June 01 2013
The Derby, one of the highlights of any sporting summer, takes place at Epsom this afternoon. The 233rd running of the famous race will have total prize money of £1.25m thanks to the lavish backing of Investec. The South African investment bank is also sponsoring one of the year’s other headline sporting events, the home Ashes series against Australia, and many racegoers at Epsom today will be hastening to Lord’s, Old Trafford and The Oval in the coming weeks.
In keeping with the cricketing theme, Harry Herbert, the managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and a lover of all the great sporting links between England and Australia, has come up with some ingenious new ownership schemes. The Ashes Syndicate, which has 20 shareholders each paying £17,500 plus VAT, comprises two horses purchased as yearlings in Europe last autumn. The two colts, Wrangler and Stampede, are sons of the 2002 Derby winner High Chaparral and are in training in the UK with Sir Michael Stoute and William Haggas. They’ll race from their Newmarket stables this season and next but then go down under, one of them joining legendary trainer Gai Waterhouse, and the other Peter Moody, trainer of the unbeaten, but now retired, mare Black Caviar.
The bold plan holds the tantalising possibility of competing in prestigious races in the northern hemisphere prior to a crack at the huge prize money on offer at Australia’s world-renowned racetracks, such as Flemington and Randwick. It’s not just a one-off novelty promotion either. Herbert intends to try and repeat the formula this autumn when two yearlings will be acquired for the new Captain Cook Syndicate, which will be structured on similar lines to its Ashes counterpart but with different trainers. On top of that, Highclere has bought a horse called Rule Book and sent it to Waterhouse with the specific intention of trying to have a tilt at the 2013 Melbourne Cup in November. The grey gelding, by the appropriately named stallion Aussie Rules, won three times in England last season and appears to have both the pedigree and potential to do well in Australia’s most famous race.
The top Aussie horses in recent years have mainly been sprinters, such as the aforementioned Black Caviar – or Nelly, as she is also known – but the Melbourne Cup is a two-mile handicap and stamina is a prime requirement for any aspiring victor. The 2010 and 2011 winners, Americain and Dunaden from France, were thorough stayers, as was the 2011 runner-up, Red Cadeaux, from Ed Dunlop’s yard in Newmarket. What’s more, last year’s first and second, Green Moon and Fiorente, had raced in the UK before being bought, for big money, by their new Aussie connections.
Australians are generally about as keen to share a joke about losing their top horse race to the Europeans as they are to see the funny side of their recent reversals against England in the Ashes. But, being ardent punters who are always happy to back a winner wherever it comes from, they’d no doubt see the good reasons for backing Battle Of Marengo at Epsom on June 1. The son of the champion sire Galileo represents Aidan and Joseph O’Brien, the trainer and jockey combination responsible for last year’s winner and, at 9-2 with Victor Chandler, looks guaranteed to stay the trip.