Our Columnist Richard Williams recently had an exclusive Q&A with Nick Brown , who runs the successful syndicate Nick Brown Racing
Who was the best horse you have purchased?
Obviously there have been a few nice ones along the way. Olney Lad was the first one really – Purchased from his owner/breeder who lived at the end of the Fences Farm gallop, he won 6 of his 19 races over hurdles and fences, culminating in a fine front running win at The Punchestown Festival. Sadly, he suffered an injury in that race that he didn’t recover from. Since then I have purchased some nice ones – Cloonacool, Benefit Cut, and the current star, Apasionado – but probably the best one was a little horse called Robo, who won 2 of his 3 starts for us, 2 novice chases around Fakenham, the second by 33 lengths. He did pieces of work at home that I have never seen matched, and I believe he would have been very, very good if he had not struck into himself at the water jump in Cheltenham on just his third start for us. He even managed to finish fourth that day, in front of Balthazar King and Cannington Brook, despite his fatal injury – a very talented and brave horse.
What do you look for when buying a horse?
That will vary slightly depending on budget. If we have plenty of pennies to play with, everything has to match – form, pedigree and physical – i.e. confirmation, size etc. If the budget is more limited you must compromise – you may like the form, and will have to settle for a horse with less size and scope, or a slightly older horse. It can also work the other way – in that you may see a gorgeous individual with a super pedigree, but with absolutely no form, and chance that a new trainer can get the best out of it. At the end of the day it is all about getting value for money – we are not renowned for wasting it!!
Is the Sire or Dam a major factor when Buying a horse?
The sire and dam are obviously important factors. When forming syndicates, you need to be able to offer potential clients names that they are familiar with. This will mean that we will often be purchasing horses by proven sires. At the moment, I have made a little collection of horses by Mamool – a relatively unknown sire, who has spent most of his covering career in Germany, but is now in Ireland. We had Dawn Commander who has been his best jumping son to date, (although Apasionado is looking as though he will take over that mantle), so he is a sire we like a lot. When buying juvenile hurdlers, it is important to buy horses by sires who get enough stamina into their progeny, and have enough heart and guts for jumping. The dam side is very important, as I feel, that although good sires will improve mares, most of the talent is inherent in the dam’s side of the pedigree, so I do like to see some winning form in the top of the page.
Do their Graded wins make them overly expensive or does market dictate the Price?
Graded winners are out of the budget of all but a very few wealthy individuals, and we all know who they are, so purchasing these horses is out of the question. The aim is always to buy Graded winners before they get to that grade, hence we scour the Irish Point to Point fields every week through the winter, and are constantly trawling through UK, Irish and French and German form to find those nuggets!
How did your relationship with Stuart begin?
A: The first horse I syndicated was purchased (after too much fizzy pop) for £200 on an evening out in Newmarket. He won a flat race off of a rating of 25, after which, Roy Bowring, who trained him, felt that the rigors of the all-weather would take their toll on him, so he advised us to send him hurdling. As a jumps man, i didn’t need telling twice, so we went to see Mrs. Robeson, whose husband, the Olympic Showjumper, Peter, my Father knew through Showjumping. Mrs. Robeson agreed to have him. Stuart was her assistant, and we have remained friends ever since. We have very much learned together as we have gone on – and therefore are very seldom at odds with ideas etc. When Mrs Robeson sadly passed away, there was never a thought of severing ties with the yard – they are a great bunch, and do a terrific job.
And how does it work?
A: I spend my working day, either in the office, at sales, or with clients at the races or at the yard. I have time to watch an awful lot of racing, and therefore have a reasonable handle on form and pedigrees I, along with JD Moore in Ireland source horses for our syndicates and other clients. Stuart, who is happier outside ‘doing’, is happy to leave this side of things to us, why he gets on with the job of getting the very best out of the horses that we send him
Do you book Jockey’s or do you have contracted jockey’s?
A: The jockeys are booked by Stuart through their agents. We have a good group of jockeys that we draw from, with Josh Moore being used most frequently, with Brendan Powell, Tom O’Brien, Paddy Brennan and Cieran Gethings on the roster as well. I do believe that continuity with jockeys is very important – we are not a big enough concern to have a contracted/stable jockey, but all of the jocks mentioned know how we like them ridden, and will ride to instructions. They are all top-class lads, who will pop in to ride out and school when required.
Do you work together to target what horses are best suited to certain races?
Again, this is something that Stuart and I will work on together. Often, I will have the time to look forward and formulate a plan, and then it is a question of liaising with Stuart to confirm that the plan that I have come up with suits the regime of the horse. I feel that looking at previous running’s of races is vital, and can steer you away from certain races, and very much point you in the direction of others – but at the end of the day you need the horse to go there, so it has to be a decision that is made by both of us.
Are Racing Clubs the way to go in today’s changing racing market?
For sure the costs of having horses in training are not going to go down – so I see Syndicates/Partnerships and Clubs providing an essential way for people to get involved in this great sport. Just a quick glance through any race card will show how joint ownerships are on the increase – even between former big individual owners, who are starting to jointly invest in some of these very expensive young horses – spreading the risk, and increasing the social side of things. We run a range of ownership options, with our larger 25 strong groups paying around £500 for a capital share and an all-inclusive weekly fee of just £25 – making these groups outstanding value. Being in this size of group is very social, and many friendships have blossomed out of these. I also have syndicates of 4, 5, 8 ,12 and 16 – so we can usually find something to suit all budgets. We see this as a growth area and will continue to buy the right horses for syndicates, as purchasing for joint ownerships is very different to buying for individuals. We have a good track record, and look forward to plenty of success in the future, both with Stuart, and other yards.
Finally, I think our readers will be hoping you have a couple of horses to follow for the season?
The obvious one is Apasionado – who looks to have a very bright future over hurdles this season.One that is yet to run under rules, but is a really nice prospect is a 4 yr old filly called Molly Childers. By Stowaway, she has finished second in one of her 2 Irish points, and was purchased at the Tattersalls Ireland Sale in Cheltenham in April. She is from a cracking family, and works very nicely. She has entries in bumpers now, and will run very shortly on suitable ground.