Syndicates – Is it time for proper regulation?

There is no denying that the advent of syndicates has had a massive, beneficial effect on horseracing both here in the UK and elsewhere.  Those who follow my musings on here will know that my support for them, and any means we can find to introduce new people to the joys of racehorse ownership, is something I have long supported.  A well run, accountable syndicate is fantastic for all concerned and I do not wish to give the impression that issues are widespread in this part of the racing industry – they are not!  We are lucky to have a majority of honest syndicate managers but they can be cruelly tarred with the wrong brush because of the unscrupulous and poorly regulated activities of a few.

Never a day goes by without a syndicate winning a race in the UK, with some regularly featuring in Group races.  The chance that a well run syndicate or racing club offers to its syndicate examplemembers to reach the highest levels of racing for affordable sums has to be welcomed, and has certainly given a new market to breeders who can now offer horses to a wider pool of buyers or even lease horses in order to gain the benefits of race results, whilst reducing the outlay to syndicate and club members in buying horses in the first place.


The RSA is a welcome, albeit self-regulated, part of syndication

Of course, in previous times, syndicates and clubs tended to be partnerships between exisiting owners, close family, established business partners or run by newspapers (Daily Mirror Racing Club for example) or other established agencies.  However with the relaxation of qualifying criteria by the BHA a few years ago, and the abundance of horses at the lower end of the sales spectrum, this is no longer always the case.  As a result total strangers can now become partners in a horse, marketing on social media allows syndicates to fairly easily reach mass markets and to offer what appear to be, in the majority, excellent deals.  The only issue is that the framework seems to be missing vital protections for many people involved in the process:

Members – they are asked to pay a fee either as a lump sum or on-going monthly payments – some both.  This may include actually owning a part of the horse or it can be just a lease basis where they pay the training and other fees but never own the horse.  This was the case famously with Rock of Gibraltar at Coolmore and Motivator and the Royal Ascot Racing Club – both of which ended with unhappy partners.

Syndicate / Club Managers – they are required to perhaps carry the cost of the horse until the shares are sold and may find that they are left with uncovered debts in the event that members cannot be found or fail to pay their dues.  Of course they can use syndicates to finance their own racing apsirations and, in some cases, run the horse under their own name and fail to inform the authorities of any other involvements.  That demands a high level of trust from members, and from the BHA with their integrity concerns.  Worse still they are entrusted with other people’s money with no requirement to provide accounts to the BHA, and only annually (based on BHA / ROA best practice) to members.

Trainers – they have to provide training for a horse where they know all the shares are not sold and therefore may have to give a discount as a result.  They may decide to take a part of the horse to ease the burden.  And if it all goes wrong, whilst the BHA provides for such eventualities, it can take a number of months with mounting costs to resolve,


Rebecca Menzies was forced to take control after the failure of EPDS – a move which saved members the loss of money – but should it be down to trainers to sort this?

and if the trainer then sells the horse as is his or her right, they can be accused of robbing the membership of their horse.  The well documented cases recently of this happening such as EPDS Racing in June 2019 serve testament to this.

Breeders – they sometimes lease their horses, may  reduce the selling price or on a “no win – no fee” sale basis, or may even give surplus stock away to new syndicates to help them start up and to reduce holdings of unsold, well bred stock.  If that goes wrong then they have a horse that never races and may even be returned in the event of syndicate failure – an unproven, older and unsellable mouth to feed.

If you visit the BHA or ROA websites you can download draft syndicate agreements.  These seem at first sight to be ideal for purpose, but they refer to areas of ownership and regulation which some syndicate managers and members do not understand.  I know from experience that when a dispute is raised with the BHA over ownership issues, they simply tell the parties to go to court as they are not interested.  Certainly the syndicate manager / senior partners have to be registered owners, but this can be circumvented fairly easily by using a proxy to “keep the costs down”.

In a recent case a breeder had attended the sales in September 2018 with a well bred yearling colt which failed to sell.  Left with fields full of mares and fillies, the breeder contacted a trainer and asked if he would take the horse and either sell it to existing owners or perhaps offer it to a syndicate so as to reduce purchase costs and allow affordable ownership to its members.  In the meantime the breeder agreed to pay a small “keep fee” to cover feed and stables, and, in the event of a sale they could either recoup that cost from the sale or, as in this case, simply retain a small percentage of the horse to race.  After all it would assist any syndicate to know that at least some of the shares were already taken.  The horse would then run as “X Syndicate & Partners” with the breeder remaining separate to the syndicate financially but in partnership with it.

Early in 2019 the trainer was approached by an individual looking to set up a syndicate, and of course the horse in question was ideal for this.  My understanding is that the trainer agreed to reduce training fees for a short period to allow shares to be sold and retain whatever shares were still left until they were sold if required to do so.  Obviously the longer the shares went unsold, the more the trainer invested of his own time and money and as such a “premium” was agreed whereby there was a small intial fee to cover the transfer of the shareholding to the new member (and reimburse the trainer) whilst the new member would then pay a small monthly all-inclusive fee to the syndicate for training etc.  The breeder was not aware of any of this and indeed did not need to be given his share would not be part of the syndicate anyway.

Early in July, alarm bells rang when the trainer contacted the breeder to say he did not know what to do with the horse as the training fees were not paid by the syndicate.  Certainly he had received some fees but with a horse in training now for 6 months, the costs were mounting and the syndicate had not updated him with the amount of shares sold.   Furthermore, a social event in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund had been organised by the syndicate manager,  held in June and a donation of around £900 had been raised.  The event was also used as a members’ social event and marketing opportunity to attract new shareholders.  The trainer had contacted the IJF to see if that money had been paid to them, and it had not.

Next, the syndicate manager contacted the members and said he could no longer run the syndicate and volunteered the breeder to run the syndicate.  Obviously this was a unilateral decision by the syndicate manager, but the breeder, left with little other options, asked the syndicate manager to forward details of ownership shares, funds paid etc. in order that the necessary due diligence could be carried out and a decision made by the breeder if they would take the syndicate over.  As you may already have guessed, all of a sudden this information was not forthcoming.  Furthermore, the syndicate manager contacted the members, who by now were rightly feeling that there was a scam going on, and said that the breeder and the trainer had somehow planned it all and that he, as well as them, were victims of a pre-planned conspiracy – even posting such on social media.

To be clear, the trainer is a very successful Group winning professional of the highest integrity and the breeder had simply given a horse away and kept a small interest in order to, at the very least, ensure the horse was fed and cared for until a buyer could be secured, and for which he had no expectation of a fee.  Additionally, save for attending an owners’ day in April 2019, the breeder had no other contact with the syndicate and had received no money or benefits from anyone in the deal.

The circumstances in this case show how an unscrupulous syndicate manager can not only receive thousands of pounds from people with little or no understanding of the BHA requirements or regulations around syndication, but as a result can dupe them into thinking none of it is his fault and that rather than giving them a copy of the accounts to assess, instead is trying to say 2 other parties with far more to lose than could ever be gained, should be questioned and asked to account for the money – despite having never received any of the money he so cruelly duped from the members and witheld from the IJF.

As discussed at length by many in the racing community in June when EPDS collapsed, it is surely time to ensure such group ownerships are properly registered and administered, have a base-line financial deposit scheme (trainers after all have to show a £40K available cash fund to be licensed), and there is recourse for all parties in the event of failure or wrong-doing.  Syndicates are vital to the future of racing and ALL concerned deserve the protection and reassurance such requirments would offer.  Exisiting syndicates and racing clubs, run by professionals of the highest integrity have nothing to fear, and new syndicates and members can feel they are joining a well managed and financially protected agreement.



Is the worm about to turn?

Looking at social media today, there seems a growing discontent around the levels of prize money paid out at the lower end of the racing calendar.  I say “lower end”, but in truth it is the end of the sport which actually supports the remainder, particularly in the Winter season where there is a choice of low runner NH racing or flood-lit all weather racing to see us (and the levy) over the dark months.

Much of the discontent comes with Arena Racing Company or ARC as it is better known.  This racecourse owner’s decision to cut prize money in response to the yet to happen FOBT stake cap has figured prominently in my own pages and those of many others.  This evening (Monday) every race at ARC owned Newcastle will pay winning connections less than £3000.  At Sedgefield (another ARC track) Thursday’s Class 5 handicap hurdle will pay just £2274 to winning connections.  Due to the woefully low prize money, the appearance money which is unlocked for horses after prize money exceeds a certain level will not be available either.

Prize Money Distribution

Recent letters to the BHA, TBA and ROA have resulted in replies from all three organisations.  I will go into detail in another post, but I would like to share one piece of data sent from the BHA.

The table below shows the ratio of prize money distributed by class of race.  What it does not show is the number of races in each category.  This of course means that whilst the table shows the percentage, the per race prize fund is massively higher at the top end than the table suggests.  By numbers, around 80% of the race program is for class 4 and below races.  With 1500 fixtures this year, at an average of 6 races per meeting, that equates to 7200 of the total 9000 races planned.

prize money distribution

Figures courtesy of the BHA Jan 2019

As you will see from the table, these races are allocated just 35% of the prize fund in 2019.  Nick Rust points out that this is “boosted” to this level by the introduction of the appearance money scheme by around 5%.    £165million was paid out from all sources in prize money in 2018  meaning 7200 races received around £57.75million, whilst 1800 races received £107.25million.  Of course this is somewhat skewed as in reality, the prize fund includes entry stakes and sponsorship funding – the highest of which will be at the highest levels of the sport, further boosting funds at this level.    Obviously with ARC courses rarely paying appearance money by falling short of the unlock figure, the true distribution at ARC courses is far worse – and is to the further detriment of class 4 to 7 horses due to these being the races which attract the appearance money.

What can we do?

The National Trainers Federation were the first of the Horseman groups to communicate their dissatisfaction with ARC, and I know there is similar sentiment at the TBA and ROA.  From Nick Rust at the BHA, I am also aware that they are far from happy either.  The issue is of course that the racing fixtures have been agreed and therefore ARC cannot be dispossessed of the races.  Neither can these Horseman groups be seen to launch a boycott against ARC, as this would cause a likely court case and is not something these organisations could recommend given their role in the industry.  However, there is nothing stopping their members failing to enter horses at ARC tracks. It is not just owners who go inadequately rewarded after all, but also those who share a percentage of any purse – trainers, stable staff, jockeys and ultimately breeders all rely on a healthy and fair system of prize money; many of them as a matter of business survival.  One meeting, with a horse entered in each race (after all we would not want ARC to save the prize money altogether), and the BHA denying any future right for ARC races to be divided due to numbers, would send the right message.  If individuals work together, then the Horseman groups can support this action without fear of legal reprisal, and perhaps ARC will see that to survive they need horses and owners.

Back to the drawing board

What is apparent from the various communications I have received and seen elsewhere is that the number of races in the calendar exceed any form of sustainable level.  With total prize money at its highest level, we are seeing connections paid less than they were 10 years ago in many cases.  Simple long division will show that the numbers of races are madness.  Add to this the quality of coverage on Racing TV since the beginning of the year.  I am fully aware that they also show Irish racing, with the argument being that TV coverage pays for the levy through TV rights and betting income.  However, the numbers of races means that this channel cannot hope to cover all the races at once, and when they do, it is with no depth around the horses or the people – a dimension  which has paid dividends for ITV coverage; attracting new viewers – and maybe even new owners as a result.  My hope is that we see a cut in races in the next round of scheduling in order to ensure larger fields (and therefore a bigger each way betting market) and better returns for connections.  Less is more!


Letter to Racing Authority

Below is the letter I have sent today to Nick Rust at the BHA and the chairmen of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Assoc. & Racehorse Owners’ Assoc., both of which I am a member. I hope it lays down not only my views, but those of the many of you who contact me on a daily basis either directly or via my Twitter account.  It is a bit of a read but stick with it.

Lets us see what they respond with, if at all.  Your comments and views would be appreciated.


21st December 2016

Dear Sir,

 I write both as a breeder and owner, the latter becoming an unintended necessity given the poor clearance rates of horses at the sales.

Professionals, including myself, and journalists in the sport have been writing in their respective publications and on the internet, highlighting the plight of horsemen involved in all aspects and levels of the industry.  The excellent research by Daniel Ross highlighting the disparity in prize money allocation amongst both owners and trainers; the sales statistics showing less than 50% clearance rates and  sales averages of £3-4000 highlighted in the Owner & Breeder sales pages; Kevin Blake’s piece recently in Thoroughbred Daily News regarding the foal market (and subsequently the yearling market), and many blogs and statistics freely available with a little research.

Only this week ARC racecourses have cut prize money based, they say, on the loss of revenue from the betting levy due to reduction in FOBT stakes.  One has to question how they can firstly put a figure on this before it has even taken place, and secondly, how they can justify making these cuts before the legislation comes into effect.  In short they are going to be receiving the current share of income from the FOBT, and pocketing it rather than paying out at least until the legislation comes into play.  Yet, other than the reaction across social media, there has been no word from your organisation or any of the others who supposedly represent the interests of their members, with the notable exception of the NTF.

According to the BHA’s own published data, the average runners in a race is 8 – which in theory means half of the races run do so with less than the required 8 runners that would, in turn, open up the each-way betting market.  Only a few weeks ago we saw a single “runner” in a race and match races in National Hunt seem to be almost daily.  One of the reasons for this has to be that in the pursuit of volume, the race program has lost depth.  To have to rely on the socially damaging FOBT betrays callousness in racing hierarchy which does our sport no credit, and would be better served, and equally well financed, by returning to the more traditional betting scenarios which larger fields, and fewer races, would allow.

One might argue that more races mean an increased demand for horses.  Whilst this is one possible scenario, it has not manifested itself yet.  The prize money offered in 80% of the races is insufficient to offer any meaningful return for current owners, let alone attract new owners.  Therefore many races contain the usual suspects.  One only has to look at races at Southwell or Wolverhampton for examples  – the horses running are almost always the same every week.  That has a detrimental effect not only on the field sizes and excitement of racing, but surely on the potential welfare of those horses. 

In his research for the TRC, Daniel Ross suggests that 15% of trainers take over 80% of the prize money on offer in the sport.  In reverse therefore, one could say that 85% of trainers take under 20% of the prize money.  It follows therefore that if most horses raced do so for those 85% of trainers, then they are the ones which provide the vast majority of the horses for the race program which then generates the betting levy and TV rights income which in turn is paid to the top 15% of trainers and their owners.  If we say that around 85% of all the horses in training race at about 80% of the races which make up the race program, most of which are at Class 3 or below, then it must follow that they race only to support the financing of the prize funds which are paid out in races of Class 2 and above – hence the findings made by Daniel Ross, and confirmed by trainers and owners across the UK.

This is why horses which are from good, winning (or winner producing) stock, bred at exactly the right levels to fill the races at Class 3 levels and below, do not sell – either as yearlings or as horses in training.  Horses are left unsold and studs are going out of business, but then we are told by the BHA that we need more horses – and none of the Horsemen Group member organisations do anything to dissuade the industry of that belief – or tell the BHA to stop this catastrophic course of action.

In trying to attract more owners, and encouraging more breeding, the TBA and ROA talk incessantly of self-funding breeder led bonus schemes.  For a breeder already fighting to survive, to be asked to pay yet more into a fund which, based upon statistics, adds no resale value to the horse, and is statistically won by the very same owners who take home the majority of prize money anyway, this is cold comfort.  Indeed it is reminiscent of making an employee redundant and telling them that you have bought them a lottery ticket with their own money to see tie them over!  Furthermore, it lets the BHA of the hook.

Prize money must be addressed.  I am not saying we should be able to magic up more money and just put it into the existing structure – in the ham fisted, unimaginative way that the BHA seems to.  An action they seem  allowed to do with the encouragement of the very organisations who claim to represent the interests of the various constituents, but in reality keep their field of vision and focus way above the majority, grass roots levels of racing.  Neither am I saying that races of a higher standard should not be rewarded with better prize money, but what has to be addressed is the disproportionate difference in prize money available across the classes of race, and the ability for racecourses to decide that they do not have to offer prize money at a pre-agreed rate for the class of race being run.  Either there are too many races in the program, or the racecourses and the races they run are of such poor quality that they cannot attract attendances and sponsorship to supplement their levy / rights funding and so boost the prize money.  The program must nonetheless be a factor.

Surely a proportionate division of the available fixed prize pool, supplemented by sponsorship and attendance – meaning the better the races,  the better the prize fund is supplemented by attendance or sponsorship – is a better model.  At the moment the chasm between big prizes paid to 15% of the racehorse owner and breeding population, is paid for by the remaining 85% of the smaller owners and breeders.  Set the correct tariff and then worry about how much the money is, not the other way around.  Owners do not mind running their horses for a decent potential prize pot, and losing to a better horse, but to run their horse to win and collecting a derisory sum for doing so means they will never stand any chance of covering even a margin of their costs and as such the supply chain of both new owners and new bloodstock suffers, with racing unable to attract the required benefits either.

Finally, it should be remembered that horses have to start somewhere.  The belittling and underfunding of the lower level races which provide the majority of the income base for the prize fund,  will reduce the quality and number of horses who go on to compete at the higher levels, and fuel the one thing this sport gives to people – Hope!  Races will eventually only be run at group level where the money currently is,  meaning less opportunity and less owners.  The breeding pool will narrow to those that win those races and the thoroughbred will become so highly bred that it will be unable to survive.  This is not just a short-term problem, this is the livelihood of many and the future of a species that we all devote our lives and hard earned money to.  This is about what we pass on to the generations that follow us – both Horsemen and their horses.

I look forward to your comments and the chance to discuss mine in more detail with you.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Matheson 

Senior Partner, Abacus Bloodstock.


Cheltenham or bust?

Those of you that follow my tweets (@stumat) will be aware that I have recently been


Top class racing but is Cheltenham the only real test of a horse?

twittering on about jump racing’s pre-occupation with all things Cheltenham.  There is no denying that the Cheltenham Festival, and indeed this weekend’s pre-Christmas meeting, offers a feast of some of the best National Hunt horses in training.  BUT not all – and to pretend this is the case would degrade the hard work of all the yards who have horses running elsewhere in the country, and all the horses who try their hardest to win.

In my comments, I have tried not to down play the importance of Cheltenham to the racing calendar – I am a fan of the place and the spectacle of racing there, but it seems


My Tent Or Yours wins his first race at Cheltenham  – overcoming The New One

the yard stick used by the racing press and pundits is “but will the horse win at Cheltenham?”.  It was not until today that My Tent or Yours won at Cheltenham, despite having been at the top of the game for many years.  So does that mean he wasn’t a successful and highly rated horse until he succeeded today?  Does it mean that Red Rum was not arguably the best chaser over long distances because none of his wins came at Cheltenham?  Does it mean that the many prolific, hard working trainers yet to win on the Cheltenham stage are somehow “also rans”?


Despite never winning at Cheltenham, Red Rum can hardly be seen as a second rate chaser

Importantly, if NH racing allows everything it does to be distilled down into two weeks of racing at one track in Gloucestershire, then the public will not be interested in the less exciting meetings throughout the rest of the year.  Last Saturday, Doncaster races included two Grade 2’s – and yet it was the under card on the day and had one news item


Less known tracks offer racing as exciting and as good a test for a horse.

all  the preceding week included on the Racing Post app.  By contrast, as far back as last Thursday week, pundits were writing daily about the cold snap and the effect it may have on Cheltenham.  What about Ayr, Newcastle or Uttoxeter who did have meetings called off?  Attendances are low at many jump races, particularly mid-week and it does nothing to help when the impression is that the only way to see exciting racing is to go to Cheltenham – this is clearly not the case but is a perception being projected.   Go to Towcester or Wincanton and all you get is racing akin to non-league football?  Really?

Equally importantly is the perception which owners could mistakenly be given.  Many owners, despite being fans of racing, are increasingly coming from syndicates and, thankfully, newer avenues of introduction into racing.  But if they they are repeatedly told their success is measured in having a Cheltenham horse, then their passion for the game will soon be exhausted by a mid-week placing at Fontwell Park.

National Hunt racing is a great sport – heroic, tragic, exciting and enthralling.  Not just at Cheltenham but anywhere that well trained horses compete, supported by dedicated professionals and committed owners.  Don’t let them tell you it’s Cheltenham or nothing!


Abacus expands and invests

It has been a busy Summer so far at our headquarters in Staffordshire.  Since moving into Lower Linbrook in December 2015, the team has been working hard to improve the already excellent facilities.  Initially we had just over 10 acres but in 2016 acquired a 20170723_150907further 5 acres and have just secured another 20 acres of adjoining quality grazing land – bringing our total acreage to just under thirty-five.  Much of this made up of high quality grass, previously used for haylage and the grazing of cattle.  All the fields are surrounded by either thick hedges, or by secure fencing – a combination of post and rail and purpose made stud mesh fencing.  We are favourite customers of the local fencing contractor!

With the increased land, we have now been able to invest in further facilities without having to sacrifice pasture to do so.  In the last week we have just completed the installation of a new all-weather exercise arena, built by Midland Horse Arenas and with a Combi-ride surface suitable for our requirements.  This will allow us to pre-train youngsters, provide on-going and respite training for older horses, increase our sales preparation facilities and develop new skills for retired racehorses.20170721_140717_resized_1

Another innovation has been the installation of 4 large stables in our pole barn to allow the mares and foals to be accommodated after birth and away from the main foaling area.  Our two foaling boxes are each 20 feet by 16 feet and in the main yard, allowing easy access and room to work.

The farm is bristling with the latest CCTV system both for security, and to allow the team to monitor the mares and foals – with cameras covering the foaling boxes, the nursery stables, the yearling barn, main yard, front and rear gates and most of the paddocks.  On a wet day you do not even have to leave the house!

We have an isolation area for horses on restricted grazing, as well as an all weather turn-out with a small shelter for when the weather is nasty.

In the coming weeks we will be installing a 5 horse walker supplied by Monarch to complete the facilities and allow us even more scope for horse preparation, and on-going care.

In order to breed the best horses, you need the best facilities.  We have already seen the benefits of investment simply through the condition and welfare of the horses – if they could smile they would be beaming all day.  We are now able to offer the very best for our own and client horses making Abacus Bloodstock the source of breeding you can count on!


O’Brien – Oh Boy!!


Aiden O’Brien – Master of Ballydoyle

As I write, Aiden O’Brien has seven entries in the Epsom Derby this coming weekend.  SIX of those entries are sired by the currently unassailable Galileo, a stallion seemingly on track to beat even his sire Saddlers Wells’ stud record.  The only Ballydoyle runner not by him is Wings of Eagles – by Pour Moi who’s grandfather was Saddlers Wells.  You see the connection?

Add this to the fact that the four classics to be run in the UK and Ireland thus far in 2017 have ALL been won by O’Brien trained horses, all sired by Galileo!  And all owned by the various partners who also have interests in the seat of this great breeding empire; Coolmore, in Ireland.  It makes sense that when you have access to the best sire in the world, of course you are going to exploit that advantage.  But do not forget that you also need the trainer to get

churchill horse

Churchill ( Galileo)  – a double classic winner for Team Ballydoyle

the horses into the frame.  And boy have they found him in Aiden O’Brien.

No relation to the great Vincent O’Brien who previously oversaw the many successes of the team in the 70’s and 80’s, Aiden has delivered more success than any other trainer currently in business anywhere in the world.  From his training base at Ballydoyle he has consistently won the best races in both the UK and Ireland, but also around the world.

In so doing he has been able to show Galileo, and his sire sons, can produce horses capable of winning over sprint distances as well as marathons.  That makes him not only


Galileo – undisputed champion sire

key to the racing interests of his employers, but also to the continued success of their Coolmore operation throughout the world.

Some say that the grip on the Group races which O’Brien enjoys is unhealthy for racing; that the almost certainty that an O’Brien horse will win every Irish group race (to the extent that a number of races attract an exclusive Ballydoyle field!), and that he looks set, even at this early stage of the UK flat season, to be champion trainer for 2017.

However, it is hardly the fault of O’Brien that there is no Irish trainer other than perhaps Dermot Weld, who can compete at the highest levels on the flat.  Even David Wachman, related to O’Brien through marriage and supplied with a string of horses from Coolmore, gave up his licence last year.  It is more likely a reflection on the issues facing racing in Ireland as a whole not the fault of Team Ballydoyle.  Particularly given the number of trainers from over the water who have given up in the last year alone.  Indeed it is this team which is in all likelihood keeping much of Irish racing in business and of importance to the racing world.  Without this awareness it would not take long for Irish flat racing to suffer the same death throes we are seeing in the increasingly troubled, and less high profile Italian racing scene.  Happily Irish jumps are in a better state but this is seeing a crystallisation with major studs and owners polarising with only a small band of trainers.


Frankel in full flight

In Britain, there are of course trainers and owners who can compete with – and indeed beat- the Ballydoyle / Coolmore steam-roller.  But even these compete with horses who have pedigrees dripping with Galileo and his sons – Frankel, Galileo’s most successful son, being the next most “popular” sire of the 2017 Derby entries!

For me there are a number of trainers who epitomise the characteristics of what a trainer should be.  Yes winners are a good measure, but there is also the ability to talk to


Joseph – a chip off the old block – and with the same quality of humility

the public, to develop a story to follow, to combine passion whilst speaking with humility and professionalism.  And when Aiden O’Brien speaks he does so with all this and more.  He is a real ambassador for Irish, and increasingly International racing.  Never slow to deflect the glory onto his owners, or jockeys or staff he is quietly spoken and avoids any suggestion that his input has had anything to do with it.  Ballydoyle are THE team to beat, from the breeding sheds of Coolmore to the raceday successes – many ridden by the best jockey in the world, Ryan Moore.  Indeed as with the Coolmore stud line, O’Brien himself has bred another successful trainer in his son Joseph – at 24 a Group winning jockey and trainer with the same brand of humility and determination seen in his father.

BUT – as readers may recall from my article back in February, breeders increasingly face a narrowing choice of stallion pedigrees to choose from.  Danehill (Coolmore again) and coolmorehis sire line are cornering the market in sprinters, whilst as mentioned above Galileo and his sire line are competing at the classic distances.  This is where the concern should be focused, not at a trainer who has a gift – albeit with the best bred horses – to deliver winner after winner at the highest level.  As already stated, it makes sense for Coolmore to exploit the successes of Galileo’s offspring but we must not end up with even less choice for breeders, and a gene pool which will inevitably become so shallow that it will jeopardise the future of the thoroughbred racehorse.  Non-Galileo sires are out there and should be used too.   Their success as sires will come with numbers, as they have with Galileo for he too has had his failures on the racecourse, but he has the numbers, and the trainer, to outweigh these.


Finalising the Future – Breeding Plans Confirmed

With all the foals now born, attention now turns to where the mares go next for the next generation.  It’s an exciting time as we study form books, stud books and sales statistics to decide the best mix for our mares.

So 2017 for foals to be born in 2018 it is about reading the future; how will the current


Albaasil (Dansili) – a return visit for Littlemoor Lass

crop of the chosen stallion affect the future crops? Who is going to be the “hot” sales prospect in 2 or 3 years time? How does the stallions “book” look (how many mares and of what quality are visiting him)?  And finally, and most importantly what is best for the mares and the foals?  Decision to foaling is 11 months – decision to sales can be 36 months or more.  Get those crystal balls out!

For Abacus Bloodstock our decisions are based firstly on best pedigree mix in the hope that if you breed the best mix, the rest will fall into place.  So our plans for this year are as follows:


Fangfoss Girls to visit Garswood

Multiple winner Fangfoss Girls, daughter of Monsieur Bond and dam to two multiple winners from her first two crops will visit Garswood.  Seven year old Garswood stands at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and won Gr1. Maurice de Gheest and the Gr2. Lennox Stakes. His trainer Richard Fahey states “He is definitely the fastest horse I’ve ever trained”.  He is a son of multiple group winner Dutch Art and a perfect outcross for the Danehill/ Northern Dancer line.  Without doubt we will get a sprinter with speed stamped in all four branches of the prospective foal’s pedigree.

The beautiful Littlemoor Lass, an unraced daughter of Motivator and steeped in classy racing blood, will visit Dansili’s son Albaasil.  This will be her second visit to the stallion, having produced a colt foal by him in 2016.  Albaasil stands in Yorkshire with our good friend Ritchie Fiddes and has consistently produced good stock – the first of which will race in 2018.  The previous foal was genetically tested as a “C:C long” meaning a sprinter miler type, so we hope that we will see the same again this time.

Makindi, daughter of Makbul and dam of three foals so far will visit Cityscape again this


Multi-Group winning Cityscape

year; the son of Selkirk, formerly trained by Roger Charlton holds the track record at Meydan and is a multiple group winner.  Indi  gave birth to a colt by him earlier in April and we are so impressed by him it was a no-brainer to go back to him.  Makindi will be 18 next year and so this may be her last foal for us as we like to give the horses a retirement before they hit their 20’s.  As ever that plan is open to change but we feel certain that the foal for next year will provide us with a fantastic future racehorse with a quality pedigree.

We will update you all with the pregnancy results in the next few weeks.

New Beginnings at Lower Linbrook

April is perhaps the most exciting time of the year for us all in the bloodstock and racing industry.  Not only are we seeing the start of the turf season here in Europe and


Littlemoor Lass with her 2017 filly by Fast Company – born 12th April

therefore the appearance of the youngsters we have bred in previous years -including the 2 year olds, but we are also at the culmination of the breeding cycle with new foals being born, and the mares visiting their next stallion.


All the work of researching pedigrees, choosing the best match for the mares, seeing all the theory actually become flesh and blood reality – whether as healthy foals here at the stud, or the

equine athletes we hoped they would be as they step foot for the first time on a racecourse – is happening right now here at Lower Linbrook Farm and across the industry.  So for that “aah how cute” moment here are our new arrivals.


Another colt foal – this time a son for Makindi by record breaker Cityscape born 17th April – 2 in one day!



Colt Foal born 17th April Mazameer x Rainbows Destiny




Fangfoss Girls has a colt by first season sire Telescope – born 8th April

And the job never stops as we are now finalising our plans for coverings this year, for the 2018 crop.  Once again this has been based on scouring pedigrees and stallion books as well as looking at the commercial and racing value of prospective sires.  So one set of sleepless nights ends and another one starts as we try to fit in the stallion visits before the middle of May to ensure reasonably early and therefore commercially attractive foals.

But as with everything we do, it is done with a sense of excitement and that we are writing another chapter in the history of the racing thoroughbred.  Good luck to all the owners of our horses this season – we will be following with great interest.

Abacus bred horse in first sale of 2017

Abacus Bloodstock bred Pancake Day (Mullionmileanhour x Fangfoss Girls) featured in the first day of sales at the recent Goffs UK Doncaster HIT sale.  The 5 year old was the first foal of multiple two year old winning mare Fangfoss Girls and


Pancake delivers another win @ Southwell

sired by the debut sire Mullionmileanhour.  Pancake Day was the stallion’s first 2 year old winner and has gone on to be the first winner for him at 3, 4 and 5 following a win at his favourite track Southwell on 10th January.

He was sold to German owners Anja & Phillipp Berg at a bargain price and will be trained


Pancake Day as a foal with mum Fangfoss Girls

by Christian von der Recke.  Christian has been champion trainer in Germany on both the flat and over jumps on many occasions.  Pancake could not be in better hands as he delivers another first for his sire, his dam and for us at Abacus Bloodstock in becoming the first to race overseas.

Pancake Day was raced by Stuart Matheson, director of Abacus Bloodstock,  initially and then was purchased by Trojan Racing partnership.  He has delivered wins every year and his place scores are consistently high.  And to say he is tough is an understatement with him running 42 times with 5 wins (12%), seven 2nds or 3rds (17%) and a massive 45% times in the money!  He was trained first by Jason Ward and then by David Griffiths.  Winning over £18k, the amount is more a reflection of the poor prize money available rather than his success on the racecourse.  A new career in Germany will hopefully see better returns in this respect.  We sincerely wish his new connections the very best of luck as he runs his first race at Dortmund on 4th February.  Keep up with his exploits on our website.

His full brother Roll on Rory, now a four year old, has been an even better performer and is yet another trailblazer for connections: first stakes horse, highest rated and best wins to runs ratio (36%).  He has also been placed 3 times and been in the money in 72% of his runs.  Despite being a full brother, Rory has performed best on turf and is the current holder of Mussleburgh’s Royal Scots Cup.  More on him when he starts his 2017 turf campaign…….

New Year – New Blog

Welcome abacus-logo

Hello and welcome along to our blog & news site.  We hope you will keep up to date with all our developments at Abacus Bloodstock, as well as enjoy our take on the world of horse racing, breeding and life in general – although when you have horses that kind of IS your life!

2017 so far


Linbrook Oak

The year has started with continued work on the farm.  We moved into Lower Linbrook Farm in December 2015 and have been developing it into a top stud facility since.  At least the horses are used to tractors and diggers – so the yearlings have gone off to their training fairly bomb proof at least.

New additions include a new 4 stable block to accommodate the mares and foals once they are moved out of the foaling boxes.  We have also invested in stud fencing and re-fenced and ditched the hedge borders around the property, as well as installed improved drainage.  Next phase will be a walker and all-weather area for backing and sales preparation – all work and meantime lots of moving piles of mud from one place to another.


In the last few months we have sent yearlings (now 2 year olds)  to new owners with trainers including Kevin Frost and Mark Usher. One of them is the half sister to our two


Assertive x Fangfoss Girls filly – half sister to prolific winning brothers.

most prolific produce Pancake Day and Roll on Rory.  Very exciting times!  Good luck to all connections and thanks for choosing Abacus Bloodstock.

We have also had lots of demand for our 2016 foals and all but one has been purchased already.  They are currently growing well  in their new homes – including the first and only colt foal for Ritchie Fiddes’ stallion Albaasil and a stunning colt by Mawatheeq who will go to Iain Jardine in 2018.

Foals due soon

We have 4 foals due this year – all in March – and these are really exciting prospects.  Sires include new boy Telescope, Irish super stallion Fast Company (now with Darley), Mazameer and UAE record holder Cityscape.

 Of course we will keep you up to date with developments.