We sat down with Steve Bradley to discuss his exciting new venture for 2022; the Knavesmire Racing Club.
Can you tell us a little bit about this new club and what made you want to set it up in the first place?
It is essentially an extension of the breeding operation I’ve got (Smarden Thoroughbreds). It’s tailored for people who are interested in breeding and want to understand more about how racehorses are bought and trained. Members of the Knavesmire will not only be seeing horses racing, but they’ll be seeing how we bring foals and yearlings through and will be having some input into the lives of the ones that will hopefully one day be running on behalf of the club.
Do you think the concept of a ‘package experience’ is very important in attracting new owners in this day and age?
Yes. I think it’s very difficult otherwise to get a situation where one could have as many as six horses running on his/her behalf. What we’re trying to do is offer something slightly different. There are obviously good syndicates such as Highclere and Middleham Park, but I’m not sure anyone’s really gotten as far as offering visits to studs (we’re currently planning a trip to the National Stud) or even to the sales. I go to most of the premier sales, and very rarely do you see a band of people there in a learning capacity. Whether someone’s interested in buying a horse or just looking to understand the sales process better, it is racing’s job to encourage and promote that.
It’s obvious that you are very interested in the breeding aspect of the sport. What is it about thoroughbred breeding that appeals to you?
The pedigrees are the thing for me. Where we’ve had these downturns in the last two or three years, especially with COVID, I think we’ve seen a lot of quality bloodstock become more affordable. In my own instance, we recently bought a mare off Juddmonte, a mare who’s already produced winners, in foal to a good class stallion in Iffraaj, and we only had to stretch to 50k for her. In the grand scheme of things, 50,000 is a lot of money, but to get access to horses like that is very, very difficult. I think the current state of the market makes it a great time to start up something like the Knavesmire Club.
As far as the breeding’s concerned, I’ve always had an interest in that. Trying to pursue it in tandem with a working career is very difficult because you’re being pressured by other financial needs, but watching the foals land on the ground and helping decide on stallion choices is a great thrill. Allowing future members of the Knavesmire Club to have an understanding of how it all works would be absolutely fantastic.
Where did your interest in racing stem from?
I was lucky enough that my parents had a nice farm in Wales and my interest really got going when I was in my early teens. I was quite a good rider. I used to ride out with guys who went on to become jockeys – the most prominent was a guy called John Williams. John did very well in National Hunt and was actually one of the first jocks to make the switch from jumps to the flat.
I was unfortunate that I got a kick that fractured my skull when I was seventeen, and so after that, as you do, you move on into work and marriage and kids. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to come back into racing through ownership. Racing is a huge buzz for me and always has been – I’ve been three times in the last ten days alone!
What are your aims for the club? Is there any race you’d particularly like to win, for instance?
The first step would be to have a two-year-old that’s good enough to get into a race at Royal Ascot. To have runners in the Norfolk, the Queen Mary, or the Chesham would be absolutely wonderful. Outside of that, having a two or three-year-old that’s good enough to win a quality race at York would be a huge bonus – especially with the club’s name as it is. It doesn’t have to be a Group race – just a decent Class 3 or Class 2 handicap will do! To be honest, just giving our members some good days out will be equally as important. A place like York is ideal because even if your horse finishes last, you’ll still have a great day.
Of your six club horses, which one are you most looking forward to seeing run?
River Usk (Dandy Man x Clytha (Mark Of Esteem)) is the one that sticks out for me. He’s a two-year-old (in training at Musley Bank) and is probably not as physically well developed as some of the others – you could say that he’s a bit light in behind. However, again, for someone like me, it’s incredible to have secured a full brother to a horse that’s won a Grade 1 and close to a million dollars out in the States (River Boyne) for the money we paid for him (40,000gns from Tattersalls October Yearling Sale Book 2). From a personal and financial perspective, we are excited about the value he would attain if he won a couple of decent races himself.
A quick line on Cubana Habana and White Willow, due to run on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively?
Cubana Habana could be anything because it’s his first run. Even though we bought him as a breeze, he didn’t run at two because Richard and we felt he needed more time developing. We’ve had him gelded in the meantime, and he’s got a lovely page. He’s by Churchill and has a real mile and a quarter pedigree, so he should have a chance as a three-year-old. We’re hoping to know a lot more about him on Saturday.
White Willow won very well about two months ago at Wolverhampton. After that, I wanted to commit to a campaign on the grass, but we’re back on the all-weather here because we don’t yet know enough about her. She’s four, and she’s only had three runs, so we would like to try and find out what her ideal trip is. She’s won over 1m1f, and this race is 1m4f, so we’ll see. It’s a good pot and should cut up to about five or six runners, so it’s a good place to go. Once she is on the grass, I think she could easily surprise us and progress to Listed level, which would really buy her ticket as a future broodmare.
If you would like to learn more about the Knavesmire Club, please click on the link below: