We are delighted to bring you this interview with John Dance. Today we talk buying horses, cars & of course, Laurens….
When did your interest with horse racing first begin?
In the late 90’s when I was working in investment banks, many colleagues loved a flutter and exposed me to the sport more than previously and I became intrigued by form and form analysis.
At what point did you buy your first race horse and how did that come about?
We bought our first horse just before the 2014 flat season began, a 2 year old named Arcossi, fortunately we bought a few via the breeze ups a few weeks later as Arcossi was particularly useful and could easily have put us off if it weren’t for the couple of nicer ones we thankfully had up our sleeve. Arcossi was an absolutely gorgeous mover but we always joked that she put so much effort in to looking good she had nothing left to go fast!
You have the very familiar racing colours, who came up with that idea?
The colours are broadly based on Vertem’s corporate colours at the time we started racing, or as close as we could get with what was available, white with purple and pink details (though maroon was the closest available). They are quite striking colours though and I couldn’t imagine having anything else now.
If my research is correct, you have owned or run over 30 horses in the last 2 years, how do you find the time?
That would be about right, to be honest we don’t really have time to travel and watch the majority run, Laurens aside (and we even missed her win a Group 1 this season) we haven’t made it to see many runners live at all this year.
Spending a weekend or evening catching up with trainers on horses progression and planning where and when they might run is something I find very enjoyable and is a great mental distraction from day to day work thoughts.
I understand your other passion away from racing is Cars….. What would be the dream car for John Dance?
Tricky one, I suppose it would probably be a McLaren P1 GTR and in said dream I’d probably live at Spa Francorchamps so I could drive it properly!
You are quoted as saying ‘ We buy young untested horses and watching them develop is a real joy’ …. What do you look for when purchasing a horse?
Buying them as yearlings you can never quite tell how much they’ll grow despite all the normal signs, but I like a decent sized horse that is well proportioned and looks healthy. We look at how the horse walks, how it extends its front legs, how athletic it is and something learned from watching Sir Henry Cecil, how it uses its rear.
Ideally fillies would have a pedigree for future breeding potential, but for colts the individual itself is more important.
Obviously I cannot get through this interview without talking about Laurens…. How did you come about purchasing her and did you expect to win 5 Group 1 races & a Group 2 when you purchased her?
She was offered at the Goffs Premier Sale in 2016 and as soon as I saw her she blew my mind. She was big, beautifully put together, elegant and she oozed class, I think she already thought she was a bit special even back then!
We had budgets for a few horses at that sale and whenever we managed to buy one under budget the difference was added to the Laurens budget so keen were we to get her. We probably still spent more than we should and I panicked after that her price was nearer what we should be selling horses for, not buying them at. We optimistically dreamt there and then that she would go back to France one day for the Prix Diane but you never really expect to ever have a Group 1 or even Group 2 horse when you first buy them.
If somebody had offered me a Listed win there and then from her I would have bitten their hands off! I’m not convinced that what she has achieved since has really sunk in as it seems so surreal.
You got a touch emotional on Twitter, when she won the Matron Stakes, did you feel that she had been underestimated having already won 3 Group 1 races?
Yes to a certain extent especially as she was unbeaten over a mile at 2 and had only ran over a mile once at 3 when coming second on her seasonal reappearance in no less than the Guineas. But more than that, I felt that not just Laurens but the whole field bar one horse were being belittled on the day and for I was confident we would run a massive race there was more than just one rival that was a danger.
As I understand it, Laurens will be racing next season… What does the future hold beyond the 2019 season?
Next season will be her last racing for us, after that is more unknown. She will almost certainly start a career as a broodmare but whether we gamble and do that ourselves or sell her to one of the big boys I’m not sure yet.
Can you give our readers a horse or two to follow for either the All Weather or next season?
Whenever I mention a horse before its ran I always seem to put a jinx on it so apologies in advance, I’ve mentioned Robotique Danseur previously so perhaps another current 2yo we haven’t seen worth mentioning is a Dark Angel filly named Hareem Queen. I suspect we won’t see either until at least March hopefully on the all weather at Newcastle.
Talking of which, we have a 2yo with Jedd O’Keefe who suffered a knee injury on his second start. Devils Angel, with any luck we should see him for the second half of the all weather season and I’m sure he’s capable of winning races. (Hopefully not famous last words)
It has been a real pleasure to talk to John about his interest in racing and we would like to thank him for his time and wish him all the best with Laurens for next season and the rest of his string for the future, as with owners like John, it looks very bright.
Interview – Rich Williams