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How to buy a racehorse – Coral Racing Club guide

| 23.05.2023

Coral Racing Club has teamed up with top trainer Jonjo O’Neill to provide an insight into how to buy a racehorse.

Leading bloodstock agent Matt Coleman also features prominently in a fascinating YouTube video which charts the purchase of a four-year-old mare to run in National Hunt races.

To gain free experience of the thrills involved in owning a racehorse, why not join the fantastic Coral Racing Club?

O’Neill, who trains at the outstanding Jackdaws Castle facility in Cheltenham, begins the feature by explaining the prime target for this purchase.

He states: “We’re looking at four-year-olds that have run in point-to-points in Ireland…we have a budget and hopefully we can get something to fit the budget.”

The Irishman adds: “Hopefully we pick the right one, we all like different ones for different reasons. It’s a bit like your girlfriend, isn’t it? We can’t all pick the same one.

“We know what we want to get, but whether we can get it for the budget, that’s the hard bit, so fingers crossed, we need a bit of luck.”

Whether to dive in or wait is one big question

Most racehorses are sold at public auctions, with prospects paraded and bid for in order of their lot number in the catalogue.

O’Neill reports: “Matt helps us by all our horses, really. He’s a bit like a walking computer when it comes down to pedigrees and form and all that, so he does a good job for us.”

Coleman comments: “It’s a good job but a tricky job trying to find the right horse you want within budget.

“There’s lots of competition, very few people in the world have endless budgets to spend, so it’s part of my job to find the best horse I can to fit the type of horse an owner wants and also within budget.

“I actually probably get more of a buzz if it was a horse for a limited budget because I feel like it’s much more of a challenge to buy a good horse for a small budget.

“In the auction ring, they are sold in catalogue order, so you need to decide if I don’t bid on Lot 3 and wait for Lot 21, for example, am I going to be able to afford 21, when I could have afforded Lot 3!

“There’s all those kinds of decisions to make and factors to bear into consideration before we bid on one.”

O’Neill has trained 26 Cheltenham Festival winners, including Gold Cup hero Synchronised, as well as Grand National star Don’t Push It.

He states: “You always enjoy the sales, because you’re always hoping to pick the right one. If you get one you like at the right money, it’s always satisfying.

“Then when you’ve paid too much for them and they’re not much good, then it’s soul destroying.

“It keeps us all going, we enjoy it and when we get a winner, we think ‘well we’ve conquered the game’.”

Persistence pays off with Irish import acquired

Some horses are sent to auction having already run under Rules or in point-to-point races, while others can be untested, raw individuals of assorted ages.

“Obviously, if you’re buying a horse that’s run, what it’s done on the track is the most important factor,” declares Coleman.

“Whereas, if you’re buying a foal or a yearling, their physicality, how they move, their athleticism is as important as the pedigree.

“Different types of horses require different skills and different points of importance.”

This educational and exciting video charts the search for a horse to represent the Coral Racing Club.

Budget restrictions leave Coleman, O’Neill and Coral’s Simon Clare as underbidders on several targets.

“We picked out a good few nice horses and they’ve just went for too much money,” admits O’Neill. “But we’ll keep trying.”

Persistence pays off, with Irish point-to-point winner Hey Day Baby eventually snapped up to don the Coral Racing Club colours.

“We were pleased to get Hey Day Baby,” reports Coleman. “She’s a filly that we liked, she’s got a good pedigree.

“She’s from the family of a very good filly called Verdana Blue and another good gelding that Nicky Henderson trained called Mr Whipped – both black type performers.

“The angle I saw in her was that each run previously she’d been dropped in at the back, but her latest start when she won, they bounced her out in front.

“I felt they got a lot of improvement out of her for a change in tactics. We saw a few angles that allowed us to afford her, so hopefully we’re right and we’ll find out in time.”

O’Neill concludes: “Good attitude. We’ll go hurdling with her and then look forward to going chasing in time – we’ve plenty of time, really.

“I think hopefully we’ve done the right thing and we’ve got the right horse now.”

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Tony Kelshaw