4/4/2016 5:38:23 PM
Liam Hedgecock (@therealhedgy) is a 16 year old horse racing fanatic from Newcastle. He is a regular contributor to the guest blogger section of our website and his aim is to work in the horse racing industry in the future.
The National Hunt season is not finished just yet. The Cheltenham Festival finished just over three weeks ago, and Aintree is round the corner. Crowd figures are on the up and jumps racing is looking rather bright on the whole. One slight concern is that while racing fans like myself can sit back and enjoy the equine talent that is often on show, one issue that very few talk about is the frustration of racehorse ownership.
Taking the above into account, there is no better starting point than Nicky Henderson. It is more than fair to say that the master of Seven Barrows more often than not chooses to give his horses plenty of time. It has also been quite a well documented topic over the past few years that Henderson never likes to risk his star names unless they are 100%. That hypothesis has worked in some cases, but has backfired too. This season has been the perfect example of that with a horse who was meant to be going chasing this term, yet we have not seen him nor heard of what is actually the plan with him. That horse is Beat That. It has been well documented in the past how this horse has had more than his fair share of "niggles". Not only Beat That, but Simonsig too. A gorgeous grey who came back after nearly two years off the track in the Betfred Hurdle to be beaten by stable-mate Bobs Worth, after looking the likeliest winner turning into the straight but finding next to nothing once coming off the bridle. The Tingle Creek was pinpointed as his next target, though he was pulled out of that due to another injury. He had been entered in at Kelso last Saturday but was pulled out once again. If you owned a horse such as Simonsig you would surely want a decision to be made on whether the horse has a racing career ahead of him or not.
Having said that, Henderson has done more than enough to warrant respect as one of the best trainers in National Hunt Racing history. He has trained oodles of brilliant equine stars throughout his stellar career. One of his best inmates See You Then was renowned for having legs of glass, but that didn't stop him winning three Champion Hurdles. My Tent Or Yours is another who came back from a monster absence to contest the Champion Hurdle first time up. I personally think that he handled that pressure extremely well and produced My Tent Or Yours for JP McManus to finish an honourable second to Annie Power. As well as bringing "Tent" (as Henderson calls him) back for the showpiece event on the Tuesday of the Festival, he went on to perform a minor miracle with Sprinter Sacre, one which is likely to be considered as the greatest training performance of all time. A horse who once seemed to look a mere immortal over fences in his pomp gave Henderson what can only be described as the most frustrating two and a half years of Henderson's career from when he was pulled up in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton in December 2013, all the way up to when he produced a memorable Festival performance to win his second Queen Mother Champion Chase just over three weeks ago.
If you haven't noticed already, I am merely using Henderson as a case study to try and gauge an insight into the frustrations of owning a racehorse. At the moment, you have Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins gunning for Paul Nicholls who is still top of the tree in the British Trainer's Championship. In my opinion, Nicholls is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Henderson in terms of his training methods. Some say he is greedy when he places and races his horses, though if I had the financial support, I feel he would be my chosen trainer. I don't think any other trainer would have the bottle to run a graded horse such as Irving three times within three weeks like he did in the early part of this season. Maybe that is what separates the head of Ditcheat from the other powerful stables in the Trainer’s Championship. The man who has won the Championship eight times does not fear the uncertainty of burning his horses out when he races them frequently year after year, and personally that is what I like in a trainer. You would feel like banging your head against a wall if you owned a horse that just when you thought it was ready to run, another setback meant you were going to have to wait again to see your horse run. I spoke to an acquaintance of mine recently who owns a horse. The horse has met with frequent setbacks and while he has been off the track, the costly training fees have not stopped coming out of his bank account. It has led him to wondering whether or not he should sell it. Even if the trainer you owned it with said he was going to be a world beater, you would still consider it because you would still be shelling out £2,ooo each month, whilst getting nothing back in return for your payment.
So, when considering whether or not to get involved with a racehorse, there are clearly more factors to consider than it seems at first glance. Unless you're going into the game with significant financial backing with the aim to become a leading owner, you must ask yourself, is this really worth it? It is a huge gamble to invest large sums of money if you are not in the same financial position as the likes of Rich Ricci, Michael O’Leary and JP McManus.
That nicely leads me to a final question that is certainly food for thought. Is the negativity surrounding leading owners justified or are they singled handily keeping the sport we all love going?