THERE are many little pleasures in owing a racehorse, especially being part of a small syndicate with a group of friends.
Sydney native Russell Proudfoot is part of the Cranky Corner Syndicate who have Banjo in training with Denis Cullen and Russell told us a few extra tales about their recent Tramore winner.
Russell’s interest in horses began with his father and his friends back in his native Australia and with harness racers rather than racehorses.
The association with the Denis Cullen yard goes back a long way, to the days when Michael O’Brien was at the helm. As part of the B P S Syndicate, Russell enjoyed great success with the high-class hurdler Essex a decade ago.
“My love for horses was always through harness racing and when I came here, 21 years ago, I was asked by a friend if I had ever thought of going into a syndicate. He said he and his sons had horses with Michael O’Brien in Kildare. I got involved in a horse who won for us and we sold him to England and then Michael bought Essex for us.
“Essex ended up being a Cesarewitch winner, a Pierse Hurdle winner and a Ladbroke Hurdle winner in Newbury. Imagine how lucky we were to own a horse like that!”
The connection with the yard continued after Michael had retired.
“Going up to the yard, I always used to talk to Denis Cullen, and we got to know each other well. Talking one day I said, ‘What’s your ambition?’ and he said, ‘One day I’ll train’. I said I’d be his first owner and years later that’s what happened.”
It’s been a lucky partnership ever since for Russell and his friends.
“The syndicate went its own way but I stayed with Denis and we found a lovely four-year-old who went point-to-pointing.”
The joy of ownership is in getting your friends involved and that was the case here.
“My friends in Shines Bar (in Athlone) all wanted to get involved so we formed a syndicate and called it the Cranky Corner Syndicate, because we are always arguing with each other!
“We went in with Denis and when we tested the horse at Durrow point-to-point, he was beaten a length but he came across a good one in Godsmejudge, who went on to win the Scottish Grand National.
“Then we bought a horse from Ken Condon named Sebadee. We won a hunter chase with him at Limerick and a point-to-point. I’ve been lucky enough.”
Banjo is their current interest.“Denis’ daughter rang me and said they had found this four-year-old at the sales by Stowaway. We only paid €3,000 for him. I got the guys together again and we’ve had some great placings with him and he finally won at Tramore. He’ll win another one for us.”
It’s been a most enjoyable spin on the racing turntable for Russell. “I have a love for horses, I like to have a bet, and you have your own colours, and can go racing.”
Getting to name your horse and having him run in your own colours is an extra thrill.
“I called him Banjo after the great Australian poet Banjo Paterson, who was a war hero and wrote Waltzing Matilda.
“I designed my colours on the indigenous Aboriginal flag. The colours are red for the earth of Australia, black for the skin colour and yellow for the sun.”
Having a smaller syndicate is also recommended. “I always try to have seven in the syndicate, seven is a good number. I don’t think any of us wanted to own a horse outright. With seven you can pay all the bills and have a few quid over.”
Russell is looking forward to Banjo’s next outings. “Banjo was so fit and well in March. We had high hopes and then everything was stopped and we had to start over again. But I still love it. It gives us an interest and for a small outlay.
“If anyone was interested in getting into a syndicate or finding what to do, I’d be glad to answer any questions. You have to be prepared for injuries, you are obligated to pay whatever you pay but you have got to know when you go in that everyone does their best and no one is ripping them off. If you get to a stage where you have enough, just stop.
“I’ve been here 21 years and it all started with a conversation in Shines pub. I’ve been lucky to have some great times.”