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Herbert sees good times ahead for syndicate

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Harry Herbert, the man behind Highclere, one of the most successful racing syndicates in the world, believes the second chapter of the Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing story should make for equally enthralling reading as the first.

Johnny Barnes, BTR's flagship horse, named after the legendary morning well-wisher, provided a gripping narrative for the opening stanza, finishing runner-up in his first group one race at the Critérium International at Saint-Cloud, in Paris, to sign off his scintillating maiden season.

With Horseshoe Bay, who is part of the same Longtail account as Johnny Barnes, also showing flashes of promise, with an impressive fourth-place finish in his first outing at Lingfield, Herbert, whose company oversees the BTR operation, is optimistic that there are giddy times ahead for the private venture.

“For Johnny Barnes to be a group one horse already after one season is phenomenal,” said Herbert, whose Berkshire-based company puts together small groups of individuals to share in a number of top-quality racehorses.

“The plan is for Johnny Barnes to run in a 2,000 Guineas trial — the first Classic race of the year for colts. It could be at the English, Irish or French 2,000 Guineas, where [the going] would be soft. We want to play to his strengths.

“Horseshoe Bay is the lurker, though, the exciting one for next year. He needs a bit more time to mature and develop, but he ran a great race on his debut.

“I suspect Horseshoe Bay will run on any ground; he's a classic, beautiful scopey horse — the size and strength that Sir Michael Stoute [arguably the most successful Flat trainer in British history] excels with. He could turn out to be a Derby horse.”

Herbert, who started Highclere in 1992, swiftly becoming the European leader in the field of syndication, also has lofty expectations for BTR's latest Bermuda-themed horses — Sir George Somers and Castle Harbour.

George Somers, named after the founder of Bermuda, is the son of Cape Blanco, who won the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, and the grandson of Galileo, a prolific sire of racehorses best known for winning the Epsom Derby and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

The impeccably bred chestnut colt, costing 340,000 guineas (£357,000) and trained by Stoute, also has strong breeding on his mother's side, whose father, Fusaichi Pegasus, triumphed in the Kentucky Derby in 2000.

Smaller in stature and slightly cheaper at 200,000 guineas, Castle Harbour, also a yearling, will be trained by the revered John Gosden, who has masterminded Johnny Barnes's meteoric rise.

Castle Harbour, the son of Kyllachy, whose father, Pivotal, has been a prolific sire of stallions, and Sir George Somers will race next year.

“For BTR to have started with Johnny Barnes and Horseshoe Bay is very promising,” said Herbert, who was approached by Simon Scupham, chairman of Shoreline Insurance Managers in Hamilton, to help to establish BTR.

“Touch wood they will remain healthy and BTR should have a very exciting year ahead with the next two [Sir George Somers and Castle Harbour] coming along.

“Sir George has a fantastic pedigree; a must-have horse. There are lots of ticks in the right boxes and we think he can be anything. He's bred to be a Derby winner of the future.”

Herbert works closely with John Warren, his brother-in-law who is widely regarded as one of the world's leading bloodstock advisers, buying yearlings and visited Bermuda recently to meet the part-owners of BTR's four horses at a private function at Beau Rivage, at Newstead Belmont Resort.

Although BTR is a high-end syndicate, Herbert reiterated to the owners that there was no exact science to buying successful horses and that spending large sums of money did not always equate to time spent in the winner's enclosure.

“It was a bold move from Simon [who has interests in nearly 100 Highclere horses] to go off-piste and establish BTR, which has generated a lot of interest in Britain,” Herbert said.

“Simon wants proper pedigree underneath each horse to give [the part-owners] the best chance of being involved with a top-class horse and Johnny Barnes is a seriously exciting one.

“It isn't an exact science, however, otherwise Sheikh Mohammed and the Qataris would be running away with everything after spending about 20 million guineas on horses this year, and they're not.

“BTR is certainly sitting pretty and as the story unfolds hopefully more people with Bermudian connections will want to get involved. It's a very private and unusual syndicate.”

Fast track: Johnny Barnes, ridden by William Buick, powers to victory in the Wymeswold Conditions Stakes at Leicester in October
Herbert, left, the Highclere chairman and managing director, visits the Hamilton office of Scupham, the chairman of Bermuda Thoroughbred Racing Ltd, during a recent trip to the Island

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Published December 09, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 09, 2014 at 11:03 am)

Herbert sees good times ahead for syndicate

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