The Secret Revealed: How I Pick Racehorses
I know this is a post a few of you have been waiting for since I started my blog, so here it is finally, just for you, how I pick racehorses to own! However, we must start this post by being honest with each other. While I’m lucky enough to have had 24 wins at just 21 years old, including 2 country cups, 2 listed races and a group 3 win, sometimes it is just that, luck! So, while there is no real secret and I don’t really have any secret tips, I will reveal my process in the hope that it can help you pick your next champion.
Throughout this post, I’ll talk you through how I picked out both my champions and horses that didn’t make it to the track because no one has a perfect strike rate. It must be noted that I didn’t personally pick any of my horses that run for charity, so while they have contributed to my 24 wins, they won’t be listed below. As I go through my horses, you’ll notice that there are 3 key areas when picking a horse which are looks, breeding and gut feeling.
It’s only fair that we start with my first racehorse, Master Magician. If you haven’t heard this story, then you’ve been living under a rock, because it’s one of my favourite stories to tell. To give you a quick recap though, I headed down to the Impressive Racing farm to pick out a racehorse and there was Master Magician as a yearling, standing at the back of a big paddock and I was like “that’s the one”. Here it was quickly discovered by others that I have an eye for horses.
So how did I pick him? Well, it was a while ago, so a little hard to remember, but this was a case of looks and gut feeling, as I had no idea who he was when I picked him out. Above is a picture of him as a yearling on the day we met. I’ll forever remember his branding number, 1 over 3, because that’s how I identified him. However, from the photo above, you can see that he had very good shoulders and rump, which is what I always look at these days when picking a horse because this is where their power comes from. I believe that choosing him was mostly a gut feeling and even fate, as there was just something about him that I liked, and he obviously did something to get my attention.
Master Magician retired earlier this year having won just under $250,000 in prize money with a record of 6 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds for 26 starts. He’s currently still at the Impressive Racing farm waiting for his forever home.
The Velvet King
While I always say I don’t have favourites, I can say that The Velvet King has been my most successful horse to date. I brought him just before he turned 2 years old (if my records are correct). When I picked him, it was a mixture of all three factors.
I’ll be honest and say I first fell in love with his face in this video. I was like “it looks like he spilt milk down his face”. So, in this case, my gut feel was my heart and sometimes you just have to follow your heart.
However, this time my head with there to back up my heart. In terms of breeding, his older half-brother Velago had just won at York in his first start and in a nice fashion. So, if The Velvet King was anything like him, I thought he’d do alright. Plus, The Velvet King is by Universal Ruler, who was quickly becoming my favourite sire because of Master Magician. The stable also had a high opinion of him, so definitely always listen to those who know the horses best. If you watch the video, you can see he also has nice shoulders and rump.
The Velvet King was the first horse I brought without seeing in the flesh first, but obviously, I don’t regret the decision at all! When I did eventually get down to the farm to visit, it was love at first sight and we quickly became good friends. I knew then that I had made the right decision.
At this moment in time, The Velvet King has won $669,555 (including bonuses) with a record of 7 wins, 2 seconds and 3 third for 16 starts. Everything is crossed that we add to those figures on Saturday, as he runs in the Railway Stakes; my first group 1 runner.
Picking Clairvoyance is actually a bit of a funny story because I didn’t really have any intention of buying her at the start, but I just had a “not so successful” horse retire and thanks to The Velvet King winning, I had the funds to, so I did.
I first meet a then 6-month-old Clairvoyance the day I went to the farm to meet The Velvet King, as Impressive Racing were giving the owners a tour of the farm and the new foals. She definitely caught my eye with her four white socks and big statue (you can see her at the back of this photo below), so much so, that when I got home that night, I emailed Impressive Racing with a suggested name.
Nothing happened for another six months, but I followed her closely through Impressive Racing’s Facebook page. I quickly fell in love with her (haha there’s the gut feeling again), but she had a lot going for her physically too. She was a massive girl (and still is), standing a good hand above her fellow paddock mates (as you can see in this video). I’d also never seen a more developed foal, everything about her looked good. She just had this x-factor about her, which is hard to describe in words, but it’s like a wow feeling. She also had a great walk on her (you can see in this video), which is something I also look for. I learnt to look at a horse’s walk from a friend and the book “Watching Racehorses”. If you watch the video, you can see that she is very flexible, even at a young age. This can be noticed if you look at where a horse places their front hoof and then their back hoof. If the back hoof lands further forward than the front hoof then they’re loose and flexible. This is something you should look at not only when buying a horse, but also when tipping a horse from the mounting yard. Haha, I’ll let you in on a little secret, there’s actually another horse I have my eye on to buy purely based on his walk.
Other factors that swayed my decision to buy a share in Clairvoyance was the stables opinion of her and that she had an older half-brother that was racing in Melbourne, though I wouldn’t say that her breeding didn’t play a massive part in my decision.
Clairvoyance has only just had her first trial, where she went quite well, so fingers crossed I’ve got myself another champion.
So, you’ve heard my success and potential success stories, now it’s time for my not so successful horses.
When I brought a share in The Velvet King, there were three horses I was considering, but I was only looking to buy a share in two; The Velvet King, Black Money and another horse named Highest Regard. The Velvet King was an obvious choice, but I held back on deciding on the other two. When I went to visit The Velvet King was when I made my decision to go with Black Money, with my decision based on three factors, breeding, looks and opinions of others.
Black Money was a half-brother to Master Magician, so this is where breeding came into play. However, he was by My Admiration compared to Master Magician who was by Universal Ruler. I had also seen him in his yard when I visited The Velvet King and from memory, he had his rug on, but he had a lovely movement when he was trotting around. I also liked that he had this slight attitude about him because you want a horse that is calm and nothing will phase them, but you don’t want them to be walked all over in a race, hence some attitude is needed. The thing that sealed the deal was that the stable was happy with Black Money’s performances during track work.
Unfortunately, he didn’t perform very well in his five trials and the decision to move him on was made. He now lives in Geraldton with Graeme Hammarquist and recently trialled for him (though it wasn’t any better than the five he had with Darren).
So, when Black Money wasn’t a success, I looked for my next champion. Atlantic Ruler was probably one of my most researched purchases, but unfortunately, she also didn’t make it to the track. I’m still going to step you through the process because it’s a story that proves luck is well and truly involved when picking a horse.
She first caught my eye when I saw the photo below. She had a really powerful looking rump. As I’ve mentioned before this is something I look for, so she ticked that box. Reports from the stable had also been positive and she was a 2-year-old from memory, so an element of the unknown was slightly removed.
Her breeding was where I took the most interest but I don’t usually hold it in high regard, because I always look at it from this point of view; my non-identically twin sister and I are from the same mum and dad and were raised the same but we are totally different. Haha, in my opinion, I would make a better racehorse because I have a more relaxed personality. Anyway, with Atlantic Ruler, she was by Universal Ruler, so another tick in my books. She had an older sister, Plead the Fifth, who was also doing quite well, but other than that her dam (mum) hadn’t had much success as a broodmare.
So, after weighing up all of my factors I decided to buy a share. Unfortunately, after 7 trials it was decided that she would be moved on to the country and she is now trained by Jo-Anne Leeson.
“Eve” and “Adelaide”
These two are my latest additions and currently fall into the unknown category, as they both have just turned one-year-old. I brought a share in both as soon as they went on sale and combined, they were the biggest purchase I’ve ever made in my life.
I brought these two purely on breeding and my heart. Eve is a full sister to Master Magician and I said just after she was conceived that if it was a filly I would have to buy a share, but I also had a vivid dream that it was a filly and while I had a 50/50 chance of getting that right, I was right, so it was a sign. I loved Master Magician as my first horse, so I had to buy a share in Eve.
Adelaide is a full sister to The Velvet King and considering how well he was going, I also had to buy a share in her. For the first time, I actually thought passed racing, with her ability to breed once she’s finished race also playing a part in my decision. She was also an incredible looking foal and has the same spilt milk face as The Velvet King, so I fell in love.
A year on and they are both very nice looking horses, but for different reasons. Eve is very similar to Master Magician, especially through the shoulders. Adelaide, on the other hand, is very big and reminds me a bit of Clairvoyance in build. I can’t wait for both of them to hit the track and discover what ability they have!
So, there you go, I’ve stepped you through the thought process that I went through when buying a share in some of my horses. This is certainly not a foolproof method, but I do hope it helps those of you who are looking at buying a racehorse. If you have any tips and tricks of your own, then let me know in the comments below.
*Images and videos that are not my own were taken from the Impressive Racing Facebook and YouTube pages