How did you get into racehorse ownership?
I’ve been running syndicates for the past 15 years – my first job out of university was running the Kingsclere Racing Club for Andrew Balding, which I’m fortunate to continue to do now, alongside Pimlico Racing and my work as a bloodstock agent.
Tom and I worked together at Tim Vaughan’s in 2011/12 – Tom was riding out in those days, which he’d definitely struggle to do now! He has always been around horses and even trained a winner between the flags a few years ago.
We’d discussed running a syndicate together in Ireland for some time before getting it started in 2020.
What was your best day at the races and why?
Our best day with Pimlico Racing was celebrated over a Zoom call rather than on track! Zoffany Bay won a €100,000 listed Quinte handicap hurdle at Auteuil in March last year, but unfortunately due to restrictions at the time, we weren’t able to travel.
Every winner is special, but I think our best day on course so far was at Cheltenham when Master Dancer won at the October meeting in 2017.
I’d bought and syndicated him, and Tom had come over for the weekend to cheer him on. We had a great bunch of owners in the horse and it was a memorable day.
In your experience, which racecourse in Ireland treats owners the best and why?
It’s fantastic that Irish racecourses allocate 20 badges to syndicates, so everyone can enjoy the day as an owner. That’s a considerable difference to the UK, where tracks have different allocations and some offer as few as six badges.
We’ll give a special mention for Tipperary, who looked after us very well when Coole Arcade won there in May.
What qualities do you look for in a trainer?
It’s so important to receive regular communication from trainers, as keeping our owners updated is essential. Henry de Bromhead is briliant to deal with, and is always happy to discuss race plans and tactics… though I’m pretty sure leaving things to Rachael is the best way forwards!
It’s also important that everyone is treated like an individual owner, and our stable visits to Knockeen have been exceptional in that respect. Henry and his team have been really welcoming to us and let everyone get their photos taken with the stable stars… and there are a few of those to choose from.
We’ve also recently sent our Auteuil hero Zoffany Bay to Peter Fahey and had a great visit there for the first time last weekend. Peter and Ber looked after us brilliantly.
How do you think the current cost-of-living crisis will impact on racing in general and on ownership in particular?
You wouldn’t know it from the prices horses continue to fetch at the sales, but the sport is surely in for a rocky ride over the next couple of years. Trainers are having to pass on some of their rising costs to owners, and that will inevitably push some out of the sport. Though syndicates are undoubtedly a little vulnerable, I particularly worry for the smaller individual owners.
What can trainers or HRI do to encourage owners to keep horses in training at the moment?
Racehorse ownership is a luxury for most of us and when times are harder, it’s those luxuries that have to go first. To keep as many owners as possible in the sport, we all have to make sure we’re doing our very best to offer an exceptional experience to the racing public. I’m sure there are inexpensive marginal gains that could be applied that would make a noticeable difference to the overall ownership experience.
How did your syndicate get its name?
We were chatting over the idea of launching a new syndicate in 2019 with a couple of friends – we were in a bar in London called No. 11 Pimlico and the name stuck. I wish I could say there was a bit more thought put into it!
When buying a horse, what do you look for?
Our model is finding inexpensive horses that we feel can improve and we spend plenty of time discussing suitable targets. Twenty-three of our 47 runners over jumps in Ireland since we launched have finished in the first three (with six winners), and five of our 18 runners in the UK have won, which are stats we’re really proud of.
We’ve bought two from claimers in France, Alice Avril and Schone Aussicht, both of which won for us last year.
With our budget, buying form horses gives us a greater chance of consistently getting winners, but it’s also important to buy some young, unraced horses now and again as well.
What horses do you currently have in training?
We have six with Henry, of which Coole Arcade (twice) and Cottie have both won already this season. I’m hoping they can both kick on over fences, and Alice Avril is one to watch out for in her second season with us. Baron Wild and Makfils haven’t got on the scoresheet yet, but they’ve both been running really well, so hopefully it is only a matter of time.
Zoffany Bay is our first horse with Peter Fahey and we hope he’ll be out around Christmas.
He owes us absolutely nothing and he already has a retirement spot booked in Tom’s field for sometime in the future, but I really can’t wait to see him back on the track. He is a wonderful character and as he showed on his final start in France, he’s pretty talented.
Have you any young horses to look forward to?
We’re really looking forward to seeing our unraced four-year-old Sageburg filly on the track for Henry – she has shown the right signs in her work and the plan is to start her off in a bumper in the coming months. We are also planning on purchasing our first yearling on the flat this autumn, so watch this space.
Do you currently have any shares available?
Yes. There are a couple of shares in recent runners Coole Arcade and Makfils, as well as lease shares in Alice Avril for the upcoming season, so we’ve something for every budget. Please join in the fun.
If you’d like further information, please visit our website pimlicoracing.co.uk.
What do you do with your racehorses when their racing days are over?
We started a Pimlico Retraining of Racehorses Fund last year, whereby members put in €1 a month per 2.5% share. This will assist in finding suitable homes for our horses when their racing days are over.
Members also pay a small monthly contribution towards the IIJ, the Irish Injured Jockeys fund, and it all adds up for a very worthy cause. We were delighted to present the IIJ with a good cheque at the Punchestown Festival this year.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a racehorse owner?
Dip your toe in for a year before taking a leap, start with a smaller share and then see how you’re enjoying it. It may take a little while to find a set-up that works for you, whether that’s the right syndicate or trainer.
Syndicates are a fantastic way for fellow racing enthusiasts to get together and enjoy racehorse ownership and though some people will want to go on to have horses on their own further down the line, I think everyone coming into the sport should start off taking a share first.
I’d certainly much rather have a 10% share in five horses than a 50% share in one!
Nathaniel Barnett was in conversation with Olivia Hamilton