Wednesday 15 August 2018

A Major Milestone for The Owner’s Opinion – This is Our 150th Edition

Doesn’t time fly! We set up Owners for Owners in the summer of 2012 with the intention of helping owners come together to share the costs, risks and pleasures of racehorse ownership. As well as setting up the web site, we also launched our fortnightly blog, The Owner’s Opinion. With dedication, fortitude and on occasions liberal supply of strong red wine, we’ve managed not to miss an issue and built up a worldwide readership. On occasions the blog hits have been over 30,000, so hopefully those of you who read it find that we are both topical and sufficiently interesting to secure your continued readership.

It’s also incredible to reflect that since 2012 we have personally been involved in buying well over 50 horses and indeed at the moment are managing ownership of 23 horses at all ages from foals to 7-year-olds, in sole ownership, joint ownerships, partnerships, syndicates and a racing club and there aren’t many weeks when we’re not racing. With the exception of trainers we probably have as good an insight into racecourses and the owner experience as anyone, which is why we have participated in a number of working parties over the years, not least the BHA’s Strategy for Growth Pillar on Ownership and Bloodstock.

It is also no surprise that we’ve enjoyed both the highs and the inevitable lows of ownership. I’ll never forget the thrill of watching Lord Ben Stack lead the field of the Dante into the home straight, before sadly succumbing to colic a couple of years later – a gorgeous horse and much missed. On New Year’s Day this year, it was a similar thrill to see Acey Milan galloping the field into submission in the Listed 4yo Bumper at Cheltenham, and the dream is very much alive with this youngster. And also I’ll never forget the day at York Races when Buckle Street, ridden by the irrepressible Belinda Keighley, won the Macmillan Charity Race – absolutely no prize-money was gained by this win but it was a magnificent achievement, with Belinda raising an enormous amount of money for charity. The champagne celebrations in the paddock straight afterwards and throughout the evening were heroic. Brilliant days like these are what sustain us.

While trying to convey in the blog the mix of pleasures and frustrations that come from ownership, we’ve also had a campaigning edge throughout the 150 issues. The executive teams of a number of racecourses, particularly Newbury, Cheltenham before its improvements and some of the Arc tracks, became well aware of our lobbying for dramatic improvements in the owner experience. At heart, Owners for Owners is a very democratic, grass-roots body and we’ve long felt that the privileged top end of racing receives far too much money and attention, so we’ve lobbied hard for more prize-money and better facilities on the lesser days of racing. Some of our fellow syndicate organisers have also received a number of blasts as we’ve pushed hard for proper transparency and standards in syndication, which have now been adopted. Most of our campaigning has been well received, although we’ve doubtless made an enemy or two along the way – so be it. As a great friend of mine always says, “smooth diamonds don’t cut glass”.

And I’m sure the campaigning will continue. Indeed in the last blog I started to describe the new ownership strategy for British Racing and indicated that I was going to apply pressure for far more publicity about the strategy, while ensuring that the grass-roots owners had the right level of involvement in framing it particularly through the Racehorse Syndicates Association. I duly took this up with all the top executives in the industry and have received reassurances from them that this will now happen. Rest assured that The Owner’s Opinion will be holding their feet to the fire through late Summer and Autumn as this strategy is duly developed and published ….. Something tells me however that this won’t necessarily be a smooth journey. Don’t worry, I promise to keep you all posted.

On to the next 150!

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