Sunday, 15 October 2017

Well Done to the ROA on Passing the 8,000 Member Milestone – Do Join If You’re Not A Member

Owners for Owners have always been a big supporter of the Racehorse Owners Association and have worked closely with a number of their key executives over recent years, not least when supporting the BHA’s Pillar Team on Ownership and drives to encourage syndicates to become more transparent. Nothing at all has changed in our view about the ROA – it is absolutely vital that owners are properly represented as THE key stakeholder in racing, and this very much remains the case.

So full marks to the ROA who announced last week that they have reached their 8,000th member, which is a really significant milestone. They have doubled the membership base in the last 20 years and according to their press release there are ten times as many members now as there were in the late 1960s. Charlie Liverton, Chief Executive, emphasised that: “Owners have never had such a strong voice, and our involvement with the Horsemen’s Group and soon the Racing Authority means owners, as the single biggest investors in the sport, cannot be ignored.”

In the total scheme of things for owners, to join the ROA for a mere 63p per day (£230 per year) is an absolute bargain when you consider all the benefits provided. Don’t worry, I’m not paid to be their PR supremo, but here is a summary:

  • Free racecourse admission: members with 50% or more of a horse in training, or those running syndicates, enjoy free admission to over 1,300 fixtures through the Racecourse Badge Scheme for Owners, now administered through the PASS card. If you have less than 50% ownership, you still enjoy free admission at a choice of over 800 fixtures. The value of that, if you are a regular racegoer, is huge, with the ROA estimating that it is worth £500 per year alone.
  • Third party liability insurance: hopefully no-one ever has to use it, but it is a vital element to have, and annual membership of the ROA provides automatic cover for up to £10 million, worth almost £300 if you were taking out insurance on your own.
  • SIS Owner Sponsorship: which allows owners to reclaim VAT on the costs of ownership. Absolutely vital for those in yards that don’t have a sponsor. The ROA estimates this is worth on average at least £4,000 in reclaimed VAT.
  • 20% discount on most BHA registration fees: every little helps, as they say. On average this is worth £57 per member.
  • Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder magazine: as a member you receive a free copy every month, whereas to buy it costs £55 per year.
  • Car park label: which gives priority parking at racecourses on virtually all race days, which is a good saving as well.
  • £2,000 weekly Owners’ Jackpot: offering members the opportunity to win bonuses on top of prize-money.
  • Expert advice: the ROA is an excellent source of information to owners and, should it be necessary, can arrange legal advice as well.
  • Hospitality and social events: there are regular offers for exclusive hospitality facilities as well as a wide range of social events and visits.

So it is a no-brainer really, isn’t it, to be a member?

Having said all that, I’d still like to see the ROA have a much more active role in British racing, and be increasingly assertive in arguing the case for owners at racing’s top table, particularly the owners who represent the grass roots of the sport. I still believe that across racing the top trainer / owner / breeder perspective is given too much credence, and on occasions there can still be a rather patronising approach adopted towards those who are racing primarily at Class 4 levels and below at the lesser tracks.

From a strategic perspective I believe a lot more could be done to give real visibility to the improvement gaps necessary across every element of racing and the racehorse supply chain. And, most importantly, the steps needed to address them properly. In other words I don’t just want the ROA to be a representative body; I’d like them to step up to the plate and become much more a campaigning group. The more members they have, the better, and I hope in the not too distant future we see them hit the huge milestone of 10,000 members. Well done to Charlie Liverton and his team.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

We’ve Had the NH Trainers’ Owners’ Days – So Proper Racing is About to Start

For enthusiastic National Hunt owners, September is usually all about attending the elaborate owners’ days put on by the vast majority of National Hunt trainers. Not many Flat trainers do this, as it is pretty challenging to organise a parade of skittish yearlings or 2yos, but it is an enjoyable feature of the National Hunt world which owners really look forward to. As we’ve gone through September all our NH trainers have had these days, so a special thank-you to Messrs. Hobbs, Honeyball, Keighley, Longsdon and Snowden, and also their wives, assistant trainers, secretaries, head grooms and all the staff and helpers. Oh yes – and the horses.

An immense amount of work goes into these owners’ days, and they can come with a not inconsiderable cost. Yard improvements that have been under way over the summer have to be completed; boxes scrubbed clean and repainted; invitations sent out; brochures written and printed; marquees assembled and various purveyors of plentiful food and wine contracted for the day. Stress levels and blood pressure inevitably rise as a million and one last-minute things have to be done. But it’s definitely worthwhile, with a huge amount of goodwill engendered and a really strong sense of yard identity fostered.

It is interesting how the format of the owners’ day can vary between trainers. Philip organised a formal lunch in a marquee with horses not paraded (unless the owners requested this), but a full commentary provided by Philip, Richard Johnson, Johnson White and Mick Fitzgerald. Anthony held his event inside his enormous indoor school from mid/late afternoon, with a plentiful supply of top-quality canapes and cakes, champagne and wine. Martin paraded all his horses and then cantered them around his brand-new, state-of-the-art, two-furlong carpet loop before the owners demolished a hog roast and a prodigious amount of soft drinks, Pilsner lager and wine (served by the author of this blog, with enthusiasm if not a particularly great amount of skill). Charlie organised a mid-morning gourmet brunch for owners, followed by a parade of horses. He was also brave enough to school a number of horses. The parade and schooling were also open to the general public, proving very popular, with several hundred non-owners turning up. Finally Jamie had a parade of horses with the commentary supported by the amusing Richard Pitman, followed by a Thai-themed lunch and bar. Great variety in timings, formats, food and drink, but a strong common denominator of lots of enjoyment.

Everyone in British Racing talks about the need to “maximise the owner experience” as a prime means of attracting new owners into the sport and retaining the current ones. For me, the organisation by trainers of owners’ days is one of the greatest contributions to helping owners really enjoy the sport. It’s very interesting listening to the trainers’ comments on their various horses; the hopes and dreams that we all have at this stage of the year are firmly alive, with so much to look forward to; and it is one of the few opportunities where owners can meet and network with all the other owners, friends and families associated with the yard.

Despite the cost and the considerable workload, long may our NH trainers continue with these enjoyable events. Many thanks to everyone concerned, and may all the yards I have mentioned have a tremendously successful season – not least with our Owners for Owners horses.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.