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.

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