Tuesday 28 June 2016

Some Quiet Reflection on Royal Ascot, Timeless Art and Brexit Independence Day …. if Possible

Although I’ve been involved in Flat horses with seven trainers including the likes of William Haggas and Richard Hannon, in Owners for Owners we only have one Flat trainer and that is Karl Burke. I’ve had horses with Karl for 11 years now, ever since I came into ownership, and it says everything that we’ve never once had a disagreement. Even when Karl was harshly forced into exile for a short period, we stayed with the yard to support Elaine and the family. We got off to a great start through David Redvers (pre-Qatar Racing days) with a lovely, fast filly called Swift Princess who won for us, was sold for more than we paid for her and is now a successful broodmare in New Zealand. I’ve had double the winners with Karl of any other trainer and only a week or so ago we had our latest when Timeless Art won a valuable £15k handicap up at one of my favourite racecourses, Ayr.

Yet at the start of this Flat season nothing seemed to be going right. Our horses all disappointed when they came out, and March and April were a tough time for Karl and all his owners. As always with racing patience has paid handsome rewards and the yard has been flying through May and June, not least at Royal Ascot where the magnificent Gr.1-winning performance of Quiet Reflection in the Commonwealth Cup was the highlight of the week. It was Karl’s first Royal Ascot winner, first Gr.1 in the UK, first Ascot-winning ride for new stable jockey Dougie Costello in his first season on the Flat and first winner at the Royal meeting for the syndicate that part-owns the horse, Ontoawinner. As one of them said afterwards, “We’re proud to be Yorkshire. Proud and loud!” The joyous scenes after the race were wonderful to behold, and sum up every owner’s aspirations. It now looks as though Quiet Reflection may head for the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on 9th July, and then onwards throughout the year to Champions’ Day back at Ascot.

I’m sure that Karl’s yard will be over-subscribed in the autumn. We’re definitely buying another yearling, so if you fancy getting involved, do let me know as soon as possible. One of Karl’s many accomplishments is the rare ability to spot good-value talent at the sales, and I would never consider buying a horse for the Flat without him being there. If you’d like to come to the sales with us in the autumn, you’re more than welcome.

Among many highlights of Royal Ascot, Lady Aurelia was simply outstanding in the Queen Mary, winning in a time 3 seconds faster than Profitable in the King’s Stand. She simply blew the field away, and I doubt if I’ve ever seen a more impressive 2yo performance. Indeed the only other similarly stunning performance I can recall is Frankel winning the 2000 Guineas. Delighted to see Order Of St George win the Gold Cup and give Aidan O’Brien his 7th victory in 11 runnings. He may go to the King George, but I’m actually more interested to see whether he can do what Ardross, Westerner and Yeats failed to do – win the Arc as well as the Gold Cup. Thinking of the sire of this horse – Nigel Twiston Davies made me laugh after his son Willie won one of the handicaps for Alan King and then the other son, Sam, won two at Ffos Las that evening. He said: “I’m the new Galileo!”

Another trainer who I always find amusing, Sir Mark Prescott, shared his view on the Brexit vote with his comment on Farage: “I wouldn’t follow him down a footpath!” Having said that, clearly a really momentous decision was made by the British electorate. Maybe a small but nevertheless a clear margin voted for exit from the EU on a strong turnout of 72%. It was amazing that the bookmakers got it so wrong, with 1/10 for remain. As expected there was immediate market mayhem with the Pound plummeting to its lowest value since 1985, a big drop in equities and then the political fall-out with Prime Minster Cameron resigning, and as I write this blog, half the Shadow Cabinet doing likewise.

Superficially it seems to be a seismic vote against elites and the establishment, with deep divides between the old and the young, rural and metropolitan; London, Scotland and Northern Ireland vs. the rest of the country. It doubtless has the potential to put 70 years of European integration into reverse, and there are profound implications particularly if it triggers other countries to vote against the dead hand of Brussels bureaucratic centralisation. Personally I’ve felt for a long time that the EU fails to provide any real competitive advantage for Europe and that their operating model is no longer fit for purpose. Here’s hoping that the politicians can provide the leadership, both in the UK and across Europe, to drive a new arrangement fit for the 21st Century.

And finally of course this decision is bound to have an effect on British racing. One of the big gains of the BHA in recent years has been the development of strong contacts with government and in securing their commitment to the replacement of the Levy. Hopefully the strength of cross-party backing will ensure that this continues. It may be that the exit vote may make it easier to reform the Levy and also offshore bookmaking. It was noticeable that shares in Ladbrokes and William Hill dropped like a stone in early trading after the result was announced.

It's too early to say what the effect is going to be on employment law, immigration policy and recruitment of stable staff from overseas, the breeding industry that currently receives payment under the European Common Agricultural Policy, the movement of horses and trade at the sales with a weaker pound.

Doubtless after some quiet reflection over the next few months we’ll find that the advantages for British racing are greater than the disadvantages. Here’s hoping, anyway.

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