We are absolutely delighted to bring this Interview with Richard Farquhar, a self confessed racing fanatic. Richard is part of The Racing Manager team, has been an owner, has a place on the board of Racing Welfare and walked almost 3,000 miles when Walking the Courses for charity.
Can you give us a brief resume of yourself please?
First and foremost, I am a racing fanatic. Small time owner, Racing Welfare Trustee, work for a start-up technology business called The Racing Manager. I came onto the radar of a fair few people in racing when I did my Walking The Courses charity project.
What sparked your interest in horse racing and what was your earliest memory?
My father worked in the game as a young man, initially as a stable lad in Newmarket, then on various studs, including Woodland Stud in Newmarket, which, in those days, stood Hyperion, Alycidon, Never Say Die and Ribot. Quite a roster!
I vividly remember days (normally in sub zero temperatures, raining or snowing!)) at Towcester racecourse, which was our local track. I also remember helping my father make his selections every Saturday for his ITV7 bet!
You have been an owner with a handful of trainers, what has been the highlight and do you still own any horses?
Unquestionably the highlight was being involved with a great group of friends in a two year old, trained by Henry Candy, called Treaty of Paris. He was bought for, in relative terms, buttons in April 2013. He turned out to be an extremely good horse and managed to win the Group 3 Acomb Stakes at the York Ebor meeting, beating The Grey Gatsby in the process. That was some day! We subsequently received an irresistible offer from Hong Kong and consequently sold the horse for a large multiple of what we paid for him!
I am now involved in an extremely small way, with a 4yo with Henry Candy, called Sovereign Duke. We have yet to see the best of him, but he has given us some fabulous days out already, most notably when he ran in the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot last year.
You are on the board of Racing Welfare, a charity that offers support to all staff in racing, how did that come about?
Walking The Courses, the charity venture I undertook during 2015 and 2016, raised about £560,000 for two charities, of which Racing Welfare was one. I think it was pretty obvious that I was/am a massive fan of the charity and once the project was complete in April 2016, they asked me to join the Trustee board, which I was delighted and honoured to accept.
The charity has helped over 2,200 people in 2017 and rely on donations, why should people donate and how can people become involved?
Whenever I or anyone else goes racing, there is a substantial body of people without whom it simply would not take place. Stable lads, starting stalls handlers, groundsmen, racecourse employee, box drivers, the list is long. Away from the racecourse there are even more; stud hands, breaking yard employees, sales company staff.
All these people, and more, are potential beneficiaries of Racing Welfare. When things go wrong, be it physically, mentally or financially Racing Welfare is the charity that stands ready to help people in a multitude of ways.
During Walking The Courses I met many people whose lives have been massively improved by the input of Racing Welfare and that remains the case. Demand for their services has increased massively in recent years, as awareness of the charity has grown.
As you correctly say, we rely 100% on donations to fund the services. I passionately believe that all followers and fans of racing like me, who derive so much pleasure from the sport, should, if possible, contribute as heavily and regularly as possible.
Having said that, every £ counts, and we greatly welcome all donations. The easiest way to donate is via https://racingwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/donate .
Walking the Courses…. Can you tell our readers about how this started and the reason behind the Walk?
My late father died in February 2012 from pancreatic cancer, among the most deadly of all the cancers. Average life expectancy post diagnosis is 5 months, victims have a one in five chance of surviving for a year and a one in thirty chance of living for 5 years.
I was 50 years old a couple of months later. It struck me that I had never done anything meaningful in my life for charity, beyond growing a feeble moustache that looked like a feeble caterpillar! After my father’s death I felt that just once in my life I needed to do something that would make a lasting difference.
At around the same time a friend of mine rang me and mentioned that he had just been to Great Leighs (as Chelmsford City was then called), which completed the set. He had been racing at every course in the UK. That got me thinking about building a charity campaign based on me going racing at every course in the country.
After lots of toing and froing, I resolved to walk from racecourse to racecourse, linking all 60 racecourses, in aid of Pancreatic Cancer UK and Racing Welfare. I wanted to include Racing Welfare as their profile was, without question, much lower than the IJF, but helped so many of the unsung heroes of the sport, without whom it simply wouldn’t happen.
You walked nearly 3,000 miles for two charities. This must have been incredibly hard work… Did you do much training and how can anyone become involved, either by joining the walk or by donating?
I was very fortunate that my employer at the time gave me the time off to undertake the project. Over the six months before I started I did a lot of walking to get myself into the right shape to be able to walk upwards of 28 miles per day. In all I walked 2,910 miles in all weathers throughout the year to complete the project. Yes, it was hard work, but it was the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of my life. I met a huge number of people in racing for whom I have always had immense respect and I am thrilled that a considerable number have become friends: jockeys, trainers, owners, stable staff, members of the media.
(Beyond donating to either charity now, there is no way of getting involved as I completed the project in April 2016)
The Racing Manager…. Is a platform for all information regarding racing in one central hub…. What are the benefits of this service?
We passionately believe that to provide first class communication to syndicate members and owners is absolutely fundamental to the long term health of racing. We all know that owning horses or shares in horses is, in most cases, a triumph of hope over expectation. The reality is that most horses do not reach the heights that owners hope for.
We at The Racing Manager have built a communication platform that we believe significantly enhances the enjoyment of the owner/syndicate member, whilst making the job of communicating easier for the trainer and his staff.
We give subscribers access to a full archive of race replays, we provide full Timeform data relating to their horse, we automatically supply information relating to their horse’s entries, declarations and changes in handicap racing.
We also provide trainers with an app that enables them to very easily relay video/photo/audio content privately to their owners in seconds.
For the syndicate manager (or trainer who manages his own syndicate/racing club), we provide all the tools to do so more easily, more efficiently and more quickly than can/is being achieved by most in the game now.
Do you think racing ownership will be more syndicates than single owners in the future?
I think that syndicates are absolutely crucial to the long term health of the sport. They are the way in which, in most cases, the sole owners of the future first get involved in the sport. Competition for the leisure pound is fierce and racing needs to do all it can to attract newcomers into the sport, both at the fan/racegoer level, but also at the ownership level, via syndicates. In my experience, the enjoyment and pleasure derived from owning a horse is the same, whether you own 0.1%, 1%, 10% or 100%.
Does racing need to change? And if so in what way?
I prefer the word evolve than change. The fundamental foundations of the sport are, I believe, pretty solid.
Prize money is, to my eye, a major issue. When you compare the UK with any other country in the world where racing is developed, we are very much the poor relations. This puts pressure on all participants within the sport: owners, trainers, breeders, racecourses, as well as all ancillary industries who rely on a healthy horseracing industry for their livelihood.
What would I do about it? I would like to see a changein the issue of too much of the money gambled on the sport ending up in the pocket of bookmakers shareholders, rather than going back into the sport. I have high hopes that the revitalisation of the Tote now underway will be the primary driver of this shift.
If they can address (as I think they can) issues surrounding technology, margin, liquidity and product range, I (and I believe most lovers of racing) would far rather bet with the Tote and see a much higher percentage of their losses go back into racing. Look at the incredible prize money in Hong Kong, France, Australia, to name but three, where pool betting is king.
More pool betting brings more prize money, more prize money encourages more to get involved in the sport, it enables the sport to look after its staff better in terms of working conditions and pay, improve facilities across the sport, invest more in technology and facilities, contribute more to charities such as Racing Welfare…….I could go on!
The change will not happen overnight, but on a three to five year view, I think that we could see a seismic shift in betting patterns in this country that could lead to a much healthier sport.
Favourite race seen?
Obviously, given my involvement, to see Treaty of Paris beat the subsequent French Derby and irish Champion Stakes winner in the 2013 Acomb was pretty special.
Outside that, the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup stands alone. When Long Run, Kauto Star and Denman jumped the second last as one I thought I might burst into flames I was so excited. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end thinking about it!
Favourite race course?
Such a difficult question, which post Walking The Courses I get asked a lot!. Of the big tracks I love Goodwood and York. Of the smaller ones I love Fakenham, Hexham, Perth, Ludlow.
But I love all racecourses and would not want to upset any of my friends involved with any of the others!
Treaty of Paris has a very special place in my racing heart for the reasons outlined above.
But I think Many Clouds would be my number one. I have known Oliver & Tarnya Sherwood for many years and I was at Newbury when he won the 2014 Hennessy at Newbury. I was so thrilled for them to be back in the big time.
Clouds subsequently became the equine ambassador of Walking The Courses and I was at Aintree when he won the 2015 Grand National; an amazing day! And I was at Cheltenham to see him beat Thistlecrack in the Cotswold Chase.
Unquestionably his finest hour, which gave me one of the biggest highs I have ever had on a racecourse, followed in a matter of seconds by the lowest low when he so sadly collapsed post race and died. The most beautiful, brave warrior of a horse I have ever seen.
A big thanks to Richard for taking the time to do this interview with us. We would like to take this opportunity to wish Richard all the best for the future.
Pictures – Richard Farquhar… Except Many Clouds – Credit to Francesca Altoft
Interview by Rich Williams