Galloping through the sultry boglands of sun cream and sweat, offered up by the past week, to make his seasonal debut today, is the unexposed four-year-old Double Dealing. This week we talked to the ice-cool Rob Mckeown – manager of the Run For Your Money syndicate – in whose silks Double Dealing runs. Here’s what we found out…
How did the syndicate come to be and how has it been received?
The syndicate idea came from John Rhodes and Peter Timmins, who have both had horses with Richard for a number years. They approached me, because the knew of my previous experience of managing syndicates, and Richard,because we know about his undoubted training skills and his eye for a good one. From there we talked and developed a model that we liked. It was to be a twelve-share model, where you pay your training fees and your share of the horse in a one-off payment at the start of the year.
It is the type of syndicate that I’d like to see more often. It is similar to the Australian model where people simply group assets together in order for a trainer to then buy them a horse.
With it being the pandemic year, we found it difficult to sell the shares in the horses that we had acquired from Richard and Robin. No one was going racing and obviously there was a lot of uncertainty in people’s minds. However, we sold enough to enable us to keep the syndicate running.
We had three horse to begin with, but unfortunately two of them weren’t as successful as our star horse, Double Dealing.I honestly don’t know where we’d be if he hadn’t had the success he had last year. It would’ve been quite tricky for the syndicate, in its first couple of years, not to have a winning horse. Thankfully, DD didn’t finish out of the frame in seven starts, winning three times in a row on the all-weather andalso placing in a Racing League contest. Although this camein his second season, it rewarded the people that had put money in at the beginning – so much so that he has paid for his own four-year-old campaign.
Right now, in this infancy period, we just need the horses to keep being successful until we’ve built up a bit more of a reputation.
What is the aim and ethos of the syndicate?
I think there’s been a recent explosion in racing club/syndicate operations advertising their credentials. You do see a lot of people jumping onto the bandwagons of high-profile syndicates that specialise in selling their horses off in very small shares. We didn’t want to find ourselves in the positionof collating huge numbers of people with small shares – that wasn’t for us. We wanted a more intimate number of owners, where everything is shared equally and where people can enjoy their racing, whilst feeling like they are getting a run for their money.
For us to be successful, its important to know that we have the right trainer, picking the right horses, at the right price. We also rely on the whole team at Musley Bank to break the horse in, train it and get it to the track. Because we have full confidence in the staff and Richard’s ability to manage all ofthese things, we are able to fill new and existing members with a lot of confidence. That trust and confidence allows us to keep pushing forwards.
Communication plays a massive role in any successful syndicate. Can you explain how yourself and Richard approach this?
You have to keep people well informed now. I know, from previous experience of ownership and syndicate involvement, how inconsistent communication can be with trainers. We are fortunate that Richard is an absolutely wonderfulcommunicator. I chat to him once a week, but he is always available if you do ever want to pick up the phone. He gives us lots of videos, regular updates and well-organised stable visits whenever we like. He understands that owners want to feel part of the process and is very good at creating that.
And then from my point of view, it is great that I can send information out every Friday to everyone with a share in one of our horses. It may only be a couple of sentences, but it tells them what the horse has done during that week – thus keeping them in touch. A video every two weeks, or once a month,then adds some colour on top. Richard’s proactive communication makes my life as a syndicate manager somuch easier.
The management of people’s expectations also comes under this bracket. You have to be relaxed about outcomes. A big part of my job is trying to radiate that to the members. You of course want people to be buoyed up by the whole experience,whether at the yard or on track, but they must also be realistic about outcomes. Richard and Robin are fantastic at helping push that message as well.
What is the best thing about being directly involved in a racehorse, rather than say supporting your favourite horse on the TV?
The thing that always struck me when I first got into ownership is that, as an owner, you are part of the drama,rather than part of the audience. Being in the parade ring looking out is very different to being out the parade ring looking in. For me, there is such a thrill in that. The thought that you are thoroughly involved in all that is going on around your horse is a very nice one. Yes, you have a financial interest, but you have the thrill of seeing the horse on the gallops, at the yard, on track and in the winners’ enclosure if you’re lucky. All those things together is what you get into ownership for.
On the subject of enthrallment and never out of the first four, you must be thrilled with your latest yearling purchase and now two-year-old Rock Opera has shown thus far?
Brilliant. We trust Richard and Robin’s judgement implicitly.You can’t do any of this without the trainer buying in accordance with what you’ve asked for. We gave them a budget of 2 x £20,000 in the autumn to spend on two yearlings, and one of them they brought back was Rock Opera. He is a sounder horse than Double Dealing, but he is similar in the way that he has been so consistent on the track.Success is very important to our current model – it convinces people to keep investing in the thrill of ownership rather than spending their money on other leisure pursuits. We’re therefore thrilled with what Rock Opera’s done so far.
You must be very excited to see Double Dealing return today. Are you hopeful of a nice run?
Everyone is very pleased to see him make his return. It’s hard to name a syndicate ‘Run For Your Money’ if the horses aren’t there to run – so it’s very important for our members to see him back. Richard has been saying for two or three weeks that he’s ready to run, but Richard hasn’t wanted to run him on firm going. This race on the all-weather at Newcastle looks an ideal starting point after eleven months off. We know that he is has been a bit fragile and has had some issues, which he thankfully is over now. Personally, I think he is competitivelyhandicapped and we’re hopeful that he’ll run well.