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Syndicate decides to cash in on Johnny Barnes

Captured the imagination: Johnny Barnes, ridden by William Buick, romps home to victory in his maiden race in Yarmouth, Norfolk, in August 2014

Johnny Barnes will be sold at the end of the season with Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing believing it is time to cash in on its flagship horse.

Named after the island’s legendary well-wisher, who died last week at the age of 93, the group-three winner will be auctioned at the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale in Newmarket, Suffolk, in October.

It is hoped Johnny Barnes, who has suffered a frustrating season because of hoof issues, will race at least three more times in the Bermuda pink and navy blue silks.

He is expected to fetch a tidy sum at the Tattersalls — the main auctioneer of race horses in the United Kingdom — with Simon Scupham, the BTR chairman, revealing that selling Johnny Barnes at the end of his fourth year competing was always the plan.

Johnny Barnes, who is trained by John Gosden, was the first horse to be purchased by BTR for 340,000 guineas in December 2013 and is part of the same account as Horseshoe Bay, one of the syndicate’s six horses.

“You have to have closure to these accounts otherwise people are just putting money in and never getting any back,” Scupham said. “We’re looking to have a couple of more good results with him and then sell him.

“He’s a group-three winner so we’re not going to give him away, absolutely not.”

Scupham believes Johnny Barnes has several years of racing ahead of him and admits it will be tough to part ways with a horse who holds a special place in his heart.

He enjoyed several memorable performances in Bermuda’s colours, including his win at the Prix Quincy Barriere group-three race at the Deauville Racecourse in August last year and his runners-up finish in his first group-one race at the Critérium International at Saint-Cloud in Paris in October 2014.

“That group-three victory was a big day in the memory banks and I’d love to see that happen again, I really would,” said Scupham, who is the chairman of Shoreline Insurance Managers in Hamilton.

“He’s a real character and he’s the pet of the yard out of all the horses John Gosden has got.

“He’s done exceptionally well and his name really helped capture the imagination of the Bermudian public.

“You can’t ignore the commercial side of it, though. If you don’t look at opportunities to take a market price on a horse then you’re constantly paying out.”

Johnny Barnes is in rehabilitation near Highclere — the racing syndicate in Berkshire that oversees the BTR operation — and is scheduled to return to the track at Deauville next month.

“The issue with Johnny is that he has delicate feet and when he starts feeling pain he shortens his strides,” Scupham said.

“In his last race [at Windsor last month], which we thought was the perfect ground for him, he never travelled well from the moment he got out.

“We then had a bit of a powwow and decided to take him out of the training yard for a few weeks to rest and freshen him up.

“Johnny has no problem with his head and he will always give 100 per cent to the best of his physical ability.”

Horseshoe Bay, another group-three winner, has also endured an injury-laden fourth-year and may switch from flat racing to jumping if he is able to recover from his tendon problem.

“They scan Horseshoe Bay this month and if all goes well we’ll leave him out for a year,” Scupham added.

“We will then put him in with a trainer in Lambourn called Nicky Henderson, who is famous for jumps and does have flat horses, too.

“Horseshoe Bay will probably end up as a jumper, which believe it or not is better for tendon injuries than flats.

“He could still have a career with jumps and that would be nice because I’ve never had a jumper.”

If, however, Horseshoe Bay is unable to make a full recovery by next summer then he will also be sold at auction.

“If you get to the point when it doesn’t look like he will race again you have to look for a home for him,” Scupham said.

“He wouldn’t have a great deal of value at that point as he wouldn’t be able to race, but hopefully Johnny would pay to cover his way.

“The ultimate goal will be for him to be training with somebody this time next year. He could be quite something in the jumps and it could be a lot of fun.”