Tuesday, 22 May 2012

#AscotAsks The Hon. Harry Herbert, Managing Director at Highclere Racing

AscotInsider was lucky enough to have a chat with the Hon. Harry Herbert earlier this week as part of the #AscotAsks series and find out how he first got into racing, what his highlight of racehorse ownership and what he’s most looking forward to seeing at Royal Ascot this year.

Name: Hon. Harry Herbert
Location: Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, Newbury, Berkshire
Occupation: Managing Director

1. Harry, how did you first get into racing?
My father owned and bred horses here at Highclere and he was also racing manager to HM The Queen so racing was spoken at pretty much every meal.  Initially, I wanted to be an actor before working in the city for four years for a stockbroking company called Rowe and Pitman.  By this time the racing bug had really got hold of me and I decided to head off to Kentucky to learn about the racing business.  I stayed in America for three years returning to set up syndicates in 1987.

2. A number of syndicates, which you manage, are described as being some of the best in the world. Could you explain briefly how a racehorse syndicate works? 

We put together small groups of people - usually between 10 and 20, to own parts of a number of horses.  We act as Racing Manager to each shareowner keeping them fully informed as to the progress and running plans of their horses wherever they happen to live in the world.  Our level of communication, combined with the consistent success of our horses, has enabled Highclere to be the leader in the field of syndication since I founded the business in 1992. 

3. What would you say is the best part of having a share in a racehorse?

The best part of having a share in a racehorse is watching your horse develop from being broken as a yearling through to that magical moment when he or she wins their first race.
4. What has been your highlight of racehorse ownership?

We have been fortunate to have had many highlights over the years.  The best moments would be Petrushka winning the Irish Oaks to become the first syndicate owned classic winner, Motivator winning the Derby for the Royal Ascot Racing Club and of course Harbinger winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes by eleven lengths and becoming the highest rated horse in the world.

5. Have you ever had a favourite horse and why?

It is hard to have a favourite horse but I would have to say that our wonderful stayer Distinction would be right up there as he raced until he was nine and was the most wonderfully consistent stayer winning the Goodwood Cup and being placed twice in the Ascot Gold Cup.  We still see him now on our visits to Newmarket as he is Sir Michael Stoute’s hack. Our seven Champions would also rank very highly, especially Harbinger!

6. What would be your advice to any new racegoer wishing to become part of a syndicate?

My advice would be to choose carefully which syndicate or club you join, looking carefully at their terms and conditions as well as their track record.  The RSACA (Racing Syndicates and Clubs Association) is the syndicate association that ensures that its members abide by a clear set of terms and conditions, their website is www.rsaca.com.

7. As an owner, which is your favourite race meeting and why?

My favourite meeting is, without a shadow of doubt, Royal Ascot as to me it embodies everything that is stylish, fun and glamorous about owning racehorses.  To win a race at the Royal Meeting is unbelievably exciting and over the years we have been lucky enough to win ten.  Two years ago we won The Norfolk, The Albany and The Hardwicke and we were beaten a short head in The Queen’s Vase – that really was the week of all weeks!

8. What would you say is your favourite racecourse and why?

My favourite racecourse is Newbury as it is my local course and therefore where I first went racing as a child.  My father was Chairman for a number of years and I am now a Director so it really is very close to my heart. It has great viewing and is a wonderfully fair track for all horses.  My other two favourite racecourses would be Ascot and York.

9. What do you most look forward to when you have a horse running at the races?

I look forward to meeting up with all the owners in the Pre-Parade Ring and then getting that first look at their horse in the paddock.  Any syndicate manager in the world will tell you that the thing we most look forward to is watching shareowners’ faces after their horse storms to victory! 

10. Finally, what are you most looking forward to at Royal Ascot 2012?

I think that we have a really exciting group of horses this season and whilst it is too early to know for sure which of them may be good enough to run at Royal Ascot I would hope that we would have a couple of two year old runners such as Mysterial and Tassel.  We have been lucky enough to win the King George V Handicap four times and this year we will be aiming horses like Commitment in that direction. We usually have five or six runners in the week but right now we are still very much in the planning stage!

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