Since I was very small I always wanted to be in racing some way or another. Being a small part of Love the Races is in some ways fulfilling my dream! Another dream would be to own a racehorse. Although horse racing has often been referred to as ‘the sport of kings’, (possibly giving the perception that it is only for the rich and famous) nowadays it is a much different story. There are numerous ways in which we all can become involved as owners of one of the most beautiful and powerful creatures on the planet – the racehorse.
You may think that it can cost a small fortune to own a racehorse. Well, in some cases I guess it can but if you are among the many people who cannot afford to buy a racehorse outright, then why not become part of a racing club or syndicate? Not only do you experience the thrill of owning part of a horse with like minded passionate people and see it at home on the gallops, but you significantly reduce your costs.
This week I was lucky enough to be invited along to the top flat training yard of Richard Fahey, by Andy Bonarius who runs Wildcard Racing Syndicate. WRS currently have two horses with Richard, and it’s easy to see why. Richard’s yard produced 160 wins in 2011, which was amassed by no less than 105 different horses! They finished third in the list of numerical winners for the season, and puts them firmly at the top of the Northern based stables.
The WRS horses I met and shared polo’s with were Henry Bee – a beautiful 3yo son of Cadeaux Genereux and Siberian Belle – a tall and well made 3yo daughter of Red Clubs.
We arrived at the yard just after 8am. Thankfully the weather held out and it was a clear morning in Malton. I was very excited to be visiting such a well known yard, and couldn’t contain the huge grin that started to curl the corners of my mouth as we turned off the A64 into the grounds of Musley Bank Stables. Wow. Never mind the horses; I’d be happy living here!
Siberian BelleThe first horse we went to see was Siberian Belle. The most notable thing about this filly was the fact that she had no signs of a winter coat, which I’m sure, is pretty unusual. Belle looked really well in her coat, and was only too happy to gently nibble my gloves in the hunt for polo’s! Amy (who looks after Belle) pulled her out of her box and I was immediately struck by how big and solid this horse is. She had five runs as a 2yo, but by seeing how big she is, I think it’s easy to see why she perhaps failed to sparkle in 2011. Andy tells me that she has filled out a lot and that Richard was keen to keep her in the yard for this coming season. Once this filly hits the track I think it’ll pay to follow her. The way I see it is that she’s now got some experience under her girth, (and from listening to WRS and reading ‘in running’ reports), given a flat galloping track there is no reason why Siberian Belle shouldn’t or indeed couldn’t win a few small races. One thing is for sure – she’ll give her owners plenty of fun this season. Unbelievably there are still a few shares left in her, so who knows you could be part of the Siberian adventure with WRS?
BelleAfter I swooned around Belle, I took a look at some of the other horses stabled in the same block, (which by the way was a hugely impressive American barn incorporating an indoor ride). It was really great to see all the horses had their names and breeding on the stable doors. Not all yards do this. I personally like it, and my new claim to fame is that the grumpy mare that seemed to take a dislike to me was none other than Barefoot Lady. I was happy to learn that it wasn’t just me she didn’t care for! Despite her flattened back ears she’s still one of my favourites, I think I backed her almost every run last year.
Next we took a walk to another barn where the loveable Henry Bee is stabled. Stood at the back of his box, he seemed less than impressed that I’d come to visit. That was until the polo’s made an appearance! I was now his new best friend! It’s true what they say – the way to a man’s heart (or in this case horse) is through his stomach.
Off to GallopsHis rider tacked him up and then it was out on to the gallops for him. Back down in the indoor ride all the horses that were due to work were being warmed up, and chilled out. Robin (assistant trainer) said it helps to take the buzz out of them before they get on the gallops, enabling them to settle better. Siberian Belle was absolutely bouncing and raring to get on with it. She was on her toes, excited to be getting back into the swing of things. Henry took it all in his stride as if he were an old pro. I really fell in love with this horse. He is so relaxed it’s as if he’s been there, done that, and got the winners blanket several times. After a really good debut at Wolverhampton where he finished third, Henry has come out of that race really well and is due to run there again this week. I’ll be having a few quid on him. There are a small number of shares left in Henry Bee, who incidentally is named after Andy’s son. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a horse named after them! Wow!
HB3Robin drove us up to the gallops where we watched the string work. What I wouldn’t give to be part of all that on a regular basis…I was surprised that not one horse seemed to misbehave at all. These horses are a credit to Richard Fahey, his assistant and the many stable lads / lasses who look after them. Every single person I spoke to was very polite, chatty and always had a smile. The horses want for nothing. If I owned a horse I’d be looking to place it in this kind of environment where the horse clearly comes first.
Henry Bee2After the briskness of standing on the gallops we headed to the office, which I am told is due to be upgraded! On entering the office a gorgeous dog greeted us. This was Murphy who loved attention. What a lovely dog to have hanging around with you at work. He belongs to Anna & Paul Hanagan. Anna works part time in the office and makes a mean cup of tea too! Just what I needed to warm me up!
Cuppa supped, it was time to leave but not before I got an on camera interview with Andy. What better way to hear about WRS than straight from the horse’s mouth? Check out the video which will be posted.
It should be noted that the BHA are looking at ways to get younger owners involved in racing, and are apparently calling on high profile owners Andy Stewart and Harry Herbert (Highclere Racing) to offer advice and suggestions. This can only be a positive thing for racing, but my concern would be that these owners represent the high end of racehorse ownership. I believe some smaller racing clubs / syndicates should be involved in this too. Ultimately it is cost that most people are wary of. Surely we should be encouraging prospective owners to look at the likes of WRS who offer affordable ownership for a fraction of the price. Students should be involved. Let’s be clear, we are not encouraging gambling. All we want is for a new younger audience to experience what is clearly no longer just for the super rich, but is for everyone. Racing clubs and syndicates offer value for money and are a great way for ‘newbie’s’ to be introduced to the sport of kings.
Andy & PaulFor £50 a month I’m tempted myself to join the WRS racing club to be involved in Somethingboutmary, an unraced 2yo with Kevin Ryan in Malton. WRS were officially launched in December 2009. Sand Tiger was their first winner in 2010. This season promises to be their most successful to date. They are not afraid to think outside the box, and in late 2011 they sent Deerslayer to the USA. You can catch videos and information on him via ‘voice’ Amy Weaver (his trainer at the time).
DeerslayerIt will be interesting to see if the BHA does come up with ideas to help bring younger people into racehorse ownership. Something I’m sure Racing For Change could get their teeth into?