There is no need to splash any cash to find out whether racehorse ownership is for you. With Horse Racing Ireland’s ‘Experience It’ initiative you get to step into the shoes of an owner without putting your hand in your pocket. It is time to cure your curiosity. Anyone can try it. You can register with friends, with work colleagues or even get your sports club involved. Once a suitable horse has been found, you can watch the horse gallop at the trainer’s stable, chat to the trainer about the horse, watch the horse run in your own colours and bring friends along to enjoy the experience. Intrigued? Thought so.
The most recent ‘Experience It’ episode was aired at Gowran Park in one of the most famous races in Irish jump racing’s history, the Goffs Thyestes Chase. A race won by Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde on the way to Grand National glory at Aintree. Sumos Novious ran in the colours of the Gowran Park Racing Club and, while the talented ten-year-old could only finish eighth in the €100,000 contest, his trainer Liam Burke believes the initiative is only going to get bigger and better and will inevitably coax more owners into the game.
“I think it’s a very clever idea and it did me no harm anyway. They were a lovely group of people who are keen to lease a horse from me once I find them the right one. It was disappointing that the horse did not run a bit better but they certainly don’t seem to have been put off and hopefully I will find them a nice horse in the future,” said Burke, whose stable is based in Curraglass outside Mallow, Co Cork.
For Rob Hartnett of Sport for Business, it wasn’t the day that Mystery Gal ran in the colours of the Sport For Business Syndicate at Fairyhouse in June which he enjoyed most, but rather the build up to it. “The biggest thrill I got was not the obvious one,” says Hartnett. “For me it was going down to Paul Deegan’s yard, watching the horse work and then having a cup of tea in his kitchen and chatting all about the horse. That was the part I loved.”
Ed Murray of Cantor Fitzgerald is getting giddy. Along with four of his friends from Carrickmines, he will experience the thrill of being an owner in the next few weeks as Officers’ Mess, who caught the eye when finishing fifth over hurdles at Tipperary during the summer, is set to return to action for the five intrigued gentlemen. “We’re looking forward to the big day and Conor O’Dwyer [trainer] hopes to have him out within the next month,” Murray said. “We have already been down to the yard to see him and that was absolutely fascinating. I loved it. It certainly put things in perspective for me. The life of a trainer is not as glamorous as you might think. They really do have to get down and dirty. It was great to see what happens behind the scenes.”
Even the shrewd entrepreneurs from the popular RTÉ show Dragons Den had a go, as Dandy Dude ran in their colours in a maiden flat race at Bellewstown in July, with Gavin Duffy, Eleanor McEvoy, Alison Cowzer, Barry O’Sullivan and Chanelle McCoy, wife of the legendary AP, in attendance to watch the race unfold.
Amber Byrne, owner recruitment manager with Horse Racing Ireland, said there are lots of trainers who are keen to facilitate the ‘Experience It’ campaign and she urged curious folk to get in touch and find out what all the fuss is about.
“The ‘Experience It’ campaign allows people with a curiosity about ownership to dip their toe in the water and try it out,” Byrne said. “It is a way for people to see behind the scenes, visit a trainer’s yard and get a better understanding of racehorse ownership. If you enjoy racing and ownership appeals to you then get a group of friends, colleagues or family together and get in touch with us. We have a number of trainers on our books who would be delighted to welcome you to their yard and let you try out the ownership experience. Our contact details can be found on www.racehorseownership.ie.”