By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
Megan O’Brien is the racing manager for Titanium Racing, an affordable racing club, and she also works for owners John and Jess Dance. I was lucky enough to interview her to give our readers an insight into life as a racing manager for a racing club.
Titanium Racing is a racing club rather than a syndicate in order to keep costs down and make it more affordable to get involved in, “There’s no buy-in fees. You just have set monthly payments but we spread it across four or eight horses so that, if one of them was injured or one of them needed a break, members could have more than one horse running for them so they’ve still got an interest,” Megan told me. This racing club sounds really exciting to be involved in because, as Megan said, you get a full ownership experience, “They get prizemoney; owners badges when any of the horses they’re involved in run; we do member days; stud visits; sales visits and yard visits – all sorts really.”
There are a whole host of people involved, “We’ve got some really good members, who are like proper racing enthusiasts. Also, we’ve got people from Glasgow, Aberdeen, local like Newcastle and Yorkshire and as far south as Aldershot and stuff so we span the entire country really. We’ve got people involved who are abroad so it is a good mix of people.”
So, how did Megan become a racing manager? Like a lot of people, her interest was initially sparked through her Grandad, “He was a massive racing fan and I used to spend my weekends round at his watching it with him. One weekend, it just sort of clicked and I thought that’s pretty good and I want to be involved in that somehow and that’s it really.” Megan worked in racing at stud farms and yards from when she left school at 15, “Then, I moved back up North and I started working in a betting shop. I was a betting shop manager, didn’t really enjoy it and then I had a share in a horse at Becky Menzies’ and I got to know John [Dance]. Then, one day, I just happened to say to him I’d love to get back working in racing but like more admin than working in yards and that was it. I just started working for him from then. That was three and a half years ago now. It has been a crazy few years.”
I was interested to know what the role of a racing manager included and Megan explained, “I send out updates, daily if I can or weekly; organise badges when there’s runners; meet them at the races and make sure everyone is alright and they’ve got whatever they want for the day; organise trips to the sales; I do competitions; we’ve got a WhatsApp group; I organise stud visits, stable visits and the member days, which are crazy.”
For Megan, one of the highlights of the job are the ‘Member Days’, “We use John [Dance]’s hospitality box at the races and they pay a set amount and that covers their meal, drinks for the day and entry. And we just have a really good day. I decorate the room and like get flowers and stuff and balloons and what have you. It’s good fun.”
It has always been important to Megan that the racing club would showcase the whole of the industry and allow people to be involved with the horses for the duration of their careers, “What I try and do is get people involved and follow a horse from the beginning of their career and to the end of it and different things like that. So, experience going to the studs and seeing them as foals so you can follow them right the way through. Like going to the sales and experience what it’s like at the sales because not many people get the opportunity to do that or think that they can do that so we’re showing people the industry for what it is, not the perception of what it is.”
The coronavirus lockdown has meant that racing had to stop and then only a limited amount of owners are allowed to go to the racecourse so it was Megan’s responsibility to keep the owners involved and interested, “When we had Flav [Flavius Titus] running at Royal Ascot, I did like a Zoom meeting and some of us got dressed up and we had champagne over zoom and things like that. It was really good fun. It was kind of like being at the races with them to an extent, in a weird way. It was good fun – we enjoyed it. It’s just doing different things like that and keeping people feeling as if they are involved still and are not necessarily missing out on stuff.”
Flavius Titus was bought by the team at the Horses In Training Sale out of Roger Varian’s yard, “He’s gorgeous. April, who looks after him, absolutely adores him and she does an amazing job – she’s absolutely fantastic. That’s another thing we actually like to get to know the stable staff who look after the horses as well because we appreciate what they do and all the members would have chats with them. It’s getting them involved as well so they feel valued.”
Titanium Racing has a few really promising horses involved in the racing club – Moonbootz in particular, “He made his debut on the 10th June at Wolverhampton and he was effectively beaten on the line – another stride and he would’ve won. He’s had a few little niggles which is why he didn’t run at two but his whole family have seemed to progress with age. He chased down a John Gosden horse and they pulled well clear of the rest so hopefully he’s going to be a nice horse to follow down the line.”
The club has a few horses with Rebecca Menzies and one that Megan picked out for me was Twisted Dreams, who is by an American stallion called Twirling Candy, “He’s had two runs. He ran at Haydock and Cam Hardie rode him. He really wants a straight track and really didn’t handle coming round the bend. He ran well – we were really pleased with him. Then he went to Thirsk and he raced freely. Basically, he was about ten lengths clear coming round the bend like in the Derby just on a smaller scale. We were actually really pleased with him. He finished mid-div. we do think a lot of him. Obviously, we’re going down the handicap route. It might be that he wants a mile and two in time and his family in America seem to progress a lot with racing.”
Tough Remedy is the last remaining horse left in the racing club from when it began, “We’ve had him in the club since he was a yearling and he is five now. He’s a little star. He’s been really good for us; he’s won four times. He’s took us all over and he’s much better on the All Weather than he is on turf. He’s starting to look well-handicapped. We just need to sort of unlock the key to him again. We moved him from Keith Dalgleish to Becky to see whether that would reignite something and he did really well for us at Kempton at the start of the year. He finished third but does tend to need a lot to fall right. He needs a fast pace that collapses so it’s just trying to get into a race that will allow things to fall right for him.”
One horse that Megan will be hoping is a good horse is Holy Endeavour, who she picked out at the sales, “We’ve got a beautiful filly with Richard Fahy – a two year old filly by Holy Roman Emperor. We bought her from Book One and we think she might prove to be a bargain. She’s from a good Juddmonte family. She’s got a beautiful temperament so hopefully she’ll be out soon.”
Megan has her own racehorse, Waiting For Richie, affectionately known as Richard, in training as part of the Love To Race Partnership. He’s currently on his holidays with Megan’s sister Alice, who breeds and pin-hooks horses ready for the sales, “I knew there would be no races for him even when we came back and it has proved me right because there hasn’t been the whole time. Since racing resumed, there hasn’t been a single race that he could’ve ran in so I was so glad we took him out. He probably thinks he’s retired now. He’s going to have a culture shock when he goes back into training!” Richard was bought last year for just £800 and he’s a seven-year-old stayer – but there’s no hope of him going jumping because “he won’t go over coloured poles”. Megan has already asked his groom if she’d like to have him when the time comes to retire him.
The handling of ex-racehorses is something Megan picked up on as a problem within the sport, “A lot should be done with regards to the rehoming of racehorses and having more regulation so they can be traced. The rehoming centres and sanctuaries that are there should get a lot more support. I’d actually be all for owners having to pay a little bit extra each month to go into a pot to make sure horses are catered for at the end of their career no matter what. I can’t see an issue with something like that happening. I think a lot more can be done in that respect just so that horses don’t get lost in the system and passed on to just anyone. There are a lot of rehoming paces out there that do do the proper checks and make sure and match them to the right person and there’s a lot more that could be done to support those because they don’t get a lot of help, monetary wise, and its not cheap to do those sort of things.”
Megan also mentioned that transparency and prize money are important things that there needs to be more done for, “Prize money is a big thing. Transparency is too – where the cash that is going in, where that’s going in, what is happening with it.” It’s kind of a bit Robin Hood-esque – the rich take and the poor get nothing. Why do the rich need to get any richer? It should be spread more evenly across the board. I don’t want to say the top-end would be fine with reductions in prize money in the bigger races, they wouldn’t be. I think, for now, given the circumstances and what is going on, there has got to be a bit of give-and-take so I can’t see why some of the prize money from the bigger races couldn’t be distributed further down the line.”
If you are interested in joining Titanium Racing, you can either get in touch with Megan (@megz_obrien on Twitter) or directly to @titaniumracing_ on Twitter or Facebook. Make sure to visit their website titanium-racing.co.uk, which has all the details on.
I’d like to thank Megan for talking to me and answering my questions. We had a really lovely chat and I hope you all enjoyed this article!