I’ve got a soft spot when it comes to heart-warming stories in racing. Especially in the treacherous times we are all currently facing, I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to reflect on days gone by, which is what inspired this series. Part one was about Petite Etoile, which you can read here – https://t.co/zj3q99DoIC?amp=1 but this story I’m about to tell holds a romantic quality that could only have stemmed from Italy…
In the early 1880s, Cavaliere Edoardo Ginistrelli arrived in England, to Newmarket, from Italy after selling his stud and stable near Mount Vesuvius. Ginistrelli trained a mare called Signorina, who was unbeaten in nine races at two, including the Middle Park; won two races at three and placed in the Oaks and, aged four in 1891, she won the Lancashire Plate, which was only held from 1888 to 1893, at Manchester Racecourse. Tragically, at stud, she hadn’t produced a live foal for ten consecutive years before foaling a colt, Signorino, who was second in the 2000 Guineas and then third in the Derby.
At the stud, there was a horse called Chaleureux, a nine guinea stallion who was predominantly used as a ‘teaser’, which tests to see if a mare is in season. Ginistrelli, to his surprise, noticed that Signorina neighed to Chaleureux each day when he passed by her box on his daily exercise. He decided that they were in love and allowed them to mate. Despite this being completely frowned upon because Signorina was such a talented race mare and Chaleureux was merely a ‘teaser’, Ginistrelli’s decision was based on the “boundless laws of sympathy and love”. Signorinetta was their foal, who Ginistrelli decided to train himself.
Signorinetta made her debut in 1907, aged two, but Ginistrelli’s training methods were widely ridiculed by other racing professionals. She was unplaced in her first five races but managed to win a nursery handicap.
In her three year old season, Ginistrelli campaigned Signorinetta with the belief she was a smart horse. To some, he may have looked overly ambitious when she finished unplaced in the 1000 Guineas. Next for her was the Newmarket Stakes, in which she started at 25/1 and finished fifth, running a good race.
The Derby was next on Signorinetta agenda. One week before the premier flat race, Lord Alfred Douglas, a British poet, dreamt that she would win the race and placed a £5 bet on her, much to the disgust of his friends. On the 3rd June, she started at odds of 100/1 against seventeen colts in the Derby, ridden by William Bullock. Eventhough she wasn’t close to the early leaders, she made remarkable progress until she hit the front at the two furlong pole. She kept going without being fazed by another rival for an easy, two-length victory. She won in a time of 2:39.8, a second quicker than Harzand’s Derby win in 2016. Interestingly, it didn’t take much out of the filly and an onlooker’s comical analogy was that “she would not have blown a pinch of snuff off a sixpence.”.
This was a huge shock to the racing world. She is one of only three 100/1 winners of the Derby. Jeddah won at that price in 1898 and Aboyeur in 1913. Ginistrelli is one of only two people who have won the Derby as Owner, Breeder and Trainer. The other was Arthur Budgett, who won the Derby in 1969 with Blakeney and in 1973 with Morston.
Just two days later, Signorinetta attempted to be just the third filly to do the Derby-Oaks double which is completely unheard-of in current times. Eleanor and Blink Bonny had won both races in 1801 and 1857 respectively. Signorinetta was 3/1 against the 1000 Guineas heroine Rhodora, the favourite, and eleven other fillies. The race was really messy and French Partridge fell, bringing down Rhodora! Signorinetta held her position in second until the turn for home when she kicked and won by three quarters of a length. A second classic win in a matter of days! The crowd were overjoyed and cheered much louder than when she’d easily won the Derby at 100/1. Ginnistrelli was even congratulated by the King himself!
Signorinetta finished unplaced on her final three starts before being retired. It is debatable whether she was a high-quality winner or were the fields she faced weak. My argument is that she beat what was in front of her and what more could you want?
In 1911, Ginnistrelli was struggling. He was poor and living modestly in Newmarket but was desperate to return to Italy. He had one choice – to sell Signorinetta, who was the “apple of his eye”. On the 11th December 1911, he sold her for about 10,000 Guineas to Lord Rosebury. He was high up in the government and married Hannah De Rothschild, meaning that he acquired the Mentmore Stud and built Crafton Stud himself. His most famous horses were Ladas, Sir Visto and Cicero, who all won the Derby whilst he was prime minister.
At stud, Signorinetta had several foals – Pasta (1912), dam of six-times leading sire in New Zealand Hunting Song; Rizzio (1916) by the owner’s Derby winner Cicero; The Winter King by Son In Law (1918), who sired Barneveldt and he sired Pont l’Eveque, and Eyrcina (1920) dam of 1832 Scottish Grand National winner Clydesdale. I’ve extensively searched the internet for horses racing today who are descendants of Signoretta. Pont l’Eveque was shipped out to Argentina due to a lack of opportunity in war-time England so he’s proved tough to track. He didn’t produce many horses of note but his daughter Antinea was the dam of Atlas, who won the 1960 Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini. Their progenies have since been bred with native warmbloods and I found a few who were show jumpers currently.
Signorinetta died in 1928, aged twenty-three and won three races from thirteen starts. I like the fact that she was born through a genuine love between two horses and how her exploits on the track contradicted all the mockery Ginistrelli suffered whilst training in Newmarket.
This is the first article that I have written for Rein It In so I think I should introduce myself. I am Ezra, I have just turned 16 and, like many of the brilliant writers at Rein It In, I have been interested in horse racing since I was small. My father’s interest in the sport has allowed me to travel across the UK and beyond, watching national hunt racing and point to points. Most of my friends at school know very little about racing so I decided to try and explain to them why I love the sport by creating a YouTube channel called ‘Jump Racing for Beginners’. My channel shares a primary objective with Rein It In – to encourage the younger generation to the sport.
In this article, I’ll cover one of my favourite aspects of horse racing – the excitement and happiness that it can bring to people. And boy, we could all do with some now.
This is a very strange time to be thinking about horse racing. Like millions of other people, over the last few weeks, my daily life and routine has changed in ways unimaginable just a short time ago. It’s an emotional time and it’s very difficult not to be overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration for the key workers who are looking after the sick and keeping the country just about afloat.
While others are working heroically, many of us have found ourselves with a lot more time on our hands, something I have never really experienced before. I had been preparing to take my GCSE exams but since they have been cancelled, it’s likely I will not have to go to school for over five months. I admit that initially I did feel a huge sense of relief that I didn’t have any exams but this faded quickly and has been replaced by a sense of anti-climax. I think one of the reasons I am disappointed is partly because we had planned to celebrate by attending some summer jump meetings. I was particularly looking forward to going to Ffos Las for the first time and to feature that on my channel.
With all this extra time on my hands, it’s strange how I can’t stop thinking about racing even though there hasn’t been any for weeks – and there won’t be any for the next few months at least. When I was planning to write this article, I made a note of all the magical ingredients that makes racing so important to me: the spectacle, the range of extraordinary courses, the wonderful horses and the amazing people, professionals and enthusiasts alike. I think that when all these are combined on a racecourse, it creates something quite unique that can bring a lot of joy, excitement and happiness to people.
I first started going racing when I was still in a pram, enjoying being pushed around whilst watching the horses, jockeys and entertainment at the racecourse. When I began to toddle, I am told that I started to imitate commentators calling a thrilling finish. Furthermore, whilst at the races, I took an interest in autographs of jockeys; I could usually be found by the weighing room trying to get as many as I could in one go! The jockeys were people who were about to do something quite dangerous but no jockey ever said no to me and some of them were really friendly and kind. They impressed me with their matter of fact attitudes and humility, especially when compared to footballers. I used to enjoy the looks of disbelief and delight on the faces of conditional and amateur jockeys as I approached with my pen and racecard.
One day when I was at Newbury Racecourse, a staff member kindly invited me into the weighing room to meet all the jockeys. It was quite a surreal moment as I chatted to all my childhood heroes whilst making sure that I had taken the autograph of every jockey in the room. I think that this cemented my early love of the sport and made me realise just what a great community it is.
One of my most vivid memories of racing was in 2015 where we had made the trip to Doncaster Races with some friends. After watching the horses in the parade ring before the fourth race of the day, I picked the 2/1 favourite ‘Milan Bound’ for Jonjo O’Neill and Tony McCoy. After being placed in mid-division and struggling to keep his position after 4-out, he looked totally beaten. However, McCoy never gave up. He kept working and after a good jump at the second last, McCoy was in sixth position. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and quickly began to realise that the unthinkable could just happen. We started shouting and jumping in disbelief and ‘Milan Bound’ kept gaining until he was into second position approaching the final hurdle. Richard Johnson on ‘Western Jo’ had kicked for home but McCoy had begun to reel him in. It was a classic Johnson vs McCoy battle and incredibly, ‘Milan Bound’ and McCoy just won. The thrill of this race did not wear off for a long time and I still think about that performance quite often. Maybe it was because we all had a great day at the races, or more likely that McCoy’s ride proved to be such an inspiration to me.
Although we had no connection with ‘Milan Bound’, the thrill of that race made me feel connected to him from then on. However, this said, another one of my favourite moments did come from a horse that we had a particular soft spot for.
The appropriately named gelding ‘Allchilledout’ was owned by our friends and always had a lovely temperament. His chasing debut hadn’t entirely gone to plan when favourite at Lingfield so we were all hoping for an improvement at Chepstow next time out. It was one of the strangest races to watch as the runners dipped in and out of the thick fog. The commentary was intermittent so we had to almost guess what was happening throughout the race. To our delight, ‘Allchilledout’ appeared at the final fence in front and went on to win nicely for Aidan Coleman. It was such a great moment afterwards as we all hugged, smiled and were brimming with joy. I can still remember the moment clearly when I was invited to stand by the horse and jockey, surrounded by my friends to pose for the photographs. That smile remained on my face for the rest of the day and the journey home flew by.
Despite the fact that we are going through tough times at the minute, what keeps me going is the thought of getting back on the racecourse. I am sure that I’m not alone in feeling like that.
Roughly seven thousand thoroughbreds leave British Racing every year. That could be for many reasons – to go to the breeding sheds, sold to race abroad, reached the end of their racing careers or, simply, they weren’t good enough to cut it as a racehorse.
But what’s next for those who fall into the latter categories?
These horses need to find a new, forever home for their retirement. An excellent attribute of thoroughbreds is their versatility; they show this on the racecourse as they run over trips ranging from five furlongs to four miles and two and a half furlongs. Off the track, if in the right care, these horses can excel in all disciplines – eventing, dressage, show jumping, hunting, polo, showing or just as the family hack. In a way, when they finish their careers, they’re blank canvases.
The versatility of these horses makes them the perfect riding horse for many people. I was lucky enough to talk to Katie Reynolds, @ManesnTales on Twitter @glorious.grumeti on instagram, about her two ex-racehorses. She told me, “There are a few different reasons why I fell in love with thoroughbreds and why I decided I wanted one – or several. One reason being I have a very quirky warmblood mare who I absolutely adore but who’s attitude to work isn’t the best. So I knew I wanted to find another horse that was more trainable and that I could continue to learn with. Another reason is I met Beccy Green who owns the gorgeous Fruity O’Rooney. I went to a jump training clinic with them and I just loved his zest for life and attitude to work and I loved following Beccy’s journey with him. I knew then that I had to find myself my own racer.”
No two racehorses are the same and that is evident in Katie’s horses, Grumeti and Maximum Vision, “I have two very different ex-racehorses that had very different careers. I have Grumeti who was very well known, raced for 7 years. He was owner by the McNeill family and trained by Alan King. He’s won on the flat, on the all weather, over hurdles and over fences. So he was a real dual purpose horse. He’s probably most well known for his Cesarewitch win in 2015 and his Grade 1 Anniversary hurdle win at Aintree. I had Grumeti straight from Alan’s yard 2 years ago. He was gifted to me by Max & Paula McNeill who were regular guests at the restaurant I used to work in, I’d told them to let me know when they had a nice horse finishing its career, so they asked me to take on Grumeti and I went with Max to watch one of Grumeti’s last races at Kempton. I can’t thank them enough for letting me have him.”
In his career, Grumeti won eleven races and over £300,000 in prize money, which meant that he had quite a following. National Hunt horses, typically, race for a longer amount of time than flat horses and fans become attached, which creates a certain amount of pressure on those who take on successful racehorses in their retirement, “I went through a tricky stage of learning to deal with the pressure I felt from having a well known horse. The first time I took him to a dressage competition someone recognized him from his racing days and I felt an immense pressure to do him justice and make his fans proud. So I went through a tough stage or never really feeling good enough for the horse.”
Judging from Katie’s social media, these two are made for each other and Katie has done an excellent job with him after nearly losing him, “We’ve been through a lot together, I nearly lost him in December 2018 due to an unusual type of colic that resulted in issues with his colon, kidneys and liver. So to come out the other side of that, continue to improve, continue to have fun and continue to learn together is pretty special.” Since Grumeti finished racing in 2017, the pair have competed in multiple one day events, getting double clears, and became a wonderful partnership. The bond you can create with an ex-racehorse is what Katie considers to be the most rewarding thing, “First and foremost the bond you get with the horse. When I first got Grumeti I didn’t really click with him, but as time has gone on and we have developed as a combination, the bond has become something that I’ve never experienced before… I’ve loved the whole journey with him, he’s been a fantastic teacher to me and nothing beats the feeling of coming over the cross country finish line at a one day event, knowing that you’ve taught that horse his new job and that he has gone out there and enjoyed it and tried his best for you.”
Katie’s other ex-racehorse is Maximum Vision, now known as Baby. Baby’s career couldn’t have been much more different to Grumeti’s, “Baby has a very different story, he raced 5 times at a 3 year old and really didn’t show much talent or love for the sport. So my mum purchased him from his trainer Clare Ellam. Clare is an equine physio as well as a trainer and she still comes to treat my horses. So it’s lovely that she still gets to see Baby. He was owned by the Vision Syndicate and I send them regular updates on how he is doing.” With Baby only being five years old, working with him is a new experience for Katie in comparison to what she encountered with Grumeti. So, she has had to take a different approach, “I cracked straight on with Grumeti’s retraining as he has the kind of brain and body that benefitted from working. Where as Baby had 18 months of pretty much just field time to grow and mature before he felt mentally and physically ready to work.”
For some horses, they struggle to handle the transition between racehorse to riding horse. They go from working every day in a routine to a new environment, “When he [Grumeti] first finished racing he really struggled with the change in routine, diet, exercise etc and he lost a lot of weight and looked quite poor. So learning to manage his weight and keep him happy and healthy whilst he adjusted to his new life was a challenge.”
The same goes for the riding style, as Katie explained, “How a horses muscles are worked and conditioned for racing is very different to that of a leisure/event/dressage/show jumping horse. So because of that we have found that certain things are hard, like getting the canter work to be more adjustable, teaching the horse to bend correctly, the lateral work (leg yield, shoulder in etc). But I think the biggest thing for me, that I feel like I’m constantly working to improve is teaching Grumeti to jump like a show jumper, rather than a hurdler. It’s a very different style of jumping for him and is something that needs constant reminders.”
Once training is underway and the horse and rider are comfortable together, there is the option to go out competing. The ‘Retraining Of Racehorses’ (RoR) organisation run classes and events exclusively for ex-racehorses to compete in. Launched in 2000, RoR is Racing’s official charity, which raises funds from within the industry. They provide information and education for owners and trainers to help with the rehoming and retraining of racehorses once they have finished their careers. They use the donations to fund overseeing the care of vulnerable former racehorses and a large part of their work is running competitions and educational events for owners of ex-racehorses in a multitude of disciplines.
For example, there is the RoR/NTF Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship, which is held at the beginning of August at Gatcombe Park. In 2019, it was won by Tina Cook riding David Cricket, who ran three times for Alan King. In Dressage, there is the Elite Dressage Performance Award Series, won by Quadrille, who is owned by The Queen and placed at Royal Ascot, ridden by Louise Robson, in 2019. However, there is still plenty on offer at a lower level, all around the country. Katie’s horses are both RoR registered, “I placed third [on Grumeti] in an RoR section at a one day event at Shelford Mannor Horse Trials. I was hoping to aim for the National Champs at Aintree this year before the Corona Outbreak.”
On the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, attendees were lucky enough to see some old favourites parading as part of the Retraining Of Racehorses Parade. Taking part were Cue Card, Annacotty, Master Minded, Saphir Du Rheu, Barber Shop, Coneygree, Dodging Bullets, The New One and Monbeg Dude. As a racegoers, it was fabulous to see these stunning horses back at the racecourse and showcasing how amazing racehorses can be in their retirement. These horses take part in various different disciplines and are successful in them. Like I said at the beginning, 7000 racehorses leave racing each year and there will be a range of horses in there – some could’ve been as talented as the aforementioned but the majority just need a new career and a good home. There are plenty of trainable racehorses out there if you know where to look.
For example, Retraining Of Racehorses; HERO’S Charity, which aims to give horses a “new life after racing”; Racehorse Rehoming Centre and The Racehorse Sanctuary have rehoming pages on their websites (listed at the bottom of this section of the article) to get information and find out horses in need of a home. The Racehorse Sanctuary is based in West Sussex and released a plea this week for donations as their fundraising events have had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus. They look after and retrain roughly twenty-five racehorses at one time but have had to turn horses away due to lack of funding. You can donate at https://t.co/ukC1kHmdTA?amp=1
A common and incorrect assumption is that a lot of racehorses go to slaughter when they finish their careers, which in 99.9% of cases is not true. The new ‘Welfare Report’, put together by the BHA which will entail an increase in tracking of racehorses throughout their lives – not just when racing but in their retirement too. Racehorse welfare is the most important thing as the horses are the stars of the show. This, in my opinion, is a hugely important new development and can only be a good thing.
If you like the idea of rehoming a racehorse, it is important you know you would have the time, skills and facilities to do them justice. Katie’s advice is, “My advice would be to make sure you have a good base of knowledge and experience. To make sure you have a good support network, friends, trainers, physio, dentist, vet & farrier. And to be humble, never be too proud to ask for help. Every horse is different and there’s a lot of people out there that think things with ex-racers should be done a certain way. But in my experience no two horses are the same and there’s no textbook on how to retrain a horse.”
In my personal experience, I have dealt with a few ex-racehorses and they have all been lovely, genuine creatures. In the right care, as shown with Katie and Grumeti, racehorses can really flourish. When I’ve got a few more years of dealing with horses under my belt and more money, I can’t wait to find an ex-racehorse to call my own!
I’d like to thank Katie for answering my questions and helping me highlight how wonderful ex-racehorses are. I wish her, Grumeti and Baby lots more great days in the future!
This article is to celebrate ex-racehorses and I wanted to get our readership and my followers in on that. So, here are some of your ex-racehorses loving life after their time on the track…
“I once owned a retrained racehorse and he was wonderful, personally I think, although they can be difficult at times, they’re some of the best horses to work with. Colin, who’s race name was Consult, is one of the friendliest and well mannered horses I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. He was bred and first owned by Sir Mark Prescott. Before me he was owned by a young girl who retrained him to be an eventer and he had many successes in his new job. When he came to me I planned on continuing his eventing and had also planned on one day making it to a big horse trials. I managed to do some schooling with him but there was never really a time I could do any hard schooling, due to others that would come into the arena when I tried to. He was always keen to learn to things, he was very honest and would never really back down from anything put in front of him.
Then, due to an accident I was unable to ride and had no confidence. This is when I put him on loan, some people came to try him out and once again was a gentleman and really worked hard. Then, due to unforeseen circumstances, I unfortunately had to sell Colin. He meant a great deal to me and I was heartbroken that I couldn’t get him to his full potential, he is now happily living with another lady who is getting him to that potential. He is now doing dressage and show jumping up to 120cm. In my own opinion I feel that Ex Racehorses are by far the best horses to own and the easiest to re-train. Finally, I think the thing I can thank Colin for the most is helping my anxiety problems, being my best friend and being my shoulder to cry on. I will always be grateful for him.”
“Cello’s racing name is Blue Horizon Bay, he only competed as a youngster in very few races not winning or even placing! We found out that in his last race his jockey jumped off and we have no idea why. He was then being re trained to show jump and then brought over from Ireland to continue that training but there was nobody to do it after the main trainer got pregnant. He was such a star with impeccable manners so was ridden mainly by children for a year but had lovely paces. He had quite a few back and hip problems from racing so he had a chiropractor and physio therapist and had now improved by leaps and bounds. He loves his work and is full of potential because of his huge amount of talent. We are hoping to do some dressage and show jumping in the future and planning to take him to college with me (if I get in) where there will be lots more opportunities waiting for us!”
Stuart @ Abacus Bloodstock
“We have 3 ex racers plus of course our 4 broodmares who all raced. We have our 1st bred racer Pancake Day who won 8 races in UK and Europe. Loving life as a GP horse. His field mate is Imperial Bond who was injured at 3. We also help to rehome any we bred and sold if needed.”
“I’ve got 4 ex racers, Arthur, Lou Lou, Jim and Strudel – all great characters and fun – they go from 6yo to 21yo. They all raced and are pretty pants but wouldn’t swap them for the world.”
“We love our ex racers and have quite a few. Here’s one Tam Lin and that’s Frankie Detorri on board. He’s got a fab home now and is spoilt rotten. Semi retired but we don’t mind. He’s done his work. Also, there’s Desert Recluse.”
“I have 4 at the moment. I rehab and retrain former racehorses. Here are; Morro Castle (being retrained for showing/dressage/eventing), Battalion (staying with me for showing), Kubeba (staying with me for dressage), Clandestine Affair (currently being rehabbed for rehoming).”
“3 horses I owned whilst in racing now have their retirement home with me albeit unfortunately one had to be put to sleep 2 weeks ago due to stomach cancer, their names are Tariq Too (he is the horse that appears with Kate Whinslet for Longines adverts) Whotsit and Majestic Moon.”
Before I discovered this beautiful painting (pictured above), I knew virtually nothing about Petite Etoile. I’d never heard of her or her extremely successful exploits on the track. I was given the painting by a friend of my grandparents, Robert Rowley, who I’d always discuss racing with whenever I saw him. I’ve found it really interesting to look into this filly’s career.
Petite Etoile was a grey filly born in 1956, by Gimcrack and Eclipse winner Petition and out of Star Of Iran. In her racing career, she was owned by Prince Aly Khan and trained by Noel Murless, who was Champion Trainer nine times (1948, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1967, 1968, 1970 & 1973). He won all of the Classics more than twice but he was, in particular, extremely successful with his fillies, winning the 1000 Guineas six times and the Oaks five times. There is a one mile six furlong race at Ascot this each year in late September, early October which remembers him. His best colt was Royal Palace, who won the Acomb, Royal Lodge, 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Coronation Stakes, Coronation Cup, Prince Of Wales’ Stakes, Eclipse Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Petite Etoile was one of his best too and her name, which translates to Little Star, is extremely fitting. From what I’ve heard, she wasn’t the easiest to deal with and only liked to work with other grey horses on the gallops! Noel Murless has been reported to describe her as a “monkey” and “peculiar”. In 1959, when she was two, on her first start, she was beaten by Chris, who went on to win the Kings Stand, at Manchester Racecourse. She won the Star Stakes at Sandown, finished second in the Molecomb and won the Rose Stakes at Sandown at odds of 1/6. On ratings, she was just short of the top band and was considered to be a fast filly, who wouldn’t make an impact beyond sprint trips.
Because of her success at two, she carried top weight when making her three year old debut in the Free Handicap. Partnered by Doug Smith, who rode four classic winners and trained one, they won and went on to be an 8/1 shot in the 1000 Guineas. Smith kept the ride as Lester Piggott chose to ride Collryia. He chose wrong though as she stayed on in the closing stages to win by a length. It was all part of Smith’s plan though – he underplayed how good this filly was in hope Piggott wouldn’t want to ride her.
Her next target was the Oaks and Piggott took over the riding duties, but they were unsure if she would stay. She was second favourite behind an unbeaten horse, Cantelo, who many believed had superior staying ability. The Charles Elsey-trained did have superior staying power as she won the St Leger but was without the turn of foot that Petite Etoile showed. She was one of six winners in the Oaks for Piggott, who is one of the greats of the weighing room. His others were Carrozza (1957), Valoris (1966), Juliette Marny (1975), Blue Wind (1981) and Circus Plume (1984). He won the Jockeys Championship eleven times and, for a flat jockey, he was quite tall at 5ft8in. Petite Etoile won the rest of her races in 1959 – the Sussex Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Champion Stakes.
To win all these races in one year is absolutely insane – especially for a filly. From what I can work out, she is the only horse to have ever won all of these races in one season. Incredibly, nowadays the prize fund for winning those race, in total, is £2,181,194. Back in 1959, it was a mere £57,058. The difference is absolutely mind-boggling!
In May 1960, Prince Aly Khan was killed in a car accident and his son, Aga Khan VI, inherited the ownership. She got off to a good start for the new owners by winning the Victor Wild Stakes and was then sent to Epsom for the Coronation Cup. Her SP was 1/3, despite the fact that she was running against the Derby winner Parthia. Her blazing turn of foot assured her the win and she made Parthia look like he was a “selling plater”. It was so impressive that an American buyer offered £320,000 for the filly, but it was denied.
Next time out, Petite Etoile went to Ascot on rain-softened ground for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Piggott was confident, describing her as “the best I have ever ridden”. I’ve been searching the Internet for a video of this filly racing and this is the only race I could find. (Watch it Here) She was kept near the rear and her jockey tried to take her down the inside rail but found the passage blocked and she had to switch wide. Even though she finished strongly, it wasn’t enough and she was beaten half a length. She was deemed “Petite Etoile, the wonder filly,” by the commentator an she really was wonderful. On looks, she really reminds me of Phoenix Of Spain, the big grey son of Lope De Vega trained by Charlie Hills to win the 2000 Guineas, because, in comparison to the others, she’s huge!
Petite Etoile, despite rumours of her retiring, raced again at five. She began with a narrow victory in the Coronation Stakes at Sandown and then won a second Coronation Cup. At Royal Ascot, she won the Rous Memorial Stakes (since discontinued). She came second in a race named after her late owner and then won the Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster. She concluded her career coming second in the Queen Elizabeth II when 2/9 favourite.
The next step for Petite Etoile was going to stud. She was an underwhelming broodmare with three foals achieving very little on the track. Despite this, a descendant of her is Zarkava. This bay mare was unbeaten through a seven race career, including five group ones. Herself, she is the dam of Zarak, a group one winner, and Prix Vermeille third Zarkamiya.
The word ‘remarkable’ springs to mind when thinking about this unique, quirky filly. Aged three, she won British Horse of The Year and Timeform Top-Rated Three Year Old. Aged four and five, she was the Timeform Top-Rated Older Female. From nineteen faces, she won fourteen and came second on three occasions. Not many fillies would take the same route as she did nowadays. For example, only one filly has ran in the Sussex Stakes in the past three renewals. Attitudes are different now compared to sixty years ago when this mare was in her prime and we’ve just got to hope we’ll have some more incredible mares that can serve it up to the boys this season!
I did not expect to be writing my 20 To Watch Review (Read the original blog post here- https://t.co/7JZqNyFyVw?amp=1) in April. I wanted a couple of Aintree and Punchestown Festival winners and there was so much more to come from this season. I was well on track to smashing the amount of winners from last year’s list. But racing has been cancelled and the world has come to a halt because of the Coronavirus. At this time, we’ve just got to get on with it and get through it. The NHS and hospitals all around the world are trying their hardest to help those infected and we’ve got to do our part to help them out by staying at home.
My 20 To Watch is something I have done for the past two seasons and I love it. I really enjoy following these horses’ careers and growing to love them. I published this list on 9th October 2019 and, as the name suggests, I picked up on twenty horses who could be exciting for the season. They didn’t disappoint! The profit was only £2.09 to a £1 stake but at least it was a profit! In total, they ran sixty-two times, winning twenty times (strike rate 34‰), fourteen 2nds, nine 3rds and nineteen unplaced finishes. There was also a 67% placing (top three) rate for these horses. Eleven of the nineteen that ran won at least once. In 2018/19, the horses ran a total of seventy-two times but only won nineteen races between them.
I also kept track of which jockeys rode each horses. The most successful jockeys were Mark Walsh and David Bass, who both rode four winners each. Mark Walsh rode AndyDufresne, Fakir D’Oudairies and Longhouse Poet. He won twice on Andy Dufresne and Fakir D’Oudairies. All of David Bass’ wins came on First Flow.
First Flow turned out to be one of the superstars for my list this season. I’ve always thought an awful lot of this horse and been very confident in his ability to be a good chaser. His campaign didn’t start the way I wanted to with him coming second to Summerville Boy and Angels Breath on his first two outings. However, he came good at Hereford at 1/9,which wouldn’t even be the shortest price he raced off this season, by twenty lengths. Next time, he ran in a competitive handicap at Ascot, coming third beaten twelve and a quarter lengths and was then second in a similar race at Sandown. After this, he farmed class threes and fours, gaining a hat trick of wins at Leicester, Doncaster and Carlisle by a combined forty-eight lengths. On the latter occasion, he was 1/16 favourite and the next priced horses was 16/1!
Relentless Dreamer, Bannixtown Glory and Manofthemountain did the majority of their racing towards the beginning of the season. Rebecca Curtis Relentless Dreamer was the first runner of the season for the blog and kicked things off with a good third behind Ballyoptic, subsequent Charlie Hall winner, and Lil Rockerfeller after a 350 day break. He was pulled up sharply next time out at Ascot but fortunately was okay. Nothing came to light after that and he ran in a grade three chase at Cheltenham and finished the last of six finishers. We haven’t seen him on a racetrack since. The Curtis yard, of course won the Stayers Hurdle with 50/1 shot Lisnagar Oscar. It was a welcomed return to the big league for the Wales-based trainer. A trainer who came out worse from this victory was Emma Lavelle. Her stable star Paisley Park was, for many, a banker of the Cheltenham Festival but, sadly, he did show his true colours and finished seventh, due to a fibrillation heart. His stablemate Manofthemountain is a lovely, strapping chaser. He agonisingly unseated Nico De Boinville at Taunton before making all at the same track under Ben Jones. He gave the horse a peach of a ride and there is more to come from this six year old son of Mahler.
Bannixtown Glory is a lovely mare. She’d been running well over the summer before making her first start for the blog in a competitive mares handicap hurdle at Sedgefield. She led pretty much all of the way and agonisingly in the shadow of the post got passed by two rivals, getting beaten a nose and a neck. Next time, ninety-one days later, she had to carry a gigantic weight of 11st13 and ran creditably to only be beaten one and a half lengths. On both of those occasions, she was partnered by Brian Hughes. He has shown his talent this year by winning the Jockeys Championship and it was much deserved!
Eight out of the twenty ran at Cheltenham. On the Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be there to see Fakir D’Oudairies in the Arkle and Cepage, Mulcahys Hill and Beakstown run in the handicap chases. Fakir D’Oudairies was going into the Arkle with Notebook, seemingly his biggest rival. This five year old got all the allowances in his first three races over fences and won the first two – at Navan, beating Melon, and in a grade one at Fairyhouse by a huge twenty two lengths. He went down fighting to Notebook in December but it was a different story in the Arkle. There was a false start, one of many through the week, and that really unsettled Notebook. He could play no part in the finishing proceedings. Put The Kettle On had been prominent all the way and was hassled by Fakir D’Oudairies up the straight. For a second, I thought he’d win but the mare was all guts and valiantly won under Aidan Coleman.
Cepage and Mulcahys Hill ran in the Ultima Chase. Cepage finished best placed of the two in seventh. He started off his season coming in second to Riders Onthe Storm, who went on to beat Cyrname at Ascot. Next time, he was fourth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. On New Year’s Day, he ran a weak race to be sixth in a Cheltenham Handicap. That racecourse was the scene of him finally coming good and landing the grade three chase on Trials Day. He was 8/1 and was a game winner. My favourite horse Mulcahys Hill finished twelfth in the Ultima and had had a good season in the lead up to that. A second season novice chaser, he kicked off the season with a gutsy, all-out victory on Cheltenham first raceday of the season. I cried a lot – I was just so proud of him. Next time, he didn’t enjoy running over the Grand National fences in the Becher and pulled up. He had a wind-op in December and came back in January with a second in a two runner event at Newcastle. There’s a couple more good days left in this quirky eight year old.
Beakstown ran in the newly-named Northern Trust Handicap Chase. I was gutted when we heard Aintree was off because this lad ran a blinder in that race, coming fifth on ground that wasn’t ideal. He’s a huge horse and I really thought he’d win over fences. He started out coming second to Sam Spinner and then ran into three good horses, including Champ, at Newbury. He came third to Mister Fisher and Good Boy Bobby before he had an 87 day break and ran at Cheltenham. He keeps his novice tag for next term and will be hard to beat on decent ground.
On the Wednesday, there were three runners. The Big Breakaway and Longhouse Poet contested the opening event, the Ballymore. The Big Breakaway was bought for a lot of money and got off to a great start over hurdles with an easy maiden win. In December, he won well again at Newbury but got an injury which ruled him out until the Cheltenham Festival where he came fourth, beaten fourteen and a half lengths. He’ll be better over fences. Longhouse Poet, in my opinion, should’ve ran in the Albert Bartlett as he seemed to stay really well. He started off coming second and then got off the mark in a maiden hurdle. He contested a grade one next time and got beat by Envoi Allen and Elixir D’Ainay, who beat him on his debut. He could only manage eighth in the Ballymore after running keenly. The race was obviously won by Envoi Allen who seems to have a big future!
My 20 To Watch Blog had a Cheltenham Festival winner on day two thanks to the incredible bravery of Champ and Barry Geraghty to hunt down the leaders and get back up in the final strides after seemingly being beaten in the RSA. He’d been the favourite for that race for a long time after winning his first two chase starts. Who could forget him nearly going the wrong way at Newbury? He agonisingly fell at Cheltenham Trials Day and I think a lot of people lost faith in him that day. He has proved that he is a very intelligent and quirky individual. There is more jumping practice on the agenda for him and connections have Gold Cup aspirations.
The two runners on the Thursday weren’t as successful as the others. I don’t think Reserve Tank has risen to my expectations of him this season. He was so good at Aintree and Punchestown. On Chase debut, he was second to Jarveys Plate and then he won a grade two pretty well. At Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting, he was second to Danny Whizzbang in a three runner race and wasn’t seen again until the Marsh Novices Chase. It had a thrilling finish but Reserve Tank played no part as he pulled up. Ard Abhainn was very consistent until her run at Cheltenham. She easily won a maiden hurdle at Clonmel on Halloween and then came third in a listed event. She won a similar race at Thurles in January but came fourteen in the Mares Novice Hurdle.
It was disappointing that Andy Dufresne missed out on Cheltenham in preference for other races in Ireland, which he never got to run in after the Coronavirus stopped racing. He won a maiden hurdle by eleven lengths in early November before coming second in a grade two, behind Albert Bartlett second Latest Exhibition. Next time, he managed to win a grade two at Punchestown by less than a length. When last seen in February, Andy Dufresne finished third in a grade two and disappointed to a certain extent. Elixir De Nutz won three races last season before missing out on the Supreme due to injury. I was hoping he’d prove himself as a Champion Hurdle prospect but he started off his campaign with a seventh in a grade two. I thought sure he can improve for the run but he didn’t and finished seventh again in the Christmas Hurdle. He may have picked up an injury or not bothered to run him again after those two runs. He’ll go novice chasing next term.
I had also hoped that Enemy Coast Ahead would run in the Supreme. He’d shown lots of speed in a bumper at Stratford, winning easily, but ran once over hurdles when second to a more experienced rival, in a race that Supreme winner Shishkin fell in. He shaped well that day and hasn’t been seen since. He went on his holidays at the start of March and could run in the summer. Another horse who could be running in the summer Farouk De Cheneau, who I have a tiny share in. He thankfully made his debut shortly before racing was stopped at Kempton. He travelled enthusiastically and jumped well but when push came to shove he stopped quickly, coming seventh. Nicky Henderson’s team gave him a wind-op to hopefully sort out the noise he made and hopefully he’ll be better next time out as the yard likes him a lot. They also have O Connell Street. He ran at Catterick in January and was a good enough second. He probably needed it as he was coming off a wind-op and 272 day break. He probably needs firmer ground and could be seen in the summer too. He was a really last foal so that could explain about why he’s a been a bit slow to get into stride.
Flanking Maneuver isn’t badly bred but made his debut for Noel Meade and came fifth. He’s previously ran twice for Colin Bowe. The form of that race has worked out pretty well – the winner and fourth have won subsequently, the second, Ferny Hollow, won the Champion Bumper. He might end up winning a couple of races or he’ll be in the Gigginstown dispersal sale soon. A horse who came out of that last year was Clara Sorrento. I have a soft spot for this horse but I have no idea who he’s in training with. He hasn’t been seen at all this season and I’m quite disappointed. I just hope he’s in a good home!
It’s obviously really sad that jump racing has been called off in Britain until July but we all know why it has happened. We have to trust the government and respect their social distancing and lockdown rules. We need to stop the spread of this virus and get racing back as soon as possible! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support with my work and my 20 To Watch blog. (Next season’s is well on the way already). I’m so grateful for your like, RTs, comments etc and I hope you all enjoy reading my work.
Racehorse ownership was once purely for the wealthy – it is the ‘Sport Of Kings’ after all. But nowadays, you don’t need to be a Sheikh or a millionaire to own racehorses as it’s becoming increasingly easy to get involved with ownership through syndicates.
I’m going to tell you the story of Free Love, a bay filly owned by The North South Syndicate. I’m guessing a lot of you probably don’t know who this filly is, but her syndicate have a wonderfully heart-warming story which is perfect to tell in these challenging times. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with Tony Linnet, a member of The North South Syndicate, who has written a book called ‘A Year Of Free Love’, documenting the first year of owning this filly.
Tony’s love for racing began aged sixteen whilst working on a construction site, as a co-worker was interested in racing. At sixth form, he and new friend Patrick Hickey would use their study lessons to go home and watch the televised racing. Sea Pigeon, the Gordon Richards trained gelding who was at his prime in the 70s, “lit the flame” of Tony’s fascination with the sport. In his book, he refers to Sea Pigeon as a hero: “Hero is the right word. I idolised the horse and, for six or seven years, couldn’t allow Sea Pigeon to race without a small amount of my money riding on his handsome brown back. He was a mercurial talent in his early days.”
Tony and Patrick grew up and had families of their own but, thanks to their love of horse racing, they never lost touch. They’d both liked the idea of ownership, but never thought it possible until the rise of racing clubs and syndicates. Tony had small shares with Heart Of The South, which he says were the perfect introduction to ownership. In September 2017, Tony and Patrick, alongside Pete Smith, with whom Tony bonded over discussing fancies in the Hennessy Gold Cup at University; Mick Corringham, Patrick’s friend and postman, and Trevor Wyatt, who Tony had been in syndicates with, decided to create a syndicate of their own. The name ‘North South Syndicate’ was derived from the fact that two members live in the North of England and three live in the South.
The aim within their Syndicate was that they would do it all themselves – pick the trainer, select the horse, name the horse, be able to pick the races for them and be completely involved in the side that you don’t really get to be a part of in larger racing clubs. They decided that Newmarket-based trainer Tom Clover would be entrusted with their horse. He had worked as David Simcock’s assistant for six years and had made a promising start in his first year training. His partner Jackie had lots of experience of dealing with racehorses too and had worked for Roger Varian. They had a trainer – now they just needed to buy a horse.
Each member invested £6000 into a Wetherby’s account to get them through the season. The group all knew the truth of the matter – they could be lucky and get a horse that would give them good fun for the season and maybe enough reason to carry on for the next year or they could find themselves with a horse that never even saw the track, worse case scenario. A budget of 10,000 Guineas was decided on for the purchase of their horse. To get the most out of their time as owners, they decided they would purchase a precocious, early-season two year old filly and, with their budget, it put them within the ball-park of the Tattersalls Book Three Yearling Sale on October 12th 2017.
Only Tony and Pete could make it to the sale at the Historic Tattersalls Sales Ring in Newmarket. One of the most attractive fillies on paper was Lot 1383. Her sire was Equiano, winner of the 2008 and 2010 King’s Stand Stakes and sire of sprinters The Tin Man, Dakota Gold and Final Venture. Her dam was the one-time winner Peace And Love. Interestingly, this filly had two full siblings. Lydia’s Place notched up an impressive three timer at the start of her two year old season over the minimum trip, earning a peak rating in her career of 90. Lawless Louis won twice as a two year old and finished sixth in the Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar. As well as an ideal pedigree, she was small, attractive and Jackie liked the look of her so they decided to go for it.
Tony and Pete stood in the standing area as the filly was led in and the bidding began. The price steadily increased and, at 8000 Guineas, Tony thought they had a chance. But all too soon the price skipped up to 11,000 Guineas – exceeding their budget. Despite the bidding reaching 11,000 Guineas, the filly had gone unsold. This meant that they could make a private offer to her breeder, Brendan Boyle. Jackie managed to bargain for the filly to the maximum price of 10,000 Guineas. The North South Syndicate had a horse!
Through what felt like a long winter, the syndicate received frequent updates from Tom on the WhatsApp group chat about the progress their new acquisition was making. There were videos sent through of her being backed, doing her first few pieces of cantering and then proper work on the famous Warren Hill Gallops. The vibes were good from the yard – she went about her work nicely and had a really genuine attitude. What more could an owner want?
Now, the syndicate had to decide on her name and their silks. The first decision happened fairly easily. Her sire was named after Olaudah Equiano, an ex-slave who wrote a book and promoted the anti-slavery movement around the world, and her dam was Peace And Love. Tony and Pete came up with two options, Free Love and Slave To Love, favouring the former. When Patrick emailed the name ‘Free Love’ over a few days later, it was all settled. Inconveniently, there was a mare of the same name somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere but she didn’t achieve much and, fortunately, the BHA allowed the name and The North South Syndicate were on their way. Next to decide were the silks. Tony liked the idea of having orange and green, the colours of Old St Mary’s FC, the club that Tony and Pete were one of the founding fathers of. Tony allowed his then sixteen year old son Joseph have a go at creating some colours on the BHA website. They chose to use his design – orange with green hoops on the body with orange sleeves and cap. They were ready for her to run!
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though and, on the 29th March 2018, Tony’s 60th Birthday, they received a message on the group chat from Tom saying that Free Love had “sore shins”, which delayed her debut. The group decided that this wasn’t the end of the world as she wasn’t yet two. Tom’s horses were in good form after their first two year old of the year, Gypsy’s Spirit, cosily won her debut for a similar syndicate. This filly didn’t win again for the yard but placed in a few listed races, including at Chantilly, Maison-Laffitte and Dusseldorf. They sold her at the backend of the 2019 season to America for a whopping 160,000 Guineas, a huge raise on the 6000 Guineas price they bought her for.
All the vibes were good as Free Love lined up at 6:15 at Kempton on Tuesday 1st May 2018 for her first ever race. The race was over five furlongs and there were eight runners. She was partnered by Josie Gordon, who had ridden her a couple of times at home and liked her a lot. The North South Syndicate found a space to watch their filly and soon the commentator announced, “They’re off!”. Free Love didn’t jump off as quickly as the others and Josie was scrubbing away at her for the whole race. Free Love looked like she had no idea what was expected of her. Tony couldn’t believe it. Free Love finished last of the eight runners, sixteen lengths behind the seventh horse and beaten twenty eight lengths in total. Tony described Josie as “shell-shocked”.
The team were left scratching their heads in the lead up to Free Love’s next race at Nottingham twenty-nine days later. They decided to draw a line through her debut – it was too bad to be true. She broke well in the twelve runner field but got very little cover all the way. In the end, she managed a solid eighth, on ground that wasn’t ideal. The North South Syndicate were delighted. No bewilderment this time – “Josie simply told us that we should have a lot of fun with our filly.” Free Love’s next run was at Yarmouth under Jack Mitchell. Once again, she broke better than her debut but was really keen. When push came to shove in this race, she knew what to do. She put her head down and galloped on, hitting the front at the one furlong pole, but was overtaken by two decent horses.
Subsequently, this filly was fourth, giving weight; sixth in a hot race at Sandown; fifth at Chelmsford and then third at that same track eleven days later. At this point, Tony decided to take stock. Money was in short supply as the filly hadn’t earned much prize money. The Newmarket training fees looked increasingly steep too. If they wanted to keep going, they’d have to find a new trainer, “I felt bad about moving Free Love from Tom and he and his wife, Jackie, had helped us with the purchase of our yearling and had done all the hard work breaking her in and getting her ready to race. The decision was entirely practical. By August, we had run out of money and I was looking at what was our best chance of keeping the partnership going not just up until the Tattersalls horses in training sale at the end of October, but beyond that as well. Newmarket was proving to be an expensive place to have a horse in training. Tom’s daily rate (£52 at the time) was cheap by Newmarket’s standards but there are also heath fees to pay which are about £130 a month.”
The North South Syndicate decided to move Free Love to Mick Appleby, who is based in Oakham, Rutland. This move would help the bank account and the ‘North’ members of the syndicate. “Having Free Love based in the Midlands gave us access to some of the northern courses which were much nearer to Patrick and Mick, the two York based owners. I’d not met Mick Appleby before. I just did a bit of research on where trainers were based, what there fees were and ended up with Mick. In a nutshell, the two considerations were cost and geography. We were perfectly happy with how Tom had treated us but felt a move had to take place.”
The syndicate pin-pointed a race at Catterick, a nursery handicap over five furlongs for Free Love to make her debut for the Appleby stable. Free Love arrived at Mick Appleby’ yard, a former polo centre, on the 4th September 2018. Despite this move, they still entered her for the Horses In Training Sale in November, just in case she didn’t show the relevant improvement to warrant another season. Eleven runners lined up in the Nursery. There were two runners at shorter prices than her 8/1 SP. She was to be ridden by young apprentice Theodore Ladd, who claimed 5lbs, taking her racing weight to 8st4. With her new sheep-skin noseband, the filly made a good start but was momentarily squeezed for space. Theo didn’t panic and eased the filly into contention. He gave her a couple of taps as the furlong pole loomed. She skipped clear going to the line, winning by half a length. Free Love had won!
“I don’t have words to adequately express how I felt when Free Love won at Catterick. The dream of owning my own racehorse had been fulfilled and although I kept telling everyone that the most likely outcome was a few runs, a bit of fun but no trip to the winner’s enclosure, I secretly hoped for much more. I tried to put into words on page 212 [of A Year Of Free Love] just how I felt and I think ‘ecstatic’ is the single word I’d use. There really isn’t a feeling like it, and unless you’re personally involved with a horse, it’s impossible to understand how much winning a class 5 nursery handicap can mean. Those few minutes afterwards were a euphoric blur. It was a day never to forget,” Tony told me.
After Catterick, Free Love was partnered by Theodore Ladd once again in a nursery at Nottingham in early October. She couldn’t quite repeat their previous form and finished a good fourth. Next, she went to Haydock on heavy ground and, considering this wasn’t ideal conditions, she ran a blinder for third after leading over two furlongs out. Around this time, The North South Syndicate decided to carry on for another season. Bearing in mind, there was a Horses In Training Sale in June if things got tough. They ventured into new territory at Doncaster by trying out six furlongs on November Handicap day. She only managed eleventh and they dropped back to five furlongs for her final start of her two year old season at Southwell. In the end, she couldn’t quite get past Sandridge Lad, who made all, but she only went down a neck.
Free Love made her seasonal debut at Nottingham in early April. The team at Mick Appleby’s had worked hard to get this filly in tip-top condition so she’d be going into her first start of the campaign with a chance. The race was a class four Handicap for three year olds. Theodore Ladd popped her out prominently so she was contesting the lead with a couple of horses, wide across the track. When the half a furlong pole flashed past, she had skipped in the lead and was going away from the field at the end. Winner number two!
The handicapper gave her a 7lbs rise to a mark of 81 in response to that effort and, twenty days later, the syndicate went back to Nottingham with Free Love to run in another class four handicap. Only six runners took their chances and she was 5/2 favourite. Theo positioned her just behind the leaders. She hung down the straight but this had very little impact as she won by nearly two lengths. Two wins on the bounce for Free Love and The North South Syndicate were elated, Tony remembers: “The start of the 2019 season was just sensational. We all hoped that Free Love might improve to be a solid 75-80 rated handicapper who we could afford to keep in training until at least the July sales, but that first win at Nottingham when she careered away from a smart field to bolt home in a class 4 handicap was unbelievably thrilling. It prompted excitable talk of big race targets and even listed races. When she went back to Nottingham and repeated the performance catapulting herself to a rating of 88, we could barely believe our good fortune.”
“After Nottingham we knew we could carry on until the end of the season in October. We also knew that we could go to the sales in July and make a handsome profit. Free Love’s value at this point was probably upwards of 40,000 guineas. I’m sure more shrewd owners would have sold but we’re not in it for the money. It’s all about the exhilaration of owning a thoroughbred racehorse and being there when she runs. There’s not a feeling in the world like it!”
For her next two runs, she was stepped up to class three company but struggled in a competitive York handicap and on testing ground at Chester. She went to Windsor off a mark of 86 in a class three handicap. Theodore Ladd rode her and crossed her behind the front runners to get a little bit of cover. When push came to shove, she really knuckled down and tried, drifting left again but that didn’t matter because she hit the front when it mattered and got her winning tally to four. In five starts, she had won three races and roughly £20,000 in prize money. Her rating was now 90. She struggled in eight races subsequently, causing her mark to drop. However, she has managed to keep it in the mid-80s, which makes her a smart horse.
The North South Syndicate have decided to keep going with their beloved little filly for the 2020 season and listed races don’t seem out of the realm of possibility, “I’m sure she will win another race and, if it happens to be a handicap – fine. If she gets the right conditions, the right ground and everything and she’s in good nick, she could easily, I think, pinch that little bit of black type.” Tony told me. Their plan is just to try and keep enjoying their syndicate, “What we’d love to do is keep her in training for the whole of next season (2020) all the way through to October and take stock then. If we felt that she really needed to go to the breeding sheds, there’s a mares’ sale in December. If we felt that it had been successful and we could afford to go for one final season, we’d probably keep her in training as a five year old.”
When I asked Tony about the future of syndicates in general, he said that the finances are getting harder, “Our prize money in this country doesn’t compare very well with other jurisdictions. To give you an example, our filly won three races last year. She won two class fours and a class three, so they weren’t bad races, and we just about broke even for the year. Nobody is saying racehorse owners are entitled to earn lots of money, you should pay for your pleasure, but in three races you’d think you would do a bit better than just break even, wouldn’t you?”
Prize money has been a big talking point for a while and there is no doubt that British Racing is at a disadvantage to other countries in terms of prize money, “The only thing that is making it [ownership] hard is the finances. There should be more reward when you’re successful – not rewarding failure. It’s not to say that if you’ve got bad horses you can have them paid for. Success should be rewarded. If you win a couple of races, there should be a chance to break even but, in most cases, that’s not true.”
The current Coronavirus pandemic has the potential to have a devastating impact on horse racing, “There is a problem with how to get out of the other side of it. Can trainers hold onto staff? Can they afford to pay them? Can the trainers themselves afford to stay in business or are the smaller businesses going to go bust? So, I think it is a big challenge.”
“I think that if we start edging back towards racing in the next two months then I think we’ve got a chance of coming through this relatively unscathed. We need to keep people in the industry. We need to keep stable staff and work riders in. If we lose them, we’ll lose them forever and that’s a problem. There’s already a staffing problem in racing.” This is something we have addressed at Rein It In Racing before and trainer John McConnell has told me that he doesn’t think there are many yards in Ireland “who wouldn’t immediately take on another skilled rider or grounds person if it was offered to them tomorrow morning.”
“I think the staffing issue is still there and it’s linked to prize money. How much can a trainer charge an owner and still have his or her boxes full? As a result, how much can a trainer afford to pay his or her staff in what hasn’t traditionally been a highly-paid industry. I think that is a problem but it is all linked to the prize money structure and how much it costs to keep a horse in training.” Tony continued.
If racing returns by May, the North South Syndicate and Free Love won’t be too far behind what they originally planned. Ideally, she would’ve been out in late April but that is unlikely now. It is wonderful to see how much Free Love means to the five members of her syndicate, “One thing she’s got, and you can’t coach it, is that she’s so genuine. She just loves it. She puts her head down and runs. She’s got a lovely, friendly temperament and you could take her home as your pet. She’s really lovely – anyone can go up to her and make a fuss of her. We’d like to go on for as long as we can because we’d all miss her!”
Free Love is no Enable or Magical, but what she is is a genuine, loveable little filly who wears her heart on her sleeve and who can fault that? It hasn’t all been smooth-sailing but, as Tony says, “It’s all about peaks and troughs and if you can’t manage troughs as a trainer, jockey, owner or punter, then you’re in the wrong game.” This filly has given The North South Syndicate some incredible days on a shoestring budget and long may that continue. I have really enjoyed reading Tony’s book and learning about this wonderful story. I’d like to thank Tony for speaking to me about their journey and I wish them lots of luck in the future.
Stereotypically, horse racing has a demographic of older people and those who are retired as its key audience base. I sat geography at A-Level, and while I was completing my coursework assignment I had pondered how a project like that could be applied to horse racing. Knowing about the ‘ageing demographic’ that racing is renowned for, I thought it would be fascinating to find proof whether this is actually the case or not. At Rein It In Racing, we want to turn the tide and get as many young people involved in this great sport as possible. While recording our very first podcast and discussing how we can interest a younger audience in racing, the idea occurred to us to put together a questionnaire and ask our twitter followers, who watch racing, and some Facebook friends, who don’t follow racing, to participate.
We asked the participants six questions:
Have you watched a horse race before?
Have you been to a race meeting?
How often do you watch racing? (split into the categories of Most Days, Once A Week, Once A Month, Big Occasions and Never)
Do you know what your nearest course is?
Have you ever been to your nearest course
Can you name one racehorse?
We hoped that the data we collected would allow us to see a smaller-scale sample of the current demographic of horse racing fans, and perhaps give us an indication of what we can do to introduce a younger generation of fans to the sport, if that is in fact necessary. Our survey results have all been kept completely anonymous, but I would just like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who answered our questions.
Of the 54 results we received we were given an age range of 44 years from our respondents who were all born between 1960 and 2002. We used a random sampling method, sharing the survey with our followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook – one population likely to be geared heavily towards racing and one less likely to have an interest in the sport.
The results from our first graph showing the overall percentage of our respondents that have seen a horse race were very promising. It was important that we initially established just how many of our respondents had actually watched a horse race before; 96% of our answers were yes which strongly indicates that horse racing casts a much wider net than many people believe. It is a well-known fact that horse racing is the second largest spectator sport in the UK behind football, and most of the nation will have watched a race at some stage in their life which our data supports.
Personally I had been concerned that the percentage of people that hadn’t watched a horse race at any stage in their life would be higher, considering the majority of British citizens do not regularly engage with horse racing, but I suppose the larger occasions such as the Grand National and Cheltenham Festival do draw in a much larger audience in comparison to regular weekday racing every year.
The results to this chart also came as a surprise, as I had expected the percentage of people who had been to a race meeting to be much lower, an assumption that came from personal experience in my own school where it is a significantly lower percentage of the population that would have been to a race meeting themselves.
These results are supported by the table below where it clearly shows that the majority of people that haven’t been to their local racecourse do not actually know what their local racecourse is. Perhaps this could indicate that racecourses should be more widely advertised in order to increase the influx of people visiting, especially those who haven’t been racing before. I have previously heavily praised the Under 18’s race free initiative that has been widely adopted, as in theory this can allow for a family of four to go to a regular raceday for a similar price to take that same family out to the cinema. This initiative cannot be praised or shared enough, this is the way forward to getting more young fans interested in horse racing, it is our duty as racing fans to make sure that people know about it.
I think the results from this graph, comparing the age of our responders with how often they watch racing, are somewhat biased towards the sample that we collected – seeing as the survey was posted on our Twitter account where the majority of our followers are racing fans, hence the scale is tipped in the favour of ‘most days’. In reality, the balance would be more even, and I would say the majority of the population would watch racing on the big occasions. However, what this graph does show us is the spread of age ranges that watch racing, those born earlier are more likely to watch racing more regularly, whereas the younger portion of the population has a more even division among how often they watch racing, with more people likely to not watch racing at all or only on the big occasions such as the Grand National.
I have also highlighted the results that selected the three most popular horses from the results of our survey – Altior, Tiger Roll and Red Rum – in three different colours to make them stand out. I found these particular results fascinating and I thought it would give a strong indicator to the horses that really reach out beyond direct fans of racing and become known in the wider world. Since Altior’s results all came from people that watch racing ‘most days’ it shows that he is not as popular among the non-racing public, but Tiger Roll is shown to be popular among the younger generation since he is the current ‘people’s champion’ and the reigning Grand National champion. It is also important to note that Tiger Roll is the most popular horse mentioned among those who never watch racing, proving that he is the current talking horse and perhaps even more popular than people are giving him credit for.
Red Rum’s were more frequent among those who only watch racing on the big occasions such as the Grand National, which Red Rum’s name is synonymous with. His name was mentioned more frequently with the older responses, but he still was mentioned by the younger generations, as mentioned previously particularly by those who only watch racing on the big occasions.
This bar chart showing the most popular horses from our survey is very telling, I wanted to find out from each of my responses what the name of the first horse that they thought of was without any influence. I wasn’t at all surprised to see Red Rum as the landslide most popular horse, I was also expecting for Tiger Roll to be high up in the results since both of these horses are multiple winners of the world’s most famous horse race and therefore are more likely to have been heard of by the general public since they are more celebrated by the media.
I think it says a lot that the most popular flat horse was Frankel, but he only appeared joint 4th place on this list, in fact only 6 of the 27 horses mentioned (22%) raced primarily on the flat. This is likely to be because National Hunt horses race for a longer period of time and therefore are mentioned more and become more connected to the public whereas flat racers only tend to race for a couple of seasons before they are retired to stud. It is worth noting, although I am not convinced it has impacted the result, that the survey was conducted during the National Hunt season; only 7 of these horses selected (26%) are actually still racing, therefore the decision of which horse the responders have chosen will probably come down to which their favourite horse is.
The results from this chart comparing the year of birth of a person with the year their chosen horse was born were what I was expecting, specifically that more recent horses are more popular, and have a higher frequency of selections among the younger human population. This is probably a result of the younger population having been able to watch these horses race in their prime themselves, arguably one of Frankel’s demolishing performances is more prevalent to a teenager compared to one of Desert Orchid’s wins that they may never have watched before. This graph should also give an idea of the era of racing that our respondents feel most connected to, seeing as this is when the horse they remember most was around and performing.
There is a significant lack of points of horses born in the 1980s, suggesting that the popularity of horses that ran on the flat in this decade and over jumps in the next is considerably lower than those in other decades. Famous horses born in this decade included Dancing Brave, Oh So Sharp, Pebbles, Nashwan, Mr Frisk, One Man, and many others who were standout performers, but for whatever reason just not remembered as frequently as champions of the modern era or the likes of Desert Orchid, Arkle and Red Rum.
Looking at the results, I thought it was fascinating to highlight the reach that Red Rum’s legacy actually has, he is the only horse that has been chosen by both the oldest and youngest population of our responses. In addition to this, he has been chosen at fairly even intervals by those who answered our survey, proving that he is a horse of the ages and probably the most memorable and well-known racehorse of all time which is supported by the earlier result that he was also the most popular horse in our survey.
The anomalous result on this graph was Seabiscuit who was born in 1933, by far the oldest horse mentioned, but I believe this result was possibly influenced by the 2003 film about this horse. Since this person had also said they never watch racing, it perhaps highlights the influence of film and television on people’s perceptions of racing and which champions of the past that they remember. I could come up with an extensive list of horses that deserve their own film made about them, but perhaps I will save that for another article!
Overall, our survey has shown us that the demographic of racing is not as entirely balanced towards the older generations as many people fear. Yes, it is worth remembering that the more frequent viewers of racing are likely to be older and our sample collected was very small in comparison to the entire audience of racing, but what it is worth taking away from our results is that the younger generation of racing fans is there.
It is very important to interest these younger generations in racing, but our team here at Rein It In is living proof that younger racing fans do exist. Many of us have had that investment in racing from a much younger age, I was 8 myself when I first started developing my own interest, and it is important to remember that not everyone is going to have a visible social media presence revolving around racing. Just because we cannot see evidence of all these younger racing fans does not mean they are not there, it is not unusual to see younger children on a day at the races and it is these young fans who are the future of racing. That’s not to say we can take our foot off the gas when it comes to promoting the sport to a younger generation, and as I previously mentioned this can be done by emphasising to parents that their children can go racing for free. We have previously explored other methods of developing a younger interest in racing in our podcast, so make sure to give that a listen for our insight on this topic that is obviously very close to our hearts.
Thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope it has been of interest to you. I would also like to say a huge thank you to Samantha Martin for all of her help putting this together, this idea has been sitting in my computer for a long time and I’m so grateful she has helped me bring it to life.