Harry Herbert, owner of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, has enjoyed an illustrious equine career. After researching pedigrees for a leading equine institution in America, he moved into bloodstock sales and, by 1985, he was running his own thoroughbred management company.
In 1992, by way of natural evolution, Harry launched Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, which specialises in putting together small syndicates to share in a number of top class racehorses.
But why share? The answer is simple: it currently costs upwards of £30,000 a year to train, insure, travel and vet one horse. That’s on top of the initial cost of the yearling and before you’ve even considered the sheer enormity of the commitment.
A syndicate, by contrast, offers all the fun at a fraction of the cost or responsibility and involves a far greater chance of racing success at the highest level. Places are opened every June but other opportunities exist throughout the year, including the Tattersalls Breeze Up Sales in April. Even better, shares start from as little as £6,950.
Today Highclere Thoroughbred Racing is the undisputed leader in the field of syndication, having produced seven champions, the most famous of which – Harbinger – was the highest rated flat horse in the world in 2010.
Harry works closely with his brother-in-law John Warren, bloodstock adviser to Her Majesty The Queen and one of the most respected agents in the world.
Together, John and Harry select and buy all of Highclere’s horses.
Their thoroughbred, Petrushka, won the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks and became the first ever syndicate-owned Classic winner. Since that auspicious day, horses managed by Highclere have now won or been placed in all five of the English Classics.
They also manage the Royal Ascot Racing Club’s horses, and claim responsibility for 2005 Vodafone Derby winner, Motivator. Not to mention ten further winners at Royal Ascot – more than any other multi-ownership company – contributing to an amazing 38 per cent strike rate at the esteemed Royal Meeting.
Amazingly, Harry also finds time to act as racing consultant for Cartier and advisor to His Excellency, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, as well as handling private client syndication. Furthermore he’s a member of The Jockey Club and a director of Newbury Racecourse. These connections open a multitude of prestigious doors for syndicate members; not least the door to the Highclere Box at Newbury Racecourse, with superior views of the track, and the historic Jockey Club rooms in Newmarket.
Importantly, all shareowners are treated as though they own their horses outright, with Highclere acting on their behalf as personal racing managers. As such, they are kept up-to-date regularly with the progress of bloodstock and running plans. Harry runs a first-class operation. ‘Their record speaks for itself,’ Sir Alex Ferguson confirms.
He should know, having been a member for many years, with more than one prize on his mantelpiece.
Members first see their bloodstock at the annual Yearling Parades, in the grounds of Highclere Castle (Harry Herbert’s ancestral home; better known for its role in Downton Abbey). Subsequent visits are then arranged throughout the year, for an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the top training yards and talk to the celebrated trainers directly, including Sir Michael Stoute, John Gosden, Richard Hannon and William Haggas.
The duration of each syndicate differs but, generally, lasts for a minimum of two seasons. Once all the horses are sold, any surplus income is distributed to the shareowners and, in the unlikely event of a deficit, the cost is borne by Highclere.
The sale of Petrushka to Sheikh Mohammed broke the world record at $5.25m and, in 2010, Harbinger was sold to stand at stud in Japan for a multi-million dollar figure. Other remarkable sales include Tamarisk (£3.5m), Lake Coniston (£2.5m) and Highest (£1.7m).
Capital aside for a moment, the company holds firm that, in the end, it’s not about investment. Shareowners, they assure us, have one thing in common that transcends any financial distraction: a love of horses.
Ultimately, they want to be a part of something special, to own shares in a little bit of British history… the money is simply the cherry on top.
HIGHCLERE THOROUGHBRED RACING GREAT FARM BARNS, WEST WOODHAY, BERKSHIRE RG20 0BP +44 (0)1488 669166