A fresh perspective

It is really exciting to be writing for Royal Racing Club & Syndicate. My name is Samantha Martin. I am sixteen years old and horse racing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I used to visit my grandparents every Saturday and my Grandad would have Channel 4 Racing on the telly. Back then, I didn’t find the analysis of the races very interesting so, in the gaps between races, I’d doodle racehorses and my Grandad used to joke that they’d never be able gallop because of their crooked legs!

I’ve been writing about different aspects of horse racing for a website called Rein It In Racing for over three years and have been lucky enough to interview a range of high-profile racing personalities – from jockeys to presenters. In February 2018 at my local racecourse, Leicester, I interviewed a jockey for the first time. It was Adrian Heskin and I was so nervous the whole way through but it was an amazing experience and gave my confidence a massive boost. My favourite racehorse is Mulcahys Hill. He is in training with Warren Greatrex in Lambourn and was second in the grade one Challow Hurdle in 2017, ridden by Adrian Heskin. I met ‘Mully’ at the Lambourn Open Day in 2019 and he is such a sweetheart and very quirky.

One of the things I am most passionate about is getting more young people involved in our wonderful sport. It irritates me to see the negative stereotypes surrounding horse racing because people don’t seem to understand how much horse racing has to offer – whether that be in terms of a day out or the multitude of job opportunities within the industry.

Syndicates and racing clubs offer anyone the chance to be a racehorse owner. Horse racing is known as the ‘Sport of Kings’ and, whilst the Queen and Prince Charles both own racehorses, the number of syndicates and people involved in racehorse ownership is growing, even in the current Coronavirus Pandemic.

I spoke to a lot of people during the first lockdown about why they enjoyed being part of a syndicate and they had two main reasons behind it. The first is the ‘behind the scenes’ insight that they receive. Syndicate and Racing Club members are shown the inner-workings of the sport, a side of the industry that people don’t usually see. It includes yard visits and tours, which can be extremely insightful. Whilst the pandemic makes that difficult, the Royal Racing Club & Syndicate Facebook page has videos and photos from the trainers of the horses at home. The second reason is the “community” a syndicate becomes. It is a group of like-minded people enjoying a horse’s journey through their career. I know many people who have had their days have been brightened by syndicate updates and zoom calls in lockdown.

We have really been lucky that racing has been allowed to continue – I personally don’t know what I would’ve done without it! There have been some exciting performances since racing resumed, like Stradivarius’ dominating performance in the Ascot Gold Cup, which seems like such a long time ago now. It is a shame that there were no crowds there to see that or for any of Enable’s final outings. Crowds missed all of the exciting National Hunt racing over Christmas too – Frodon winning the King George; Silver Streak beating Epatante; A Plus Tard in the thrilling Savills Chase; Monkfish winning a grade one in great style (a personal highlight of mine) and Al Boum Photo staking his Gold Cup claim at Tramore.

One of the wonderfully reassuring qualities of horse racing is that there is always something to look forward to – like the Cheltenham Festival. It’s the highlight of my year and I know we shouldn’t focus on it too much but, as I sit here in lockdown, it is nice to remember that it’s only about two months away and there are still plenty of good races and trials to come. I’m particularly looking forward to the race formerly known as the RSA because I absolutely love Monkfish. I’m the proud owner of one of the horseshoes he wore in his beginners chase success and I really think he has a great chance of winning. He is everything I like in a racehorse – big, jumps well, tries his best and has a lot of natural talent and character.

As I write this, I’ve just been looking through the Champion Hurdle entries and it looks like it is going to be a super race. I was fortune enough to be there on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival last season and the atmosphere was incredible. When they describe Cheltenham as an amphitheatre, they are spot on! It must be incredible to be a jockey riding into that Winner’s Enclosure after a Cheltenham Festival victory. Unfortunately, jockeys won’t get the same reception as in 2020 due to Covid-19 but a Cheltenham Festival winner is one of the most coveted prizes in this sport so I’m sure they won’t mind too much! Epatante was the star of the show that day with her convincing victory in the Champion Hurdle. I ventured closer to the winning post for the Mares’ Hurdle when Honeysuckle won and the response to this wonderful mare and Rachel Blackmore was electric. Even supporters of Benie Des Dieux, who came second, were raving about the sensational ride Blackmore gave.

Life can feel very tough at the moment but I know we can get through this. Hopefully, we will see Danehill Quest, Jazzelle, Royal Marksman and the other Royal Racing Club horses in the Winner’s Enclosure very soon! Stay safe and healthy everyone and I hope we can all be back at a racecourse before too long!