It’s sure to be a favourite

It could be the ul­ti­mate Christ­mas present – mem­ber­ship of a top class horse rac­ing syn­di­cate. Martin Pilk­ing­ton re­ports Cheshire Life: De­cem­ber 2018 Cheshire Life: De­cem­ber 2018

Cheshire Life - - Society -

One of the big­gest names in Bri­tish rac­ing has cho­sen the North of Eng­land as the lo­ca­tion for its lat­est ven­ture. High­clere Thor­ough­bred Rac­ing, the group that boasts 2005 Derby win­ner Mo­ti­va­tor and 2010 world cham­pion race­horse Har­bin­ger among its big­gest suc­cess sto­ries, is es­tab­lish­ing three new rac­ing syn­di­cates here.

The spark for their ar­rival was a con­ver­sa­tion in the pad­dock at Hay­dock Park. ‘I’ve known Harry Her­bert, High­clere’s MD, and his fel­low di­rec­tor Alex Smith, for some time,’ says Ja­son Fildes, at the time in charge of that race­course, now over­see­ing the new de­vel­op­ment. ‘I asked why didn’t they have more busi­ness up in the North, and they said the ob­sta­cle was hav­ing no­body here to look af­ter it. We kept chat­ting, and now here I am with High­clere North up and run­ning.’

Three year­lings have al­ready been pur­chased to go into train­ing in the new year – one at Chol­monde­ley in Cheshire with Tom Das­combe, who among oth­ers trains for Michael Owen; the other two with York­shire­based train­ers, Richard Fahey in Mal­ton, and Mark John­ston, the most suc­cess­ful Bri­tish trainer in his­tory, at his yard in Mid­dle­ham.

‘There are plenty of big races we’ll tar­get up here at cour­ses like York, Hay­dock, Don­caster and Ch­ester, though nat­u­rally we’d also love it if any of the horses ends up con­tend­ing for the big­gest prizes that the South of the coun­try has to of­fer too,’ says Lan­cashire-born Ja­son.

That sort of am­bi­tious out­look runs through the group’s over­all ap­proach. ‘We have all the re­sources of High­clere to draw on, and that above all means top peo­ple, in­clud­ing the likes of John War­ren, renowned as pretty much the best blood­stock agent in the coun­try – he works for Her Majesty the Queen too,’ adds Ja­son. ‘He has bought the three horses for us, all priced around the £80,000-£100,000 mark, so we’re aim­ing for top races – there are cheaper syn­di­cates out there, but none with our level of am­bi­tion – we’re af­ter prizes at the top end of rac­ing.’

The three syn­di­cates are each named af­ter cel­e­brated North­ern artists: Antony Gorm­ley, David Hock­ney and Ge­orge Stubbs and each will con­sist of 20 mem­bers. ‘The horses will race for the 2019 and 2020 sea­sons, any prize money goes to the own­ers, of course, then the horses will be sold with pro­ceeds to own­ers and the syn­di­cates ended – though many in the South over High­clere’s 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence have re-formed to con­tinue,’ says Ja­son. All the train­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion fees are in­cluded in the ini­tial mem­ber­ship, and there are sys­tems in place to up­date own­ers on a fre­quent ba­sis. The ini­tial cost in­cludes the pur­chase

price of the horse and all train­ing costs for the first year.

You’d ex­pect that watch­ing your horse race would be the zenith of the ex­pe­ri­ence, but Ja­son stresses that the so­cial as­pect is just as strong as the sport­ing: ‘We ar­range reg­u­lar sta­ble vis­its to meet the trainer and watch the horse on the gal­lops, then en­joy a good break­fast. It’s a great way to meet up with like-minded peo­ple, and a lot of firm friend­ships are formed be­tween syn­di­cate mem­bers. And when we do go to the races we’ll en­joy lunch to­gether – it’s a lot of fun, and it’s my job to make that so.’

Watch­ing with friends and fam­ily from the own­ers’ en­clo­sure is an­other at­trac­tive el­e­ment for race fans, and so is the com­pany’s box (num­ber one) over­look­ing the fin­ish­ing line at York, ac­ces­si­ble by mem­bers for a priv­i­leged view of big meet­ings like the Dante in May and the Ebor in Au­gust. An­other an­nual event com­bines the so­cial and the sport­ing sides. The name High­clere will be fa­mil­iar to many who know lit­tle or noth­ing of the turf, given High­clere Cas­tle’s tele­vi­sual ex­is­tence as Down­ton Abbey. The cas­tle is the an­ces­tral home of the com­pany’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Harry Her­bert, and syn­di­cate mem­bers will be able to visit the es­tate to watch its stud’s year­ling pa­rade ev­ery Oc­to­ber, to as­sess the horse­flesh and have a great day out. ‘It’s a very smart event, a real oc­ca­sion in amaz­ing sur­round­ings, and a bril­liant place to catch up with fel­low syn­di­cate mem­bers,’ says Ja­son.

‘We’ve got off to a great start, the syn­di­cates are sell­ing nicely – I had a call the other day from a gen­tle­man buy­ing a mem­ber­ship for his mother for Christ­mas! The horses have been bought, and ev­ery­thing’s in place with the train­ers. If de­mand con­tin­ues at this rate we may de­cide to add ad­di­tional syn­di­cates, and we’re al­ready think­ing of pur­chas­ing an­other horse for the 2019-20 Na­tional Hunt sea­son.’

It’s typ­i­cal of High­clere North’s ap­proach that the trainer Ja­son has in mind is Scot­land’s Lucinda Rus­sell, whose One for Arthur won the 2017 Grand Na­tional.

It will be fas­ci­nat­ing to watch how things progress – es­pe­cially for those lucky enough to be a part of it.

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