By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
URSA Major Racing is one of the fastest growing racing clubs in the country. They began 2020 with four horses and finished the year with fourteen! I spoke with Craig Talbot, the racing manager, about the racing club.
The racing club stemmed from a tipping service, “URSA Major was made when 10 like-minded members of our Racing Manager’s (Craig Talbot) tipping service “Teddys Tips” were talking about how a lot of the clubs/syndicates didn’t seem to offer much by way of value for money. We thought to ourselves that we could by doing things slightly differently and prove that it’s not as expensive or exclusive as the perception is. We started to look around at trainers and Mark Walford was one that came back to us, so we decided to explore the opportunity further. The rest is history as they say…”
Mark Walford has become one of the main trainers for URSA Major Racing, “We started out with Mark Walford and he is a primary trainer. We have 10 horses with him but in 2020 we have been fortunate to expand so currently have horses with Pat Murphy in Ireland, Micky Hammond and George Baker. We want to ensure we have horses with trainers in different geographical locations, so our members can see them in the yard and on the racecourse when eventually we can go back.”
Craig believes that it is important to be transparent and give the owners the most access and influence in the decision-making process as possible, “We aim to give all owners an equal say in everything from racing planning to choosing jockeys etc. We also have a great social side online and offline within the club and this is what has become so important and cherished to our members, especially in 2020 with the year the world experienced.”
Andrew O’Connor, a member of the racing club, found the transparency and openness of the club as an incentive to join, “I joined URSA after seeing them on Twitter and after enquiring there was no follow ups pushing for me to sign up. I gave it time and in the end it was the honesty, open transparency and full insight to each horse that this club not only offers but guarantees. FACT. I’m now involved with 4 and all at very reasonable fees.”
The social side of racehorse ownership is something that attracts a lot of people and URSA Major channels this in a range of different ways, “We provide weekly video updates of our horses; Mark Walford for example will run through the training schedule for each horse and the short term/long term race plan for the horses. We hold regular competitions and social events within the club such as a “Lucky Last” competition, Bonus Ball draws where members can win prizes such as a fully paid annual share in a horse. Our social Telegram groups online are the thing that unites and connects our club so much, members can directly discuss the horses, trainers, jockeys, races etc with each other. It’s in these forums that our members can vote and decide a race a horse is entered for and jockey selection as well. I don’t know of any other club that gives members this much of a voice into the decisions and insight into the horses they own a part of.”
A member of the racing club, Christopher Ashton, explained just how much the racing club members appreciate the social side of URSA Major, “URSA Major Racing Club has changed my life. Not only have I joined a club that provides great access to horse ownership, lots of options and affordability to the horses and am part of, but I have become part of a family as well. Every owner has an equal voice within the club and camaraderie between everyone is what makes URSA unique and really special. In the current times we are in, we want to make it easy and affordable for people to have ownership in horses, but more importantly, it’s the social side that is appealing more and more to people. In the times we are in, it’s what some people need so badly. We just had a zoom call last Sunday for instance with our main trainer Mark Walford and we have telegram groups for our owners to talk and interact with daily.”
Craig agreed that the best part about racing clubs and syndicates was the camaraderie between the members, “I think the best part about being a member of URSA Major Racing is the feeling of ownership and involvement. Our members have a real voice and say in the decisions and the direction the club goes in that is one of our best features. Along with this it’s the social aspect of the club the camaraderie and family environment we have created, we are a diverse bunch of people from all different backgrounds but this clubs unites and brings us together in ways no one could ever have imagined. If anyone wants to own a share in a horse and become part of a movement and family, they need to consider joining Ursa Major Racing Club.”
When the URSA Major horses are seen on the racetrack, their jockeys wear unique yellow and pink silks – “Our racing colours are identical to Battenberg cake and we have had comments from sections of the Racing Media and trainers all around the country that notice how striking our racing colours are.”
One of the questions I was keen to ask was what kind of horses they search for to carry the racing club colours, “This is a great question; our primary aim is to have horses that cater for all the different passions and codes of racing our members enjoy at an affordable price for most budgets. So, we have a blend of young flat horses such as Candescence, Testing Times and Mehraki Star. We have some dual-purpose horses such as Para Queen and Clifftop Heaven. We have AW flat horses such as Lets Go Lucky and Sweetasteoflove. Finally, we have true national hunt horses that our members love such as Event of Sivola, Furax and Janeymac. Most importantly we always look for horses that will be regular runners and will enable our members to get to the track and have the race day experience to cheer on the Battenberg colours.”
Our Rein It In Racing readers like horses to follow and Craig has given us five horses to keep an eye on, “Event Of Sivola – He is such a fun horse to own. We bought him from France in 2018. It has taken him a while to acclimatize, but we feel that he is starting to show us the ability that we always thought he has. He has been so consistent lately finished 4th 3rd 2nd 2nd his time will come soon.
“Janeymac – we bought her from the sales after she won a chase in Ireland by 20L. The English handicapper has probably not done us any favours, so she will need a bit of time but we are confident that we have a good horse on our hands. She hated the heavy ground at Hexham on debut for us and lost a little bit of confidence. We give her a nice confidence booster over hurdles at Sedgefield she is just finishing her winter break and will be one to follow on better ground in the spring.
“Candescence – She was our famous 2-year-old that won at 25-1 in June 2020 at Pontefract. She beat horses that day that went on to run at Listed Class. She only had 2 runs after this race and finished in the places both times. We have high hopes for her as a 3-year-old, we would love to give her a chance to run in a Listed Race and achieve Black Type, possibly in a race in Europe this Spring/Summer.
“Mehraki Star – We bought this Mehmas Colt as a 2-year-old in the Newmarket breeze up sales in the summer of 2020, unfortunately he had an injury in his foot which has taken quite some time to clear. Our members have waited very patiently for him to make his way onto the track, but we are hoping to repay that faith this summer as he is now in training and looks to be an absolute power packed sprinter.
“Furax – Our first horse with Micky Hammond, he is only 6 years old but has amassed €71k already during his racing career in France. When our members had dug deep into his French form, we noticed he had come extremely close in races involving Quel Destin, Torpillo and even Fakir D’oudairies which has really excited and generated a lot of buzz within the club. He hopefully will be making his British and Ursa debut at the end of January.”
Racing clubs are becoming increasingly popular and Craig believes that they are a brilliant way of getting more people involved in horse racing, “If you look at Australian Racing, syndicates dominate their ownership models and it has brought a lot more people into the sport then there would normally be. If there are more racing clubs and syndicates that can offer real ownership at an affordable price, then we will see more people come into the sport this will increase participation and interest in the sport in vast number of ways. This surely needs to be the focus of the racing authorities to put their attention into reducing the barriers for syndicates to grow the participation into the sport.”
URSA Major Racing is a growing and exciting racing club and the community atmosphere of this syndicate shines through. They have a great group of horses and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Furax out soon. I wish them the best of luck for 2021!
Here are some handy links if you are looking to get involved –
The website – URSA Major Racing
The horses – Our Horses — URSA Major Racing (Shares available)
What the members have to say – Our Members — URSA Major Racing