November 2019

I recently returned from California having attended the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita. It is a beautifully run event and of course Santa Anita itself is one of the most stunning racecourses in the world set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains. Race day was fabulous but so too were the early mornings track side watching the equine stars train. There was a massive breakfast marquee where everyone gathered to watch the action whilst munching  away on scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, waffles, donuts and various pastries. Bloody Marys were also available alongside the coffee and tea station! Seeing so many owners, trainers, breeders, racing managers and bloodstock agents under one roof bantering away was terrific.

Needless to say it was such a shame that there was a fatality in the Breeders Cup Classic. I had met the Mongolian owner and trainer a couple of mornings…

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Needless to say it was such a shame that there was a fatality in the Breeders Cup Classic. I had met the Mongolian owner and trainer a couple of mornings before and they were so excited about their runner. I had held out my hand to shake the trainer’s but he recoiled in horror saying “no! no! Very unlucky to touch before a race”! I so felt for them as they had great aspirations for their horse who they obviously were completely devoted to.

I returned to host the Cartier Awards at The Dorchester Hotel which are now in their 29th year. Wing Commander Tim Vigors the World War Two flying ace founded them with my help all that time ago and it’s amazing that Cartier have supported them ever since which must make this one of the longest sponsorships in sport today. The most emotional part of the evening was when Pat Smullen, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer, took to the stage to be presented with the Daily Telegraph Cartier Award of Merit which is the only human award of the evening. He is a very special man and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the room stood to applaud him to the stage.

Harry and Laurent Feniou, Managing Director of Cartier at the Cartier Awards

Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery

Clodagh and I enjoyed a memorable evening at the Macmillan Cancer evening at the Saatchi gallery where guests were given the chance to wander around the Tutankhamen exhibition which was absolutely brilliant. On arrival as we chatted to the Macmillan team Clodagh said that I would be happy to say a few words about my family’s connection to the discovery so a few minutes later I was up in front of Macmillan’s biggest donors telling a few tales from the crypt (literally!). It’s hard to put into words how special this exhibition is - the objects are beautifully displayed and to think that they are over 3,500 years old is simply mind boggling. Do try and see it if you can.

Crievehill winning at Haydock 23.11.19

Back here at HTR HQ it’s been very busy with the National Hunt horses continuing their fine run of form with Crievehill winning twice, each time by a wide margin. He now looks to be a genuine Grand National horse in the making which is amazing! Also it was terrific to see Clondaw Anchor win his first Chase with consummate ease whilst on the flat Simon Crisford unleashed Fantail at Lingfield and this stunning daughter of Zoffany was never headed as she won in the style of a black type animal in the making. The yearlings meanwhile continue to go through the breaking process and the first of them will shortly head to their trainers and so it all begins again!

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track - November 2019

Our National Hunt string is now in full action and seemingly picking up from where they left off last season! Crievehill has been the major star so far with two highly impressive wins, following up on his first success at Wetherby when winning a very hot contest at Haydock next time. He once again jumped superbly to win a very valuable Handicap Chase and has an entry in the Welsh Grand National at the end of December, a target under consideration by his trainer Nigel Twiston Davies. Clondaw Anchor was also a convincing winner of a Handicap Chase in very testing conditions at Lingfield and really seems to have taken to fences.

If You Say Run came up against the formidable Reserve Tank (Colin Tizzard) on her second outing (having won her first at Worcester) and was far from disgraced when finishing…

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Clondaw Anchor winning at Lingfield 19.11.19

If You Say Run came up against the formidable Reserve Tank (Colin Tizzard) on her second outing (having won her first at Worcester) and was far from disgraced when finishing second. Paul Nicholls will look for mares races going forward and she looks sure to be winning again soon. Ballywood too put up a very good effort to finish third in the £150,000 Hurst Park Handicap Chase, at Ascot, where he jumped particularly well and looks to have a big race in him this season.

New recruits Hijack and Evander both shaped with promise, the former on his first start at Fakenham, where he found tight track not to his liking and the latter with two seconds at Ludlow and Huntingdon. Felony was somewhat disappointing on his debut as he had been working so well at home but Nicky Henderson has put a line through that and will have him out again very soon.

On the flat the two year olds continue to fly the flag with Fantail winning in brilliant style at Chelmsford on her first outing.

Fantail winning at Haydock 23.11.19

Despite pulling hard for most of the race, she nonetheless managed to find another gear under pressure to beat a good looking field and had Simon Crisford talking of trials in the spring!! Union too showed real promise form the widest of draws at Kempton to fly down the home straight as a fast finishing fifth and show that he could be ready to win a race before the end of this year. These two join an rapidly expanding group of really exciting prospects for next season, with a number of others yet to get on to the track but making very good physical progress.

Rolf's Ramblings Part 1


The coming year promises to be Highclere’s best in Australia. Two ideal proven types, Bartholomeu Dias, named for the mariner who discovered the Cape of Good Hope, and his companion Global Gift, are shortly on their way to represent us - with great expectations. They are joining a team mustering for Highclere’s best season yet, ‘Down Under’.

The $4.4m Lexus Melbourne Cup was designed for strong staying types with a touch of class and black type speed – which description fits Bartholomeu Dias - whilst Australian racing’s…

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The $4.4m Lexus Melbourne Cup was designed for strong staying types with a touch of class and black type speed – which description fits Bartholomeu Dias - whilst Australian racing’s renowned colossal prize money for races tailor-made for Global Gift just don’t exist in Britain. The Golden Eagle for four-year-olds and upwards over seven and a half furlongs in Sydney, next November is worth $7.5m.

Then again the totally different environment in which both horses will find themselves can have a transforming effect as far as distance and tactical preferences. Global Gift might even turn out to be a sprinter – his pedigree and style of racing suggest he has untapped speed though he has won three times already up to a mile in Britain. Australians blood test their horses as an aid to establishing their preferences – the best example being this year’s Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare who was thought to be a sprinter until his chromosomes said otherwise!

And the Highclere team in Australia, under the stewardship of Tess Drennan and Niall Power, are cranking up the gears. Their patience while a number our youngsters matured is preparing to bear fruit. Highclere is in good hands – on and off the track.

Tess and Niall took me Warwick Farm racecourse and stables, which is also the location for William Inglis, Australia’s Tattersalls. The Sales complex is in an immaculately manicured setting half an hour west of Central Sydney, and is where Bjorn Baker, youthful yet experienced New Zealander (where his father trains successfully) showed us round his operation, based at the track, and paraded Edison and Contango.

It isn’t that Contango would look out of place in a top British yard but Edison would be in the first division of any leading stable on looks – and ambitions. Bjorn is aiming the son of Fastnet Rock at $1m races – nothing less. And although Contango may start in quieter waters his trainer has six-figure intentions for him too. Bjorn expects both to make “city” horses competing in Sydney and Melbourne for the big money.

An article in The Australian newspaper caught my attention – about the growing popularity of polo which, in an adapted form, is extending its appeal to a wider audience. Innovations include a smaller pitch to give spectators a better view of the game and to ‘involve’ them – though not so ‘involved’ as when they were in danger of being laid out by flying polo balls and loose ponies: in the new version the ball is bigger, softer, less of a missile. (The ponies may still be erratic).

The message the promoters are trying to get out is that polo is a pursuit of excellence and that a premium label is part of the package – without the former elitist connotations. “We’re accessible” is the new slogan.

Then again it is in the nature of Australians to be competitive. “We’ve worked hard to differentiate polo from the races. Polo’s a lot more down to earth. It’s not about gambling or the bling.”

The promoters know their market – and racing here knows it has one more adversary. So our sport is not standing still. The appetite for horseracing is still limitless in Australia – well over three hundred racecourses - and “gambling and bling” while they are part and parcel, aren’t the be all and end all. Racing here is “accessible to all” largely because people are prepared to band together to realize their dreams and the big battalions of the international brigade don’t always rule the roost. So it was in this year’s Melbourne Cup…



“The man said he didn’t want a chestnut so I told him to buy a Ferrari instead, you can have them any colour you want!” The words of Danny O’Brien, winning trainer of the 159th Lexus Melbourne Cup aimed (at the time) towards the rather reluctant new owner of Vow And Declare: the yearling had failed to reach a meagre Sales reserve.

Now that same owner of the winner of Australia’s greatest race’s first prize may paint his next Ferrari chestnut.

The winner incidentally was named by his breeder who would come home of an evening with the inevitable excuse to his wife: “I vow and declare I had only three beers.”

Distinction who ran twice in the Melbourne Cup under Highclere

The Melbourne Cup takes place far far away but the memory of Vow And Declare’s victory will linger long in Australian circles, not simply because of the frenzied four-horse finish, but as much because they can now drop Shocking as the name of their last horse to keep the Cup at home, a decade ago.

Australia-bred, ridden and trained by Australians, owned by Australians, Vow And Declare thwarted twenty-one foreign or internationally-sourced runners for the race that Flemington’s 252-page racecard still insists “Stops the nation”. Maybe this home victory will reboot the Cup’s once overwhelming popularity (There are so many races with competing prize money). A local journalist risked life and limb with a piece entitled, “The race that stops a big chunk of the nation” referring not only to Sydney’s current lack of respect for the Melbourne Cup’s omnipotence by deliberately staging even more valuable races, within hours, the Everest and the Golden Eagle: and anticipating waving goodbye to the Cup yet again. And then there were the figures – 81,400, lowest crowd of the century; decline in betting by nearly six per cent; and even talk of a ‘revitalization’ - moving the Carnival to the third week in November – as sacrilegious as shifting the Pyramids or straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Australian race caller Matt Hill couldn’t quite outdo Norway commentator Bo Lillelien’s legendary 2002 histrionics: “Lord Nelson, Sir Winston Churchill, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana — Can you hear me Maggie Thatcher, I have a message for you in the middle of the election campaign (yes, then as now). Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!” But Hill and the Flemington faithful couldn’t have been more ardent urging home Vow And Declare ahead of three, closing, ‘foreign bodies’. From somewhere deep in his unorthodox pedigree the four-year-old chestnut gelding surged again, while those on his tail got in one another’s way.

The Australian newspaper called the result an “act of defiance, an aberration.” It was absolution for jockey Craig Williams, at his sixteenth attempt; desolation for Frankie Dettori on his seventeenth. This was Dettori’s third second placing (later demoted to fourth), this time on Master of Reality whose only victory, in his native Ireland, was in the Vintage Crop Stakes - named for Dermot Weld’s 1993 myth-breaking first foreigner to take the Cup back to Europe. (Vintage Crop was a chestnut gelding too).

Williams, champion jockey in Australia, is best remembered in Britain not for his Dewhurst win on Tobougg for Mick Channon but his 2015 Diamond Jubilee escapade on Chris Waller-trained Brazen Beau. Williams took that Australian sprinter on a singular Ascot walkabout and was nosed out by Undrafted – and Dettori. What comes round, etc.

Had Dettori tried less hard on Master of Reality he wouldn’t have got so close – a stricture also applicable to local jockey Michael Walker on Charlie Fellowes-trained Prince of Arran, promoted second after Dettori’s demotion but still the recipient of a ban for his use of the whip. Original fourth, Coolmore’s Il Paradiso, was caught too far back in a muddling race which only ripened in the finishing sprint. He was possibly the hard luck story - unless the extra kg put on Prince of Arran for his preparatory Geelong Plate victory twelve days before, made the difference.

I went to Flemington for the racing but where were the excesses I was promised? I didn’t trip over a single drunk and another ‘worrying’ sign – only six arrests. True the Victoria Race Club’s exhortation to racegoers to “stay hydrated” needed scant encouragement. The gates and bars synchronised opening at 8.45am and the latter never ran remotely dry in their twelve-hour stint: dress code, “tie, jacket, bottle in hand” rigidly observed. Then again proceedings, if not quite Goodwood seemly, never got remotely out of hand and the highly publicised anti-racing demonstrations outside the gates were never confrontational.

Two hundred placard-carrying passive activists at Flemington reminded me of Champions Series parade ring team holding (unfathomable) aloft boards with names and colours. Nor did stark black and white posters around Melbourne city centre “Horse racing sucks” leap out from walls plastered with more striking images of pop group concerts. 

Another article insisted “a horse dies every three days on Australian tracks” and having turfed out Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo after scans discovering cracks in him (Marmelo) and also Charlie Appleby’s Ispolini, the activists, while not satiated, had at least been thrown a bone. But the pelvic fracture sustained by Rostropovich in the Cup put them back on the front foot. Still, be sure, the ‘gold rush’ of sanctimony over horse welfare is not confined to Australia’s ‘fatal shore’: racing must avoid it becoming the ‘loss leader’ worldwide.

I’d always seen Aussies as ready to turn on the taps for anything marked ‘emotional’. Only droplets did I see at Flemington on a cloudless day: I suppose in yet another ‘worst Australian drought ever’ everybody must conserve. Craig Williams was suitably “stoked” (happy) but then so were the vast majority attending, relatively few, as I say, stocious: there was no equivalent crowd rendering of “Swing low sweet chariot”.

And yet ‘a hard rain’ is falling on Australian racing. ABC TV’s recent investigation into abuse of thoroughbreds raised such howls Racing Victoria immediately jammed $25m into racehorse welfare. (They could surely intrude also, less expensively, by banning jockey’s spurs). Australian activists have promoted horseracing high up their hit list. This time their protests, unlike those of other “fruity loop activists” said the media, were “peaceful if melodramatic”. Next time… The fires burning across Australia are not just nature striking back but a climate that is running out of control.

Everybody is out to ‘clean up racing’ – the world over. The thoroughbred racehorse welfare issue is taken more seriously in Australia than anywhere in the world – including California. It made headline inroads to the Cup coverage – the amount of which, to be fair, makes our Press’s attention on similar occasions pitiful by comparison. And yet Australians correspondents insisted their space has been “decimated”.

We know the Aussies are on the iconoclastic side of the fence: prior to this Melbourne Cup one article lambasted the Australian failure to breed stayers and train “them with the exception of Bart” (no need for the surname of the winner of twelve Melbourne Cups) following up with: “The lifeblood of our healthy stakes money is gambling.” Our British altruistic attempts at punter protection are not so well-developed in Australia.

To protect the popularity of Australia’s signature staying races the view is widely held in the media here that “the best scenario is for Europeans stayers to be purchased by Australians.” There is though underlying resentment among locals of many persuasions over the courting of overseas participants. And yet chief bogeyman (at least to Victoria) is New South Wales’s abrasive chief Peter V’Landys who has put up irresistible prizes for his ‘brainchild’ races, The Golden Eagle and The Everest, luring key horses to Sydney who would normally have been heading south for the neighbour’s Melbourne Carnival.   

The headline, “How a bunch of blokes beat the sheikhs and princes to deliver an Aussie Cup” sums up how the countries’ atavistic Press saw this renewal, though trainer O’Neill wasn’t shy of admitting he’d broken with tradition giving Vow And Declare a “British type preparation” keeping him in work through the winter and heading for the Cup on an unheard lead up of just three races.

Australians have long pushed back their innate parochialism by regarding themselves as punching above their weight, especially on the international sporting scene. That’s why retention of the Cup in 2019 meant oh so much to them. And that contradictory state of Australian mentality (let’s not go so far as to call it schizophrenia) was exemplified by the winner’s majority shareholder Geoff Corrigan and the “gympies” (his word for his ‘outback’ partners). Having hailed his victory against “this almost fawning supplication to foreign horses”, Corrigan’s dreams were of Royal Ascot and measuring up for top hat and tails.

His interviewer commented: “It would be a tale of a young Australian heading for the lights of London. In that way it would be a typical Australian tale” – really? Surely those days, when Earls Court was an Aussie outpost, are history?

Rolf's Ramblings Part 2


The day before departure to Australia I had the opportunity of a lifetime. My ‘system’ of backing horses that have finished last, last time out, bore abundant fruit. Just two meetings yielded four such ‘aberrations’. And as I left, it was entirely fitting, at Kempton, that Mark Johnston’s Bavardages, last on his previous start at Brighton, broke the record for a trainer of 235 wins in a year. The victory helped break his longest (his only one!) barren streak of the season. Future records to eclipse will be his own – bar one which I will come to.

Thunderous - trained by Mark Johnston

I have remarked before on this phenomenon – “So the last shall be first” (St Matthew 20:16). I have even had the temerity to ask Mark (yet to be canonized – except by his owners) how he engineers such a transformation in abject runners…to be met with a look which could be described as those of the Five Boys faces of yesteryear. Fry’s Five Boys chocolate wrappers featured faces transmitting five emotions from despair to delight - on their eventual receipt of the bar. Johnston’s countenance skipped a couple of expressions, between consternation and enigmatic, to terminate in mildly amused (my interpretation).

His representative was ‘had in’ by the Kempton stewards to explain not just Bavardages’ improvement on Brighton but the juvenile colt’s first placing after three races which had qualified him…

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His representative was ‘had in’ by the Kempton stewards to explain not just Bavardages’ improvement on Brighton but the juvenile colt’s first placing after three races which had qualified him for his nursery.

Why don’t they call the handicapper in? (And anybody complaining about the result). To my eyes, poring over the Form Book, the horse had been raced openly; Kempton was the first time he had been as far as seven furlongs; he looked outstanding in the paddock; and it was a terrible affair. And, compellingly, last but not least (sic previously) was the fact of that last of five at Brighton. And Bavardages followed up eleven days later at Chelmsford.

One racing correspondent translated Bavardages as ‘bletherings’ which would have fitted nicely since the trainer’s column in his stable’s house magazine Kingsley Klarion went under that heading. My French associate suggests ‘gossip’ or ‘chatter’ is more accurate.

Ps: Another record falls - not one of his own this time but Martin Pipe’s 243 winners in a season. Dark Regard (previously last) won twice at Southwell to take the Middleham master to 244 (plus the German Guineas). The next one to fall will be another Pipe total – 253 wins in a calendar year. They said the Pipe figures, accumulated by the trainer who revolutionised jumps racing, were unassailable. Johnston, just turned a youthful 60, has many more productive years ahead of him. But he will always lag behind Pipe in one respect. He has yet to record a trainer’s championship. Martin Pipe was champion fifteen times.

A Christmas Gift

For those looking for a very special Christmas Present (!) we do still have shares available in the following syndicates:

Please click on the links below to find our more....

Nic Fidden Green please click here

Katie O'sullivan please click here

Juliet Cursham please click here

Taittinger Moment


November 2019

Our Taittinger moment goes to David and Leila Sewell this month.  They watched from the comfort of their home, their 38th winner in 9 years at Chelmsford where Fantail gave…

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Our Taittinger moment goes to David and Leila Sewell this month.  They watched from the comfort of their home, their 38th winner in 9 years at Chelmsford where Fantail gave them an eye catching winning performance, a fantastic way to kick off Fantail's career.

Leila Sewell with Whatduhavtoget

Out and About with the Highclere Camera November 19

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