My second and final day on this Royal Ascot trip was all about reaching out to Runnymede’s newly established partners while reaffirming the bond with some of our most longstanding and valued partners. Royal Ascot lures the Who’s Who of Thoroughbred racing worldwide, and in one day you can run into everybody you need to know in the business.
The day began at the prerace Keeneland carpark party, where I ran into Runnymede’s French partner, Nicolas de Chambure, general manager of Haras d’Etreham. This new relationship has been established by our General Manager Romain Malhouitre.
Nicolas is very excited about Runnymede’s focus on a French program, which was initiated by Martin O’Dowd. Our mare Silver Sycamore is boarded at Haras d’Etreham, and we are selling a yearling by Hat Trick in France. The French breeding program offers tremendous bonuses to breeders whose horses are successful in French racing and thus has great appeal.
After having our pre-race fill of lovely luncheon goodies and some champagne, we were very lucky to spend the afternoon watching the races in the Sangster family and Watership Down box. Watership Down Stud is owned by Lord and Lady Andrew Lloyd-Webber and is managed by our friend Simon Marsh.
Martin established this fruitful relationship 20 years or so ago, and we have bred to Irish- and English-based sires while boarding our mares at Watership Down or its Irish satellite farm, Kiltinan Castle Stud. This has enabled Runnymede to breed and sell horses of the highest quality with international appeal.
The Lloyd-Webbers enjoyed an amazing day at Royal Ascot when their mare The Fugue, by Dansili, won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1), for her fourth career victory at the highest level. It was so exciting to be with the connections and we shared lots of joyous hugs and shouts of excitement. It also was nice that I bet on her to win and had the trifecta!
While making the rounds, I also ran into the shrewd Irish-based horseman Con Marnane. In 2004, he bought a Runnymede-bred yearling who turned into Group 1 winner Palace Episode, now a sire based in France. Con also buys horses in France, selecting pinhooking prospects, and he very much believes in the French system, which offers such good prize-money and bonuses to owners.
Throughout my time meeting many of successful participants in racing, I advocated the importance of uniform drug testing and banning of race-day drugs in the United States.
I also continued to be impressed with the new, younger generation of owners and agents, led by Gatewood Bell from Kentucky. He and trainer Wesley Ward are competing here on the global stage and representing America so well. They are showing yet again that drugs are not needed in racing, and we are so looking forward to their return to England next month with Runnymede-bred Undrafted, who is being pointed to the July Cup (G1) at Newmarket.
Hopefully, Ward, Bell and Royal Ascot-winning American owners such as George Strawbridge and George Bolton will inspire others to come to this fabulous venue in the future to fly the flag for the American Thoroughbred. American-breds are consistently showing they can win here, with the latest being the juvenile filly Cursory Glance, a daughter of Distorted Humor who captured the Albany Stakes (G3) on Friday’s program.
It’s always difficult to say good-bye to Royal Ascot, but already I am looking forward to 2015. In the meantime, I encourage everyone who loves racing to take the plunge and experience all of this for yourself.