5 Minutes with Rob Humphryson
Rob Humphryson is a fellow owner of mine and we met through a work colleague of Dad’s, for those of you who don’t know our story. Rob is the person who started the initiative of donating a proportion of prize money won by racehorses to charity (all starting with Ace’s Wish) and because of him over $10,000 has been donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Rob and I also have a friendly tipping competition between us and when he’s not tipping winners he’s spending time with his family and running a successful mining company.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m the wrong side of 50, married for 20 years and with two teenaged kids. I’m a mining engineer by trade and for the past almost 3 years have been CEO of Novo Resources, exploring the Pilbara for gold, with considerable success by the team.
How did you get involved in horse racing?
My dad hoodwinked me into buying half his share in a syndicate as he was heading into retirement, so at around the age of 20 I found myself a part owner in a string of horses and a brood mare “Little Miss”.
Tell us how you almost owned a Melbourne Cup winner (haha because it’s my favourite story of yours)
Hmmm, this story is wearing a little thin ……. and refuses to let me go. Turns out Summer North, who plays a young Michelle Payne in the movie ‘Ride Like a Girl’ used to live in our current house before we bought it – what are the odds of that ? Probably similar to winning a Melbourne Cup I’d say 😊. But I’ll summarise the original story for you as briefly as possible.
A friend of mine WHO HAD NEVER OWNED A HORSE IN HIS LIFE asked my advice about syndications as he was buying into a horse with 5 mates at 2% each and invited me to join in. When I understood that I would own only 2% of a horse running in Melbourne, I provided him with some draft syndication documents I’d used before and sent him on his way with the parting comment “why on earth would I want a 2% of a horse running around in Melbourne …….. even if you win a Melbourne Cup I’ll win more from a Bunbury maiden”. I’m not making this up. What are the chances of that coming back to bite …… Plus it turns out that 2% of Melbourne Cup is a tad more than 100% of a Bunbury maiden ….. I eventually met the syndicate in Prince of Penzance’s 2nd last ever race start at Flemington, contesting the Makybe Diva Stakes and they kindly had an extra syndicate tie and stubby holder made for the ‘loser from WA’, so at least I own a small part of Australian racing memorabilia that I can wear sheepishly on Melbourne Cup Days to come.
Side note – the Makybe Diva stakes was the day after my beloved Eagles got smashed in a home final by the Bulldogs – which I happened to be watching in a Ballarat sports bar and not realising that this was Bulldog central (hadn’t noticed ‘Ballarat’ written on their shorts until then). Spent the game getting charged double for every beer, plus went the early crow after kicking the first few majors only to cop extreme flak for the next few hours …….. fun times).
What was your thought process when you first heard about me and my idea of racing for charity?
I’d always been looking for a charity angle to racing – let’s face it, if you’re in it to fund a lifestyle, unless you’re Bob Peters you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. Other avenues I considered were naming a horse “Flying Doctor” and donating all winnings to charity, however this is somewhat flawed as I have never been wealthy enough to fund a horse and give everything away, plus if RWWA used it as a marketing avenue it could backfire if the horse never made it to the track, which is often the case. Then you came along with big doe eyes and a simple model of being free carried into a small percentage of a horse and donating any associated winnings to your favourite charity – Make a Wish. All you needed to do was turn 18 so you could be a registered owner and get your name in the racebook. To their credit, the three other equal shareholders in the syndicate took only a nanosecond to agree to the arrangement and the rest is history.
What has been the biggest highlight in racing for you?
There have been quite a few. Every win for starters. I’ve been fortunate that most of my horses have won at least one race and I largely credit my regular trainer Bruce Watkins for that feat. I get photos of every win and with more than 60 wins now I’ve run out of room in the pool room and have relegated some photos to the garage. But undoubtedly the biggest highlight has been your response to being gifted a 10% share in our horses for your 18th birthday (and having the opportunity to name the then unnamed Ace’s Wish with your initials), plus watching you derive so much joy form horse ownership.
What’s your biggest tip for picking a winner at the track?
Stay sober as best you can and watch the horses in the mounting yard. Watching replays of previous runs doesn’t hurt either, but you can learn a great deal by watching horses in the mounting yard – maybe you can’t pick the winner but you can sure rule a few out. Then a basic understanding of track metrics helps – length of straight etc versus horses running patterns. Barriers have statistical implications too. I’m not too concerned about what weight they carry (maybe to my detriment) because I still can’t get my head around how a 500+kg animal plus a 50kg jockey could be slowed down by adding a few kgs …..
If people needed a reason/excuse to give their partners on why they should own a share in a horse, what would you suggest?
Life’s short. Try something new. Join a syndicate and commit to a small % in a horse or two. It adds another dimension to your existence and if you happen to jag a goodun it can be a heap of fun
Lastly, the opinion of racing has been under scrutiny lately, so what do you think the racing community needs to do to change this? What does the future of racing look like in your opinion?
It frustrates me that commentary about racing is dominated by the ignorant minority with an agenda. In my experience, the horses are treated like royalty and treated like good friends by owners, trainers, jockeys, stablehands. Wherever there is money to be made and whilst horses lack the ability to speak, there will unfortunately always be a rogue element that attracts the wrong type of attention and the industry should continue to remain totally committed to eradicate this element.
I think one small way the industry could improve its’ image is to stop calling a crop a whip – to people with no understanding of these things it evokes images of convicts chained to a post in the early days getting a flesh tearing flogging with a cat ‘o’ 9 tails, which could not be further from the truth when it comes to horses.
I also think racing must acknowledge it’s diminished position against other forms of entertainment and look for new ways to attract bigger attendance – night racing would be fantastic so long as jockeys and trainers are well accommodated, plus using the ‘new’ stadium at Burswood to full benefit by staging race meets before or after big games is certainly something that needs consideration. It’d be super if better river access was available too – both tracks enjoy prime river frontage and it’d be awesome for even a small marina / jetty / moorings to get to the races by boat.