Belshaw proves an inspiration for fellow breeders
There are signs that success for British horses abroad may one day be the norm, writes Marcus Armytage
In the 1990s he bought Simply Times in the US. He had hit upon a gold mine
It has been a glorious few days for British bloodstock breeders. If you looked in the right places, you would have seen the first four in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup had “Made in Britain” stickers on them. The two most notable winners at last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in America, Enable and Newspaperofrecord, did not hail from the bluegrass pastures of Kentucky but, rather, Newmarket and the North-west respectively.
Enable, who became the first horse to win a Prix de l’arc de Triomphe and Breeders’ Cup race in the same year; and Cross Counter, the first British-trained Melbourne Cup winner, are from very large Newmarket studs which operate on a global level.
By contrast, Newspaperofrecord was bred by a 78-year-old engineer from Wigan.
Allan Belshaw’s six horses amount to three broodmares, a foal, a yearling and one in training. They include Sunday Times (named after his engineering business, Times of Wigan), the dam of Newspaperofrecord, which he sold as a yearling for 200,000 guineas (£210,000).
No other horse won at this year’s Breeders’ Cup in the electric style of Newspaperofrecord, and her seven-length victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf last Friday blew away American racing.
Belshaw set up his business in 1968. In 1976, he was at his local racecourse, Haydock, and thought: “I’m going to have a horse.”
He bought a half-share with Malton trainer Pat Rohan and by the end of that first summer had bought the other half. It was not a dream start but racing had inveigled its way into his blood.
Northern trainers were always worried about southern horses plundering their prizes, so he took the attitude “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and his next horses were with Bill O’gorman in Newmarket.
In 1990, he and O’gorman travelled to the United States and bought Timeless Times, which won 16 of his 21 starts, equalling the record for most wins by a two-year-old. In the mid-90s, he returned to the US with O’gorman and bought Simply Times. He had hit upon a gold mine. Simply Times fell on her second start, a rarity in a Flat race, and a shaken Belshaw retired her on the spot to begin her breeding career. She gave birth to Forever Times which, in turn, produced Sunday Times, and Question Times whose son – and, therefore Newspaperofrecord’s cousin – Latrobe, won the Irish Derby in June. That female line is now looking priceless.
Belshaw, who should be held up as an inspiration to the small breeder, is very much the exception rather than the norm.
Most small British breeders, Flat or jump, find it hard to make it commercially.
Ironically, it was one of the Government’s assistant researchers, studying the card for the Cheltenham Festival last March, who noticed the imbalance between the predominantly Irish and French-bred jumpers which far outnumbered homebred horses.
On the back of this observation, there is evidence that tackling this supply-chain imbalance is firmly on Westminster’s postbrexit agenda.
The fact that the Government is having a dialogue with racing about incentivising the industry means that weekends like the last one, when British horses dominated round the world, and people such as Belshaw, may one day be the norm rather than the exception.
Big win: Irad Ortiz Jr celebrates on Newspaperofrecord