We are delighted to present the BIG Interview with Mark Kelly Racing.
Mark tells us all about his life watching racing, as an owner & now running a Syndicate….
When did you first take an interest in horse racing?
Being from Liverpool I’ve attended Aintree Race Course probably from the age of 3 or 4. My father is a huge racing fan and we would regularly attend 1 day of the Grand National Festival and a couple of other meetings throughout the year.
Haydock and Chester Race Courses are also within 30 minutes of where I lived growing up so we would make use of any little free time my father had outside of work by spending a day at our local courses.
When did you first set up the syndicate & why?
I’ve been an owner since May 2017 and had never planned on setting up a racing syndicate. I’ve had horses with Donald McCain, Fergal O’Brien and Rebecca Curtis and with the Goffs 2021 May Spring Store Sale (Doncaster) on the horizon I was initially looking at available names on the BHA name checker.
The maximum characters available is 18 so I typed in YoulNeverWalkAlone and it popped up available. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I checked and rechecked and proceeded with purchasing the name to secure it.
It was my wife Claire’s idea initially. Her words “you can’t own outright a horse with a name like that, the words mean so much to so many people, why don’t you look at a syndicate”? The BHA and ROA have plenty of information in starting racing syndicates and after talking the idea through with my business partner Steve, we decided to appoint Fergal O’Brien as our trainer and asked him to find us a nice horse.
Steve and I attended Goff’s Doncaster Spring Store Sale in May 2021 and met up with Fergal O’Brien and his partner Sally. We had plenty of conversations before the auction but Fergal wanted us to attend on the day so we could experience the day fully. We originally had 7 or 8 horses picked out from the brochure. But Fergal and Sally liked the look of a gelding By Walk In The Park. I never initially looked at this horse as I didn’t think he would be in our budget. The horse went through unsold as it never met the reserve price so it was a quick dash down to the vendor where with the help of Fergal and Sally we managed to agree on a price.
The horse was then sent back to Christy Mews to begin his pre training / breaking in and our journey as a syndicate was about to begin.
We finalised our syndicate 14th July 2021 and went live with a soft launch. Our official launch was 17th July 2021 with our website, twitter and Facebook pages all ready to accept enquiries etc.
Had you previously been a syndicate member or an owner of a horse prior to starting the syndicate?
I had purchased micro shares with a couple of other syndicates as gifts for friends and family. From the information and welcome packs received along with communication I thought had a good idea of what was required when putting our syndicate together. (I was so WRONG)
I had purchased my first horse, O’Hanrahan Bridge in Spring 2017 and placed him with up and coming trainer Rebecca Curtis based in Pembrokeshire. I had been introduced to Rebecca by a fellow owner.
O’Hanrahan Bridge was a point to point winner and not long after purchasing him he was ready to run and made his debut at Ffos Las in Wales. On a very cold and wet day in South Wales in quite a competitive bumper he finished a very credible fourth, just 2 lengths behind the eventual winner. Unfortunately O’Hanrahan got an injury which led him to being out for best part of 2 years.
I moved him closer to home and stabled him with Donald McCain at his Malpas training base in Cheshire. This was only 20 minutes from work and meant I could see the horse regularly during his recovery. To get over the disappointment of his injury I approached Donald over purchasing a new point to point horse. We picked up a lovely mare, who had won her point to point in Ireland and brought her over to the UK.
Her name was Goffsbridge Girl, she was a beautiful horse but struggled with stomach ulcers so never really showed her true potential. After 2 seasons and O’Hanrahan Bridge back in training we decided to retired Goffsbridge Girl, who headed to a new life as a dressage horse.
We found her a new owner up North who adores her and from our last reports she’s doing great.
O’hanrahans return was a very emotional and nerve racking experience. Being out for so long a horse can lose its appetite for racing. Not O’Hanrahan Bridge. He was Mr. Consistent with finishing runner up 6 times (5 in a row) and eventually winning his (and mine as an owner) first race at Carlisle in a 3m hurdle Handicap in November 2020.
I added our 4th horse in December 2021 called Kensington Art. An ex flat horse, who was owned by Donald McCain. He had won 3 times during the season and was for sale. He was only 6 and I thought he would be a great syndicate horse.
Having a syndicate set up but waiting on the horse to be ready to run this gave us great momentum as Kensington Art was ready to race. We set up our second syndicate and emailed all current members. Withing a few days we had sold over 250 shares. We wanted to price it up competitively so we went with £33 a share for a 12 month term. Kensington Art finished 3rd on his second outing for Mark Kelly Racing and followed it up with the syndicates first success by winning a handicap hurdle at Huntingdon ON THE 10TH Feb 2022.
After that meeting we had aimed him at the Go North Series Final up in Musselburgh. Unfortunately when challenging for the lead 2 jumps out he fell and unfortunately died. This was the lowest moment we’ve had in racing and I hope we never have to experience it ever again. We had around 200 members attend on the day and it was a terrible way to lose such a young promising horse.
We had only one option as a syndicate and that was to do our best to replace our Kenny. At my own expense and with the help of trainer Donald McCain, we sourced and purchased a new 5 yr old gelding from Ireland who had become available after finishing 2nd in an Irish Maiden hurdle at 100/1. His name was Kerosine Light (2017 Gelding by Ask). It wasn’t long before we had our first entry at Bangor in early May this year. Kerosine Light stole the show by winning impressively by 9 lengths and backed it up 2 weeks later winning at Warwick.
He’s since finished a credible 3rd at Aintree and won in July at Cartmel before a stewards enquiry reversed the decision.
Kerosine Lights impressive performances didn’t end there. He returned to Cartmel on the 27th August after being entered in The prestigious Cartmel Cup (Class 3)
We had Champion Jockey Brian Hughes booked for the ride and again over 300 members in attendance on a fantastic sunny day. A very fast pace was set initially leaving Kerosine towards the rear of the field but as the race progressed he moved slowly through picking horses off one by one before being brought to challenge the leader in the home straight. Keroisne Light got to the front with 50 yards remaining and was pulling away when crossing the line to win for the 3rd time this season and join the list of some very good horses as the Cartmel Cup Champion for 2022.
He picked up a slight bruised leg at the finish but has since fully recovered and is now on finishing his late Summer break before starting his Chasing career in early December. He’s only 5 yrs old and already rated at 123. He’s a special talent and we’re really looking forward to 2023 with him.
And that’s where we’re currently are. 2 really good young horses moving forward into the Autumn.
Why did you set up the syndicate?
It was never something I thought I’d get involved with. I always saw syndicates as individual business connected or run by stables or horse people. But with social media exploding over the last 5 years quite a lot of industries have become more open and available to infiltrate for the average person. Joining a couple of groups on Facebook and following other syndicates it seemed a good idea to get more like minded people involved and evolve the syndicate to eventually fund more horses and grow our member database.
I didn’t realise it would be such hard work and its become a business within a business due to the amount of interest we have had. It’s basically become a full time job for 2 members of staff and myself assisting. Newsletters, Picture and videos of the horses in training, arranging stable visits, Race days and creating ballots for Owners badges, answering messages from new or potential members, building welcome packs and creating share certificates are just some of the daily / weekly tasks. Working direct with Twitter and Facebook commercial teams on creating adverts and marketing our syndicate takes up quite a lot of time.
All of the above alongside the financial side of running a syndicate was initially a shock but we have created a really great number of social media groups and forums. Many of our members get involved regularly and on our Facebook pages where we have an ITV7 Racing competition, A Racing Tips page, A Fantasy Football competition plus loads of content being uploaded by members including days out at race courses etc.
What do you look for when buying a syndicate horse?
The Sire is very important. Also the Dam (Mother) line is equally important. Your looking for brothers or half brothers or sisters etc who have initially done well. Listed or Group Race wins further down the family chain are also crucial but as you can imagine the better the bloodline the more expensive the horse will be.
How many horses do the syndicate currently have in training & with whom?
2 horses currently in training.
YoulNeverWalkAlone in training with Fergal O’Brien
Kerosine Light in training with Donald McCain
We also have 2 nice young store horses awaiting pre training for 2024.
What do you look for in a trainer?
Initially with Donald we wanted a proven trainer with great facilities, a great team around him and his partnership with Champion Jockey was the icing on the cake.
Fergal O’Brien is based close to Cheltenham which was important for us as we wanted a Northern and Southern trainer. Fergal’s yard is close to Cheltenham but more importantly Fergal has a great social media following which we thought was very important in helping us build our syndicate.
If you could own any horse, who would it be & why?
I would of loved to of owned Native River. He was the best horse I’ve ever seen live at Aintree and was a super star. Of course Red Rum and his incredible 3 wins and the magical recovery story of Aldaniti and jockey Bob Champion is another horse I would of loved to of owned. Both horse and jockey recovering from severe illness and injury to win The Grand National and the theme tune that goes with the victory is very emotional.
If you could send any horse to any trainer, who would it be & why?
I would choose the two trainers we have now. I owe Donald McCain a lot as he got my first horse O’Hanrahan Bridge back to full fitness and gave us plenty of great days at the races. Fergal has been great also so I wouldn’t change anything right now.
I do like Dan Skelton and have spoken with him about our next horse but I wouldn’t move away from these 3 if I’m honest.
If you could have a syndicate horse win or run in any race, what would it be & why?
For me its got to be the Grand National. But any race at the Festival would be a dream come true.
Why should people join a racing syndicate & how can they get involved in yours?
Its very expensive to own outright a race horse and even on a good run of results and prize money its difficult to break even. Horse racing is a sport that attracts people from all walks of life. Micro shares or low cost share syndicates offer the chance to everyone who follows racing the opportunity to actually feel like an owner. Regardless of a syndicate having 500, 1000 or 3000 members the micro syndicate shares make you feel like you own the horse. Especially with social platforms offering great social engagement between members, access to videos and pictures of your horse, trainer updates etc it’s a magical feeling and I truly believe most members who have shares in horses truly feel that they own the horse outright. And that’s how it should feel.
It’s a fantastic gift option as well. Many of our members have shares in 5/6 horses at a time. Some purchased for them as gifts and some they have purchased themselves. They refer to it as there stable. Its gives a little bit of interest and enjoyment and if your lucky to be allocated Owners Badges for a race day then that’s an experience you cant put a price on. Mixing with the stars of the industry in the Owners and trainers lounges before being in the parade ring before the race is very overwhelming but an unbelievable experience.. Plus you have the opportunity to attend stable visits. These are wonderful days and you get to see how the horses train and how they are looked after. Again you cant put a price on that experience.
Benefits of joining our syndicate are:
You receive a welcome pack and share certificate (inc picture of the horse)
The chance to apply for Owners Badges on race day or discounted tickets
Pictures and videos of the horse
Access to social media pages and group.
Our website is www.markkellyracing.co.uk
We would like to thank Mark for his time & will be looking out for the syndicates horses when they run
All the best to the Mark Kelly Syndicate for the future.
Pictures from Mark Kelly (Except FOB & Bob Champion/Aldaniti – File)
Arseonlineracing Publication – Published : October 2022