Owners large and small, whether mega rich or merely comfortably off to afford to dip into the ocean of racing ownership, must envy one of Middleham Park’s syndicates.
They have found a pearl in Toormore, who went into his winter quarters as a leading fancy for the Qipco 2000 Guineas having sailed through his juvenile campaign unbeaten. After winning his maiden at Leicester in late May, Toormore took two important two-year-old races in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and the National Stakes at the Curragh.
The incredibly shrewd purchase at a bargain �36,000 at the DBS Premier Yearling Sales in 2012 is testament to how Middleham Park Racing works, with the help in this case of trainer Richard Hannon, his son Richard jnr, who takes over the licence on January 1, and bloodstock agents Peter and Ross Doyle.
Founded in 1995, Middleham Park has established itself as one of the country’s major syndicate operations. Backed by a team of top trainers, both jumps and Flat, it has enjoyed tremendous success. With more than 100 horses and just short of 500 members, Middleham Park has had well in excess of 500 winners, including 84 in 2013.
The likes of Captain Dunne, Beshabar, Backstage, Junior, Penitent, Esentepe, Lily’s Angel and Chief Barker have given the operation many good days, but Toormore is taking those lucky members of its particular syndicate to another level.
Those excited members, headed by rugby coach and travel business operator Jim Pak, who owns a full half-share of the colt, have already turned down several big offers for the son of Arakan and are looking forward to what they dream will be a Classic-winning 2014 campaign.
“Jim started with us about six or seven years ago. He has at least 12 horses with us and the deal we have is that if he buys half of a horse he can have his name on the card and name it,” said Middleham Park’s racing manager Tim Palin.
The syndicate also includes father and son Keith and Tony Denham, who each have 15 per cent. Steve Studley, an accountant from Bristol, and Steve Barker, a scrap-metal dealer from Bury St Edmunds, each have five per cent in Toormore, while Gary Walker and Lynn Douglas have five per cent between them. Two other two and a half per cent shares make up the Toormore ownership.
“The syndicate is absolutely adamant they would love to keep him throughout his three-year-old career, turning down substantial offers for him. They are racegoers, they are enthusiasts. It is their dream. They are not too bothered about a few grand hanging around in their bank account,” said Palin.
“I have to give a special mention to Jim Pak. He owns half of the horse. Fifty per cent of some of the money we have been offered is massively life-changing to anybody, so a big hats off to him – he’s had the resilience to be able to resist the temptation.
“I think what he believes in is we add value to his racing experience. Our ability to source and purchase and our expertise is something he wants to tap into rather than doing it on his own where he would be subject to all the vagaries of the bloodstock world.”
Palin recalled how Middleham came to buy the once-in-a-lifetime thoroughbred.
“If people had to nominate one sales house to buy a yearling from every year it would be Doncaster Premier. We try to buy as many from that sale as we possibly can,” he said.
“It’s become increasingly difficult there for the middle market we operate in – �30,000 to �80,000. I used to think I could buy pretty much any horse I wanted at Doncaster except for one or two star lots. Now there are some serious horses there now and some serious bidders.
“Toormore was only lot six and we also bought lot 134. It was probably Richard snr who singled him out. The day before we all look at horses and compare notes. This lot six by Arakan seemed to tick all the boxes and was one everybody liked – Richard Hannon, Peter and Ross Doyle and us. It seemed to be one we all took to.
“We got him for �36,000 and we had plenty more bids in there. Somewhere we would have stopped but we just loved this horse and at �36,000 at the time we thought he was well bought. Whatever sales we go to, the horses that sell the quickest seem to be the ones that run the fastest. Our owners must have a crystal ball!
“Some times we’ll buy a horse in August and there will still be shares available in February or March. Occasionally we will run a horse in May and we will still own 10 per cent of it, because we haven’t been able to sell all the shares. Toormore sold almost instantaneously.”
Palin believes it all points to an exciting 2014, saying: “His size and his scope and his stature mean that he should be better next year. Richard Hughes said in his newspaper column Toormore was not a archetypal Richard Hannon two-year-old.
“He is the perfect horse to go to war with next year. I’m pretty sure he’ll stay at a mile. A mile just looks right for him looking at his pedigree. I know I’m bound to be biased, but I think he’s got a favourite’s chance in the Guineas.”Read the rest of the story British Horseracing Authority News Headlines