Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a racehorse owner? Five volunteers at the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art are currently living that dream. In this week’s blog one of those volunteer owners Rob Mckeown gives us an insight into ‘Hold Your Horses Racing’ a new syndicate for 2018.
We started our syndicate in the autumn of 2017 with a membership of 14; five of whom are volunteers at the National Horseracing Museum. For most of the syndicate, it was a first taste of ownership and the chance to have a stake in a racehorse. We found a horse at a price we could afford and bought the majority share in an Elzaam colt that we named SELF ASSESSMENT – tax returns were due around the time we were thinking of suitable names. He was selected and purchased at the Tattersalls Ireland yearling sale by an experienced and well-regarded trainer of younger horses. SELF ASSESSMENT joined 60 other yearlings to be trained by Karl Burke at Spigot Lodge, a yard situated near the town of Leyburn in North Yorkshire.
SELFIE - his stage name - showed some early promise on the gallops in the first quarter of 2018, enough to warrant an early entry in the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sales Race to be run at the Curragh in September. After picking up a bump from messing about in his box, he missed a couple of weeks training, which slowed down his progress. He was brought along steadily until June when he took part in a racecourse gallop at Newcastle with some of our trainer’s better (and best) two-year-olds. He finished last in the gallop but showed enough ability to prompt some race entries towards the end of June.
We had to wait for better ground to see him make his debut on 14 July, at York; a fantastic racecourse on which to show-off the yellow and black silks for the very first time. Why yellow and black? We have several U’s fans (Cambridge United) involved.
Our boy was very-well behaved and relaxed before the race, perhaps a bit too laid-back. When the stalls opened for the class 3, six furlong novice event, he was slowly away. After looking like he might get involved at half-way, he tired into 8th place. What looked a bit disappointing immediately afterwards turned out to be quite a respectable run, as several of the horses that finished in front of him subsequently showed better performances. The winner of the York race went on to triumph in a Group 2 at Goodwood and finish the season on a rating of 112.
We knew we owned a promising racehorse when he made his next appearance at Thirsk on 14 August; he finished a close second. He travelled really well in the 7 furlong contest (again missing the break) and was beaten only half-a-length by a more experienced rival. Two weeks later he ran once more over 7 furlongs, this time on the all-weather at Wolverhampton. He made a better, if not perfect start, came into the straight in contention but still a couple of lengths behind the odds-on favourite. A strong finish on the rail resulted in victory by a head. Three runs and he had won his maiden, albeit at a fairly low level…but a winner he was and participation in the sales race at the Curragh was confirmed.
In Ireland in September, he ran very well against 17 rivals and finished a respectable 5th; close behind horses rated much higher. The distance was probably a bit short for him and he was drawn away from the main contenders. We saw again how he really tries his best, and trainer, jockey and attending syndicate members were pleased he’d run so well. The weekend in Dublin was one to remember for those who travelled over. Following the race, his handicap rating was reassessed and he was put up 8lbs to 84; confirming the improvement in his form. The winner of the sales race has since finished placed in a pattern race and is now rated 102.
Our trainer decided he could have one more run this season and that he should step up in distance again to a mile. He went back to York on 13 October for a competitive nursery handicap. He showed how much he had learned from his previous races by jumping off well and tracking the leaders into the straight. Three furlongs from home he looked sure to be in the shake-up but the extra furlong (and maybe the after-effects of the race in Ireland) contributed to him fading into 5th place.
SELF ASSESSMENT ran five times as a 2 year-old. He won once, was second once and collected prize money (a good sum in Ireland) for his two fifth place finishes. Following his run at York, the handicapper dropped him 2lbs to 82; he should start next season on a competitive handicap mark. Our trainer felt our boy should undergo a gelding operation straight after the York race to enable him to have the maximum recovery time to strengthen up, grow and mature over the winter. We believe he looks a good prospect for 3 year-old handicaps over either 7 furlongs or a mile in 2019.
What some of our volunteer owners thought about being a racehorse owner
One word that would sum it up is 'Exhilarating'. You have a wonderful living animal, (you can keep his photo as your screenshot on your phone) you want him to be well and happy. You meet the people who care for him on a day to day basis, groom and workrider. At the course you see your colours on the jockey, you meet jockey and trainer, it is all very personal and then on the track, you watch that noble beast canter down and then once the race has started, you yell your heart out for him and hope he finishes well. Amazing emotion in the winners enclosure if he is placed! What better experience could there be!
We never dreamt of the fun, and above all, success, that we have all had with Self Assessment (Selfie) and we can't wait for the exciting adventure to continue next year!
Linda and John Walker
Blog by volunteer, Rob Mckeown.
The blog was written at the end of Self Assessment’s two year old season.