January 2011. It is now £7,000. Ch Margaux 2009 released in 2010 at £8,500 and peaked at £8,950 in April 2011. It is now £6,080. Many of the 2010 bordeaux were overpriced too. Liv-ex compared prices on release in 2011 with those in February 2020 and found that 23 of the prime 50 wines had fallen in price since they were offered en primeur. The most extreme example of rise and fall is Ch Lafite 2008, embossed with a ‘lucky’ 8 for the then-rapturous Chinese market. It was released at a relatively modest £1,850 but if you bought at market peak in February 2011 you would have had to pay £14,200. It is currently selling at £7,000.

Harvest time in Bordeaux

So how might the en primeur campaign evolve this year? There is talk of tasting wines in June but that is impractical, even if some samples can be sent over to the UK, many Chateaux will not do so. Perhaps travel restrictions will allow the travelling circus to arrive in Bordeaux in September when the wines will be somewhat more evolved, but by that time the harvest will have started, a difficult time for the chateaux to look after the wine trade. Some have suggested waiting until next spring giving professionals the opportunity to taste not only the 2019 vintage but also the 2020 vintage and the resulting benefit of being able to compare the two. Discussions between chateaux and the trade are ongoing with no conclusion reached as yet.

Will I buy wines from the 2019 vintage? There is now a very real practicality that dictates my decision making. The better wines may take at least fifteen years before they are ready for drinking and by that time I will be, well lets just say getting on a bit. But then again, every time I read an enthusiastic tasting note on an old favourite, that collector’s instinct kicks in again and my sensible hat once more goes out of the window.

Marquand Making His Mark

An Interview By Rolf Johnson

If there’s one jockey up for racing behind locked doors, it’s Tom Marquand. He knows what it’s like not being cheered home, it happened all the time this spring during…

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If there’s one jockey up for racing behind locked doors, it’s Tom Marquand. He knows what it’s like not being cheered home, it happened all the time this spring during his hugely successful campaign in Australia. Racing there continues without attendances.

Silence was golden for Tom. In Sydney, after triumph in the £216,000 Group One Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on William Haggas-trained Addeybb, his winning run culminated in the biggest triumph of his escalating career, aboard the same horse in the £675,000 Group One Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.

Victory for Tom and Addeybb in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick

“The atmosphere was much like Kempton on a Wednesday evening,” Tom said, laughing.

Conversation with Tom is punctuated with laughter and the optimism of youth. He’s just 22, the world literally at his feet – he’s already tasted success in virtually every major racing country.

I pointed out that there’s only one photo where I haven’t seen him smiling – when Josephine Gordon was crowned champion apprentice in 2016 thwarting his bid for repeat of his 2015 title. He laughs, now; not then.

But there’s not a superficial bone in his body. If that sounds the least bit patronising, I once interviewed an up and coming jockey who reproached me with: “I was told you wouldn’t ask damn fool questions.” To which I retorted I hadn’t expected him to give me such damn fool answers. With Tom the dialogue is a balanced, flowing stream containing no hidden stumbling blocks.

One word peppers his conversations – ‘lucky’. His latest Highclere winner was Pesto at Sandown last summer. “I’m not conscious of luck, conscious of being fortunate at the time that is. Looking back we were lucky that a gap opened at the last minute for us get up to dead-heat.”

Pesto gets up to dead-heat at Sandown under a strong drive by Tom

“But surely,” I challenged, “you were unlucky that it didn’t open earlier?” Tom laughs, again.

Lucky? The day after he got to Australia a two-week quarantine for visitors came in. Top Aussie trainer John O’Shea, who oversees Tom’s visits, was fulsome. “He wasn’t a week off the boat and he gave my Live and Free as good a ride as you’d see anywhere.”

Tom said: “It’s very different there. You need a horse for Australia who can adapt to a very different way of training and racing. Addeybb did but then he’s a top horse anywhere.”

Our QIPCO Champion Stakes is the equivalent of Randwick’s Queen Elizabeth, a race which for the previous three years had been won by the immortal Winx. Addeybb had been runner-up to Magical in our Champion. Rosehill Gardens was the first time Tom had ridden the William Haggas-trained four-year-old. He will be riding regularly for Somerville Lodge when racing resumes.

William Haggas is measured in his comments about his new jockey. “It goes without saying Tom’s very determined; he’s youthful, enthusiastic. His weight is good.”

William recalls the moment when he saw a champion in waiting. “It was on the Queen’s Otago for Michael Bell at Yarmouth early last summer. I thought, for a moment, I was seeing Ryan Moore. Tom is not bogged down in his thinking, not bound by outside influences. Not having a retainer is a plus; such arrangements don’t provide you with championships.”  (They don’t ‘do’ retainers in Australia).

This independent streak has been Marquand’s guiding light. “I was due to go to Andrew Balding’s on a permanent basis after a summer there. But Hollie’s (Doyle, his partner) dad had been apprenticed at the Hannon’s. Andrew’s is an apprentice academy, hostel, everything, managed scrupulously. At Hannons I was thrown in the deep end and it suited my independent style; it fitted the moment.

And Richard Hannon endorses those sentiments. “Tom made the most of the opportunities he had with us. We gave him the works and the relationships he formed will be invaluable. He’s a natural. The best apprentices (Dane O’Neill and Ryan Moore were both champion apprentice under the Hannon regime) work it out for themselves. You wouldn’t coach Federer would you?”

Tom concedes the cultures are as different as the styles in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald said of him: “The British jocks are reckoned to be po-faced mutes, ours are affable liars. Marquand is different altogether. He’s not a mute alien from a different planet. He’s much like our kids”.

“You have to adapt,” Tom repeats, forgetting himself in the moment of success at locked down Randwick, hugging Addeybb’s lad Safid Alam in the winner’s enclosure. That cost him a $2000 fine.

“I sat on a horse when I was two or three. We lived near Cheltenham – I never attended school during Cheltenham race week. I started pony racing later than most but it showed me the path I wanted to take. There’s a picture of me and Hollie eight years ago in a 13.2 pony race at Andoversford (within sight of Cheltenham).”

Who won?

“Can’t remember,” more laughter. “Hollie and me both owe so much to the Hannons. Richard put her up on horses he owned. They made me champion apprentice. You’ll say this is nuts but Hollie is more driven than I am! in a different way. To her success is what happened yesterday, not what might happen tomorrow. Her work ethic is different class.  Nobody needs to blow her trumpet. I believe she has the best chance so far of a female becoming champion jockey.”

Ahead of you? More laughter. “We try not to flatten each other in races; there isn’t time in a finish for her to say ‘you won’t be getting supper tonight’…but I don’t want to jeopardise it!”

I say I’ve backed William to be champion trainer in the next five years and he – Tom – to be champion jockey likewise. Now I have to do the double.

He’s happy with that. “Champion jockey has always been in my sights – the great way last season ended and then the winter made me even more determined,” he says affirmatively. Then his voice drops, continuing, reverentially. “At William Haggas’s nothing goes unremarked, nothing goes amiss, nothing is out of place.

“Racing is in its own bubble, alright then an imaginary bubble – it isn’t the whole world. So it’s important it comes to the right decisions on restarting. Everyone’s working overtime to a resumption.”

Fame is not a phase for Marquand and he is not camera shy (which had he been might have helped that day in the Randwick winner’s enclosure). The concern now is that he and Hollie will lose impetus – they have so much at stake the longer the stoppage persists without dates, deadlines, answers.

The background of Sydney’s cavernous empty stands wasn’t so much eerie as unnatural. The pictures show horses pretty much super-imposed on a vacant background – the ‘action’ looks fabricated. You wonder if we are prepared for such eventualities here.

For Marquand racing’s oblivion ought to be excruciating. “It’s scary how much you rely on normality,” he observed.

Time is on his side even if, as we speak, for the archetypal young man in a hurry, it is currently progressing funereally. But such a positive person can’t let the awfulness consume him.

“See you soon – even if it has to be Kempton on a Wednesday night!”

"What Are You Going To Do?"

By Henry Beeby

The current COVID 19 crisis and lockdown has prompted that question to be asked repeatedly and with a rising sense of panic by some, and not just in racing and…

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The current COVID 19 crisis and lockdown has prompted that question to be asked repeatedly and with a rising sense of panic by some, and not just in racing and bloodstock but in all walks of life.

No one alive has been through anything like it and it has been morbidly fascinating to watch and listen to the different approaches of each country and their leaders. Living in Ireland, but with strong business and family connections in the UK, I tune into the BBC and RTE News at least once a day and sometimes wonder at the palpable difference in tone and approach from the two Governments, and then, of course, both stations regularly report from USA and the musings of President Trump who certainly has his own unique way of tackling the issue.

A great sage once told me that you should focus on what you can control and try not to worry about things out with your influence. So, following that advice, I am doing what I always do and have done for nearly 40 years, namely preparing for the next sale of thoroughbred racehorses. I am the proverbial “one trick pony” having started in the bloodstock industry upon leaving school in 1982. I have never done anything else, am not qualified for any other career and do not want to try something new. This is my life, always has been and always will be.

In that respect I am like the overwhelming majority of people in racing and bloodstock. A lifetime professional and that is one of the great strengths of our industry. In good times and bad, we simply keep on going whether we are aiming for the next race or the next sale, or both. Whilst that sometimes means we can appear a little insular and parochial, it also results in a great sense of community and connectivity.

It is also why the bloodstock market has historically bounced back quicker than many others as we simply have to regroup and get ready for the next opportunity on the racecourse or in the sales ring. 10 years ago that was very evident as the financial crash hit bloodstock values hard. In Goffs we saw ring turnover plunge from €120 million to €48 million as the economy tanked. However bloodstock recovered so much quicker than anyone expected as we worked as an industry to support each other and rebuild.

Paulyn dispersal at Goffs November sale

So the lockdown has seen me interacting with colleagues, clients, bankers, competitors and family via phone, Zoom, and all the mediums available to keep us all so much more connected than used to be the case. We have been planning, reacting and adapting as the situation has evolved to ensure we are best placed to restart when the Government allows. On that latter point it is worth stating that we have taken the view that we must play our part and follow whatever directives have been issued. We closed the Goffs and Goffs UK offices on 16th March and instigated working from home for both teams whilst we really have stayed put to ensure we help in the battle.

“Plan for the Worst and Hope for the Best” has been our mantra so we have rescheduled sales and accelerated work on an on-line sales platform that we envisage supporting the traditional auction method for some time to come, and especially in the first instance when it may be impossible for the same numbers to travel and attend our sales. We have linked our UK Breeze-Up Sale to the French equivalent conducted by Arqana which will lead to a joint offering at Goffs Kildare Paddocks in Ireland at the end of June.

At the same time I have been in regular contact with Edmond Mahony and his Tattersalls teams in UK and Ireland to ensure we work for the greater good at this difficult time for everyone. Some have expressed surprise at our cooperation as they only ever see us as fierce competitors but the fact is that we have much in common and regularly interact on non-competitive issues like drug testing policies, integrity and so much more. Indeed, the strong competition between Tattersalls and Goffs that provides such a vibrant market place never blinds us to the interests of the wider industry.

At the time of writing there is much we still do not know. When? How? What? All of us wait to hear when and how Governments lift the restrictions on our normal life and then see what that means for all of us and the virus. Will it surge again or have we done enough? Only time will tell.

Returning to that advice. BHA and HRI are both race ready when the science tells the authorities it is safe to race again. And we are sale ready when some movement is allowed. Our sales will take place, perhaps on different dates, but we will utilise everything at our disposal to promote each horse entrusted to us to sell into whatever market exists.

There aren’t many certainties but we can rely on these:

-This will end. It’s not “if” but “when”.
-Racing will return and we will see more great champions of the turf.
-It may be tough for a while but the bloodstock market will bounce back.

After all – what else am I going to do…?

Pelvic Injuries

By Clive Hamblin MRCVS

Over the past few weeks, in these troubled times, Formula One motor racing engineers have been turning their skills to helping the NHS with ventilator designs. I suspect that if…

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Over the past few weeks, in these troubled times, Formula One motor racing engineers have been turning their skills to helping the NHS with ventilator designs. I suspect that if they were asked to design a machine capable of projecting a weight of five hundred kilograms forward at forty mph by a system of levers, they probably couldn’t do better than what the few million years of evolution - latterly, well the last three hundred of them - assisted by human intervention have come up with as a paradigm: the Thoroughbred Racehorse.

One area the 'mechanics' need to investigate would be the materials for manufacturing their new 'model'. Muscle tissue is incredibly clever. It is effectively a huge series of microscopic ratchets; just add a nerve impulse and a quantum of energy and the ratchets contract in milliseconds: the power produced by the massive muscles of the limbs, especially those of the hindquarters, drives the horse forward with incredible speed. Hey presto - a Derby winner.

The levers are made of bone, again a cleverly complex living tissue, unlike the inert carbon fibre or titanium alloys of Formula One, and able to withstand quite impressive forces. But bone is fallible when overloaded - bringing us directly to the subject of pelvic fractures. The pelvis is a clever piece of engineering, whereby the hind limb is attached to the axial skeleton (the skull and spine), offering stability for the normal posture of the horse plus the ability to be used as a base for the levers, the hind limbs, to trigger the gallop. The end effect is that the bones of the pelvis have huge forces pulling on them, in both directions at once, requiring substantial rigidity.

Overloading can lead to some form of failure. This might be a simple muscle 'pull'  or possibly a tear in the tendon at either end of the respective muscle, where it attaches to the bone; or a fracture of the bone itself (sometimes misdiagnosed as a muscle injury).

There is a range of disorders. A 'greenstick' fracture of the wing of the Ilium with no obvious displacement is probably the commonest pelvic fracture. If you imagine bone to be like a tube of compact material (the cortical bone) with a less dense filling, a honeycomb (cancellous bone), then the tube splits on one side but doesn’t break in two; hence the term “greenstick”.

Further overloading leads to a full fracture with the potential of displacement and the jagged ends of fractured bone capable of inflicting severe damage to other soft tissues, most notably major blood vessels: such an outcome can be life threatening.

We encounter these fractures on the racetrack, with a number of causative factors: for example, leaving the stalls as the horse accelerates to maximum speed in a matter of half a dozen strides, he she or it generates huge forces of thrust on the pelvis; or, following an awkward jump in a National Hunt race; or even a bump on a bend. The injury may simply be the consequence of wear and tear associated with repetitive strain.

I think it is fair to say that it is a more common injury in the 'fairer sex', perhaps because fillies and mares have a less substantial bony skeleton; perhaps too, because of hormonal differences.

Confirmation of the injury is by a combination of clinical examinations: ultrasound scanning of the region using sound waves to obtain an image of the surface of the bone; and possibly the use of Nuclear Scintigraphy - an on screen image of the injury seen as changes in colour observed by the uptake of radioactive material on a 'map' of the pelvis.

Needless to say it is a painful injury, but with careful management - box rest until sound and then similar time on the horse-walker before resuming trotting, appropriate medication and a good deal of Father Time - the majority of horses sustaining the less dramatic pelvic fractures, the typical non-displaced hairline, make a full recovery to continue their training and racing careers.

Lemon Cheesecake

By Clodagh McKenna

I was so excited to hear that so many of you baked my Rosemary Clodagh Bread from last month's newsletter, thank you so much for all the lovely messages. This…

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I was so excited to hear that so many of you baked my Rosemary Clodagh Bread from last month's newsletter, thank you so much for all the lovely messages. This month I am sharing a delicious Lemon Cheesecake recipe that I made last week on my daily IGTV cookery series. It has a lovely light fluffy topping with that all important tang from the lemon zest, and of course a buttery biscuit base that we all love so much. You can swap out the lemon for lime if you wish and also add almonds, ginger biscuits or walnuts to the base. Hope you all enjoy the bake this month, and I look forward to seeing your creations. If you do post them on social media will you tag @highclereracing so we can see them!

Lemon Cheesecake

Lots of love, Clodagh xx

(Serves 8)

INGREDIENTS:

250g /2½ cups digestive biscuits / graham crackers

80g / 2/3 cup hazelnuts (or almonds, walnuts or chocolate nibs)

100g / ½ cup butter

300ml/ 1 1/3 cup double/whipping cream

340g/1½ cup cream cheese

Zest of 3 lemons, juice of 2 lemons

150g/ 2/3 cup caster / superfine sugar

METHOD:

1.    Line the base of an 18cm spring cake tin with greaseproof / parchment paper.

2.    Place the digestive biscuits / graham crackers and hazelnuts in a blender and blend until you get a breadcrumb like consistency. Then pour in the butter and blend for 30 seconds. Spoon the biscuit base into the prepared tin and use the back of a spoon to smooth it flat. Put the tin into the fridge to chill while you make the topping.

3.    Whip the cream using a whisk or mixer, once the cream is whipped, add in the sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice and zest and whisk together until you get a light fluffy texture.

4.    Remove the baking tin from the fridge and spoon in the lemon mixture. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the top.

5.    Place the cheesecake into the fridge for at least 2 hours to set fully. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.

6.    I like to finish it off the cake by decorating it with flowers and another zest of lemon.

If you would like to watch Clodagh’s daily IGTV cookery videos click here

(Not So) Out And About With The Highclere Camera...

Exclusive Offer For Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Newsletter Readers..

Gallop Magazine 

Paul Roberts, owner of the magazine - Gallop, has very kindly offered this discount to all of our share owners. 

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Paul Roberts, owner of the magazine - Gallop, has very kindly offered this discount to all of our share owners. 

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