I€™ve always been passionate about racing, but I€™ve never had the cash before to be a full on owner. I sold some shares in Betfair in April 2006 and all of that has changed €“ as I write I own or have shares in 21 racehorses. Most of them are on the flat, but there are seven currently in training for the jumps. Two of these make their NH debut tomorrow (10-Jan).
Conservation is in training with Nick Gifford, and I own a 1/6 share of him in a syndicate called the €œBentley Greens€. The syndicate is three guys from Betfair (me, our head of finance and one of our lawyers), Rodger Sargent (long time horse owner), a work mate of his and one of the Betfair accountants who we know well.
We bought Conservation at the horses in training sale (HIT) in Newmarket last October, paying a fairly hefty 48,000 guineas (a big price given his official rating of 72). He was previously trained by Pete Chapple-Hyam who I know well and have several horses with €“ I prefer buying from people I know well. He ran ten times on the flat last year, which is a lot €“ he looks exposed for now, but we€™re hoping he still has improvement in him.
Conservation is a €œwind sucker€ and a €œcrib biter€ €“ these are not good things for a horse to be but we knew it when we bought him and it€™s all part of the package. Crib biting is basically a horse chewing away at his stable €“ it messes up his teeth but doesn€™t affect his racing. Wind sucking is more of a problem €“ the horse throws his head back and sucks wind down into his stomach. It€™s a problem because he then thinks he€™s full and doesn€™t want to eat €“ most wind suckers are skinny and it€™s hard to get muscle on to them, and Connie is no exception. They also belch loudly in the stable, which is amusing if you have that sort of mind.
The other interesting thing about Connie is that he is still a full horse. Most horses that go jumping are gelded immediately. It€™s fairly automatic to geld a horse who is €œcolty€, but Connie is not – Nick, who is a very thoughtful guy, decided he didn€™t want Connie gelded until the summer, as it€™s a pretty nasty operation and he would have a proper break to recover. I€™m all for this €“ I think it€™s a mistake to be in too much of a hurry to get results. Gelding does bulk a horse up though, and Connie is a horse who needs to put on muscle. He may be a little weak this season €“ we€™ll know a lot more after tomorrow.
The one thing I will say is that the horse knows how to jump. He bends his legs beautifully and has a lovely natural action (or so I€™m told). He goes well on soft ground, which is what he€™ll get tomorrow. He probably won€™t be the finished article for a year or two, but he ought to have a decent chance tomorrow in what looks a fairly weak juvenile (I think the Pipe trained fav won€™t like the ground as much as we do and the trip could be on the sharp side for him). I€™ll definitely be having a bet.
Master of the Race is trained by Tom Dascombe in Lambourn €“ he is the only jumper that Tom trains. He was bought out of Michael Stoute€™s yard for 24,000 guineas in the summer. Again I only own 1/6 of the horse in a syndicate which includes Peter Deal, some of Tom€™s family and a couple of guys I haven€™t met yet.
Tom tells me that the horse has schooled really well €“ he€™s had plenty of time to get to the bottom of him. He€™s been gelded and has had all the time he needs to recover. Tom rode him in a hunt on Boxing day, and he had a run on the flat at Wolverhampton on the 30th to sharpen him up. He should be ready to go.
He handles cut pretty well and we€™re hoping he€™ll cope with the ground tomorrow €“ ideally we would prefer it a little less soft. It€™s a weak looking race and he could be a pretty decent price. I€™ll be having a bet for sure €“ Tom had a winner today and his stable is in excellent form.