Now the stockbroker, who gives so much in racing and is a great believer in ‘making your own luck’, hopes to enjoy Cheltenham Festival success with Bravemansgame.
The horse, trained by Paul Nicholls and unbeaten in three starts this season, is one of the favourites for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle after landing the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury on his last start.
This win under regular rider Harry Cobden, a jockey born for the big occasion, earned comparisons with the Denman who progressed through the racing ranks before landing the 2008 Gold Cup in an epic battle with stablemate Kauto Star.
“It was probably Laurens’ fault that we became involved in National Hunt. When you have a horse like her and she gets tucked away for the winter you end up wishing your life away waiting for the next season to start,” said Dance
“We got into it a little bit just to keep us mentally occupied through the winter – and it’s worked out all right! Bravemansgame was on a list that Paul Nicholls, Tom Malone (bloodstock adviser) and Megan Nicholls were really interested in, along with Jeremy Pass who we bought. I had in my mind how much I’d be willing to spend, but he went flying by that with no signs of stopping.”
Nicholls and Malone went to £370,000 at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Sale, but Dance wanted someone to share the experience with. Step forward Bryan Drew, who has tasted glory at Cheltenham before through his horses with David Pipe.
“Tom and Paul still bought the horse and came back to me and said ‘we know you’re interested, if you want half we might have somebody else who wants half as well’. I had a little think and it went ahead, so the partnership with Bryan was formed,” he explained.
“The reasons for getting involved with Paul were two-fold – we didn’t want it on our doorstop as we were with Laurens, as we thought we were too involved so we thought it was a good idea to have one at the other end of the country, out of sight out of mind from an interfering perspective. Also we wanted to make new contacts, like Bryan Drew. It’s paid off so far.”
Dance is acutely aware that racing is littered with examples of big-money purchases who fail to make the grade. “Everyone was pretty adamant that while it is a cliche, whatever he did before he went chasing would be a bonus, everything about him just suggests he will be better over fences,” said Dance.
“You shouldn’t think you are ever buying a Grade One chaser, however much they cost, but we certainly didn’t think he’d be a Grade One hurdler. Because of the long-term outlook we had for him this is all very much a bonus.
“He’s a big guy, he’s got a long stride and in some respects a bit like Laurens in that he’s a relentless galloper. I think what surprised Paul at Newbury is that he’s not built to show that turn of foot.
“To show it after the last, in that grade of race, was really quite explosive. He was winning anyway but that turn of foot – against what looked some good rivals on paper – was what caught us out a bit.”
Dance knows just how fortunate he was to have owned a superstar like Laurens and that the likelihood anything he is involved in down the years is highly unlikely to match her exploits.
What he hopes to have gained, though, is a sense of perspective regarding how to treat everything racing can throw his way. “Laurens will make the whole experience with Bravemansgame more enjoyable. She won Group Ones at two, three and four, but we felt pressure when she ran. This time around we’re determined to enjoy it,” added Dance.
“If we’re lucky enough to win another Group One on the Flat, it is very very unlikely the same horse will win six. Our aim is just to win a Listed race
“We sponsor the Group One at Doncaster (Vertem Futurity Trophy) and the Eider Chase at Newcastle. I’m a believer in you make your own luck, but we’ve been lucky, very lucky. It’s better to be lucky than smart, though!”
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