Getting an Edge – Choosing Your Trainer & Bloodstock Agent – The Property Chronicle
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Getting an Edge – Choosing Your Trainer & Bloodstock Agent

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This is the third of four articles on how to develop an edge in the world of racehorse syndication. The first two articles reviewed The Trials, Triumphs & Tribulations of Racehorse Syndicates and Finding a System to Beat the Market. The final article will cover Structuring & Managing a Syndicate.

David Hill is the ex-Chairman of Warwick Racecourse, and has been the founder and manager of a number of racing syndicates – both successful and unsuccessful – over the last three decades. His previous articles for the Property Chronicle covered the historical financing of British Racecourses. In these troubled times he harks back to syndicate experiences in better days and how potentially to seek a competitive advantage.

The second article in this series covered some of the ways in which a structured approach to racehorse syndication can help sway the odds for success in your favour. Armed with this EDGE the next steps for implementing the system are the crucial decisions of which trainer to employ and how to set about buying suitable stock.

Choosing your trainer is paramount. According to there are three basic factors you need to weigh:

  1. How much your budget will allow (a trainer’s success rate raises or lowers their price)
  2. How much hands-on participation you want and expect
  3. How to select the one that best suits your taste and philosophy
  1. In truth there are only very slight differences in the quality of training methods employed by the top trainers and those slightly lower down the pecking order. But racing is all about achieving a scintilla of advantage. Whether it is in the sourcing of a horse, profiling that horse and its needs, selecting the type and method of feed, and determining the schooling and pre-race preparation or in race planning, the skills are relatively comparative. It is combining these elements, where you only need a 5% advantage to make a significant difference to results, which creates success. And success breeds success. Winners attract new owners with greater spending power. Spending power determines the quality of the stable stock. The quality of stable stock affects results. It’s a virtual circle. When you have pushed the snowball to the top of the mountain it tends to gain a momentum all of its own. But it sure ain’t easy to reach that peak. For the owner greater training fees, dependant on how high up the mountain the trainer has climbed, is normally money well spent.
  2. The level of participation is down to personal preference. I love the day to day debate – whether it is in the selection of the syndicate horse or in planning its racing programme. Importantly though the big decisions for our syndicates are taken by our trainer – witness the switch of Nenuphar Collonges to hurdles leading to Festival success. As the saying goes you don’t keep a dog and bark yourself! In minor decisions such as targeting Nenuphar at an end of season novice handicap chase at Uttoxeter or in recently running Nebuchadnezzar from the front, I like to think the syndicate has an influence.
  3. I would break down the third factor – philosophy and taste – into two parts. Does the trainer have a specific expertise in the sector or edge you have identified? How well are you going to get on with them socially and can you develop 100% trust? 

When we developed the concept of the Barbury Lions with trainer Alan King it was because of his previous record with juvenile hurdlers and his burgeoning talent for training middle distance Flat horses. It suited the EDGE or philosophy we were trying to develop.

Rather sadly in the eyes of my nearest and dearest, I spend more time either talking with, being at the Sales with, being on the gallops or at the races with my trainer than with them. It is important therefore that you share a mutual liking and respect. With both Alan, and historically with Kim Bailey, I have a firm friendship and total trust. That is important as you are dealing with investors’ money, and situations which are constantly evolving and demand difficult decisions.

Having chosen your trainer, the second crucial decision is how you are going to select the horses to populate your syndicate. This is more difficult as the world of bloodstock sales is less well publicised than the business of training where daily exposure through the press and television ensures wide appreciation. New buyers are entering a specialised and seemingly unregulated world where large sums of money pass hands. Caveat emptor need to be constant watchwords.

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About David Hill

David Hill

David Hill is the ex-Chairman of Warwick, a Jockey Club racecourse, and is the founder and administrator of a series of successful syndicates run on behalf of the trainer Alan King which race under the name of the Barbury Lions.

Articles by David Hill

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