1) Who do you consider to be the best horse you have owned?
Best performed horse to date in terms of both stakemoney and class would have to be Delta Bay, with a string of others close behind over the decades such as Little Miss Madam, Annapak, Bow Road, Low Flying, Strictly Boardroom and Ace’s Wish. A little known fact about Delta Bay is that he ran a state record over 1,400m, clocking 1.20.94 at Ascot on Caulfield Cup day 2010 – problem was that Broome Time was in the same race and edged us out with a quicker time of 1.20.90, a record that still stands today. Later in the day Famous Roman won the 1,400m listed Northerly Stakes in the much slower time of 1.21.55 ! In the same vein of ill fortune, I am regularly reminded of my decision not to participate in part ownership of a certain horse in the eastern states, where a good mate purchased a 10% share in a horse and offered me a one fifth share. My reply of “why on earth would I want a 2% share in a horse running around in Melbourne – even if you win a Melbourne Cup I’ll make more from a Bunbury Maiden with full ownership” ……… What are the chances of that coming back to bite ? Of course the horse would go on to be involved in one of the great episodes in Australian sporting history and whilst part ownership of Prince of Penzance eluded me, the syndicate out of Melbourne were kind enough to supply the ‘loser from WA’ with a consolation prize of a syndicate tie and stubby holder.
2) Who was your first winner as an owner?
Little Miss Madam, with Paul Harvey aboard at Pinjarra way back before the turn of the century. I was working in Cobar NSW at the time and enjoying a weekend break in Katoomba with my now wife, listening to the race overlooking the Three Sisters. A nearby group of Japanese tourists weren’t sure what to think whilst I rode her home of the final 50 !
3) What has been your biggest race win/thrill on the track to date?
A pair of trophy wins early on with Delta Bay were really special, winning the Apprentices Challenge in the City and then the Grandstand Cup down at Pinjarra soon after. Both have pride of place in the pool room, with the Apprentices Cup trophy concealing the keys to the bar fridge (hope the kids don’t read this) whilst the Grandstand Cup is used as a repository for stubby lids. Since then, any races that Ace’s Wish have won have been memorable owing to the charity aspect of her racing career and the emotional response from Amy Evans. We were very fortunate to be introduced to a young 17yo Amy Evans at the track by mutual friends. Our group of owners took little convincing that for Amy’s 18th birthday we’d donate her a 10% free carry in Strictly Boardroom, Low Flying and the unnamed filly that became the recently retired Ace’s Wish (Amy Catherine Evans’ initials and a nod to the beneficial charity). We’ve raised close to $10k now for the cause and I really enjoy the daily sms banter with Amy, culminating in a tipping comp each Saturday. Amy’s at the track regularly and enjoys a bit of a chat with other owners, trainers and jockeys, so don’t be a stranger and please introduce yourself to her. Just don’t make the common mistake of assuming a physical disability equates to a mental one – she’s whip smart and knows more about racehorses than most people I know !
4) Do you have any interesting racing stories?
Yep, many, but I’ll bore you with only one. A friend of mine indicated that he was interested in joining me in horse ownership, so we duly purchased a Magic of Sydney / Daylight Hour filly from the MM sales – happy days ! He then suggested an obviously suitable racing name of ‘Magic Day’. Neglecting to mention anything to his wife of just shy of 25 years, he transferred his share of the purchase price of $5k to my account tagged “Magic Day”. His wife, not wanting to ruin the big surprise for their 25th wedding anniversary, pretended not to notice the transaction, wondering instead what magnificent surprise he had in store for her on their special day ………. You can probably join the dots from there, suffice to say the reparations for the ensuing disappointment cost at least the $5k purchase and then some.
5) What is a race you would most like to win?
In WA, the Railway Stakes. I like the 1,600m middle distance races and the fact that the stakemoney is large enough to draw some big names from the east, so to win it you’ve got to have a very smart animal. I haven’t come close – yet.
6) What is your favourite sports team?
Our family are all West Coast Eagles fans. I recently purchased 3D computer generated 18 cm sandstone models of the entire current playing squad. Complementing the 2m x 1m Woosha framed memorabilia in the pool room, they’ll be competing for space with the racing trophies, though if Chris Masten keeps kicking it to the opposition his little model may end up in the recycling bin. Special mention also to the wildly successful Perth Scorchers and Perth Wildcats franchises.
7) Do you have any family history in racing?
My Dad had racehorses for much of his adult life, including at one stage shelling out for a private racing establishment associated with Muchea Feed and Produce, with full time trainer Dave McArdle engaged to oversee a string of around 20 slow horses. Upon his retirement he palmed off some of the enjoyment (financial burden) to me and I obviously caught the bug. I reckon that was about 25 years ago when I was 25 and since that time I’ve tried most of the angles – buying from sales, breeding, buying tried horses locally and from the eastern states with moderate success in each case. Delta Bay was a purchase of a tried 3YO having had 5 starts for 2-1-2, kindly arranged by my regular trainer Bruce Watkins and possibly a reward for paying my bills on time and not interfering with his training and scheduling.
8) What is the longest distance you have travelled to watch your horse race?
The furtherest would have to be Albany, however I’ve regularly travelled to Pinjarra, Bunbury, Northam, York, Toodyay, Narrogin and Mt Barker and it’s been great to watch my horses enjoy some good wins at all these tracks. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the Broome and Newman Cups to watch Peloton (leased out for that Norwest season) contest the 2009 editions, creditably finishing 2nd at Newman prior to retiring.
9) What is a global racing carnival you would most like to visit?
I reckon the US Triple Crown would be fun. Bit late this year though and it’s always tough to get time away from work and family to crystallise travel desires, but if I jag a good horse or win lotto and don’t need to work I think I could easily spend a year traveling the great racing carnivals of the world. I recently returned from a business trip to Japan and managed to squeeze in a trip to the Tokyo Racecourse, which was an incredible venue that I’m told can cater for up to 200,000 people. Filling in betting tickets was certainly tricky, perhaps in part accounting for the loss on the day. I’ve also attended race meetings in Hong Kong and Singapore, with a common thread observed that Asians are clearly fanatical about the sport. WA Racing should definitely continue the good work already being done to forge racing links with these countries.
10) Do you have any advice for anyone considering to purchase a racehorse?
Just do it. Get a bunch of friends involved and commit to try it with one horse and see where it takes you. Do it to have fun and with no expectation of making money from it – it’s a great excuse to catch up with friends on a regular basis and it’s also something that’s unique and exciting. I’d recommend contacting Owners Only for advice on how to go about horse ownership and how to engage the right trainer for you – trainers buy horses at the sales for syndication and through that avenue you get the benefit of leveraging the expertise of professional horse people to maximise your chances of success. I’ve stuck with Bruce Watkins as my trainer for over 20 years owing to his successful track record (scuse the pun), reputation for honesty and being a dab hand at correcting behavioural problems with horses (exhibit A : El President, Railway Stakes winner and first WA Horse to +$1m stakemoney). Bruce’s horsemanship certainly helps when it comes to retiring your horse, always having a group of people eager to provide a good home in the knowledge that the horses have been well looked after. I also really like his relaxed facility down at Capel, with a variety of work available for the horses to keep them interested, from walking machines, sandy forest trails, beach work close by and a great network of local trainers that share pools, starting gates and other facilities.