How did you get into racehorse ownership?
I owned a small share of a horse who, as well as other courses, ran at tracks near me in Scotland at Hamilton and Ayr. Penelope Pitstop was the filly, trained by Lee Smyth.
Later some members of the syndicate wanted to sell her so I bought everyone out and she was retained in training by Lee. This was in September 2015.
I wasn’t brought up with horses but I used to go racing with grandparents and parents to Ayr and Hamilton.
What was your best day at the races and why?
The day of my first ever winner - Polly Glide at Hamilton in June 2018. My late mother Mary was also involved in the filly and she was present that day as well.
What is the biggest drawback about being a racehorse owner?
There are none that I can think of. The opposite is the case really. I’m unmarried but since I have owned racehorses, my brother and my niece and all the family have got interested in racing and come along to meetings. It’s a great family day out.
In your experience, which racecourse in Ireland treats owners the best and why?
Because of the Covid restrictions I haven’t been able to go racing in Ireland as much as I would have liked.
Among the couple of tracks I’ve been to, I enjoyed Navan – it has a great atmosphere and is one of the best tracks from which to view racing.
I have strong feelings for Dundalk – nine of my 12 wins have come at Dundalk. There is also something special about watching horses racing under floodlights - there’s a different kind of ambience I enjoy. It’s a very well-run track.
Down Royal and Naas are others I have visited and enjoyed.
I actually get a lot of enjoyment watching my horses race in Ireland on TV.
I have recently retired from my university career as a research chemist at the University of Glasgow and I hope to come over more in the summer.
Flat or jump racing, which do you prefer and why?
I prefer the flat - I don’t own any horses for jump racing. Horses can get injured on the flat but the chances of injury are of course much higher over jumps.
I like watching jump racing – it’s spectatcular.
What qualities do you look for in a trainer?
I have known Lee (Smyth) since 2015. I like to be part of a small yard - he has about 15 horses in training. The people who work there are very friendly and I consider myself more of a family friend to the Smyths now.
My horses get more attention and I get personal treatment and helpful advice.
I go to the yard and Lee’s home yard nearby frequently and mean to do more so now that I have more time.
What improvements would you like to see racecourses in Ireland do for owners?
I have only been to the four tracks mentioned but all tracks are open to improvement.
How do you think the current crisis will impact on racing in general and on ownership in particular?
I believe racing will survive and thrive. There are so many dedicated people involved. Since the Covid restrictions have been lifted at Dundalk I notice more spectators there.
What can trainers or HRI do to encourage owners to keep horses in training at the moment?
Lee and his partner Georgia do all the hard work in buying for me and are excellent at keeping me in touch and informed.
What significance do your colours hold?
They were selected by my late mother Mary. She loved dark blue and the first horse that we owned was Penelope Pitstop so we added pink for a filly. Then came the embellishments of the stars and the stripes on the sleeves.
When buying a horse, what do you look for?
Lee does all the buying for me. I enjoy looking at horses but I can’t pick out the likely winners so I am very appreciative of his advice and guidance!
Freddy Tylicki does some of the buying for us through his bloodstock agency. He sourced our recent Dundalk winner Spirituoso. Lee and Freddy have been friends since their time together in Jim Bolger’s yard.
What horses do you currently have in training?
Four. Adams Barbour is my superstar. He has just won the Winter Series at Dundalk for most wins – four wins and four places for nine runs.
Spirituoso won first time out for me at Dundalk a couple of weeks ago and was purchased to stay in Lee’s yard.
Adapt To Dan was bought out of a claimer at Dundalk in February.
An unraced filly will run over the summer. She’s called Mary Of Cullen - Mary after my mother and Cullen is the name of the street which she was brought up on and I now live on.
What’s next on the agenda for your horses?
Adams Barbour has had a tough campaign on the all-weather and has gone up 40lb in the ratings. We hope to campaign him on the turf in competitive handicaps over the summer.
Have you any young horses to look forward to?
Polly Glide is due to have her first foal shortly by Soldier’s Call. Something to look forward to.
I also have another broodmare Duquesa Beach who won twice for me and has recently retired from racing and is due to visit stud in April.
What do you do with your racehorses when their racing days are over?
I haven’t had to deal with many so far. Penelope Pitstop’s first foal was stillborn and she is retired to Lee’s farm. She didn’t go in foal again, the first experience was stressful, she’s not a big mare. We decided not to put her through that again. She has plenty of company on the farm.
One of Lee’s former employees is now involved in the retraining of racehorses. There seems to be more opportunities for that now.
What would help to make Irish racing more competitive for the smaller owner/trainer?
The balloting can be a problem, especially for the smaller training operations.
If your horse is balloted out twice, it could be made possible that those horses are given precedence if entered for a third time.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a racehorse owner?
My strong advice is to find a trainer you trust and secondly think what you want in racing. Have realistic expectations – nobody has the right for their horse to win!
Penelope Pitstop was second six times and she never won. I had realistic expectations. She gave every effort in her races and I was happy with that. Further advice is to listen to what the trainer tells you and take it on board.
Even if my horses finish down the field, I’m happy.
What gives me a kick is being in the parade ring beforehand with all the anticipation and seeing horses running in my colours. Winning is a bonus.
My family altogether, new people to racing, for a great day out - that gives me satisfaction.
Dr David Adam was in conversation with Olivia Hamilton