Why owners deserve their share of recognition

HORSE RACING'S owners should be given greater recognition by the sport in order to encourage their levels of interest '“ and investment.

York winner: The scene as Emaraaty Ana wins the Gimcrack Stakes at the Ebor Festival on Knavesmire. (Picture: Tim Goode/PA)

The call was made by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, whose Emaraaty Ana – trained in North Yorkshire by Kevin Ryan – won the prestigious Gimcrack Stakes for two-year-old colts at York’s Ebor festival.

Tradition dictates that the winning owner delivers the Gimcrack speech on the state of the racing and Ahmad Al Shaikh used last night’s black tie occasion at York racecourse to remind guests that media coverage should extend the beyond the victorious jockey and trainer.

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Though Emaraaty Ana’s Gimcrack rider, Frankie Dettori, is no stranger to the limelight, and Hambleton-based Ryan is one of a number of trainers whose successes have transformed Flat racing’s fortunes in Yorkshire and who was winning this Group Two race for a fourth time, it is owners who effectively bankroll the sport.

The Duke of York presents the trophy to the owner of Postponed, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, after winning the Juddmonte International Stakes during day one of the 2016 Yorkshire Ebor Festival at York (Picture: PA)

It is why Sir Peter O’Sullevan faithfully named the owner, trainer and jockey of not just every winner, but also each placed horse, when he was the BBC’s incomparable ‘Voice of Racing’.

Famously, he very briefly mentioned his own name when Attivo carried his colours to victory in the 1974 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and – in retirement – Sir Peter regularly bemoaned the decision of other broadcasters not to follow his meticulous example.

He was backed up by two-time Grand National-winning trainer Jenny Pitman, who told The Yorkshire Post at the time that it was the ultimate for many owners to have a horse good enough to be placed in a race on terrestrial television.

This was echoed in a speech that Ahmad Al Shaikh’s son Adullah, speaking on his father’s behalf, praise “objective” and “supportive” media coverage of racing before making the request for recognition.

“If there is one area where we believe there is room for improvement by the media in general, it is in relation to the recognition given to owners and the role they play,” he said.

“For the most part, the winners of races are described and reported in terms of the jockey and trainer. Yet, for my father and I, as owners, we feel like ‘We selected the horse, we bought the horse, we chose the trainer, and the horse runs in our colours’. So it would be nice to give the owners a bit more credit.

“What appears to have been eroded over time is an appreciation for the role of the owner. You have a situation now on any given meeting when people are tuning in to watch the best races of the day and a horse wins an important race.

“The jockey will be celebrated and the trainer will be celebrated but in most of the occasions, the owner is not mentioned at all. All that is being asked is that the role and identity of the owner is referenced with the same amount of importance in the aftermath of a victory as the trainer and jockey.

“I do not think you need me to tell you that new owners are the lifeblood of the sport and their enjoyment of the experience is fundamental to the future success of British racing.

“Whenever he is in the UK, my father will go racing whenever he can, whether it is for a Class 5 or for a group race. My father enjoys going racing. Many racecourses are trying hard to look after owners, some are better than others but you can tell they are making an effort.”

The comments are timely as ITV looks for an extension of its current four-year broadcasting deal which began in 2017. While it has done more than Channel 4, and the BBC previously, to recognise the work of stable staff, the unsung heroes of racing, it can – on occasion – be at the expense of owners despite the best endeavours of Ed Chamberlin and his co-presenters.

Now sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld-Dubai, the Gimcrack Stakes was first run in 1846 and is one of the centrepieces of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.

Should the connections choose to campaign Emaraaty Ana in next year’s 2000 Guineas, the first Classic of 2018, he will have the opportunity to become the sixth Gimcrack winner to complete this double following Bothwell (1870), Bahram (1934), Palestine (1949), Nebbiolo (1976) and Rock of Gibraltar (2001) when Aidan O’Brien’s champion miler was running in the colours of the then Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.