Saturday 24 March 2018

'Downton' family take a punt on attracting Irish race investors

Jessica Brown Findlay, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey
Jessica Brown Findlay, Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael in Downton Abbey
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

British thoroughbred racehorse ownership firm Highclere - which is linked to the family that owns Highclere Castle that was used to film 'Downton Abbey' - is to target investors in Ireland, the Irish Independent has learned.

The company already has one horse in training with Willie Mullins.

Among the syndicate members at Highclere is Hugh Bonneville, one of the stars of TV's 'Downton Abbey'.

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing managing director Alex Smith confirmed that the company is interested in expanding its customer base in Ireland.

"The company over in Ireland will be operated form the UK as at present we only have one horse in training (in Ireland) with Willie Mullins," he said. "We hope to expand our business over there in time and we are always looking to for opportunities to grow the Highclere brand."

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing takes its name from Highclere Castle, the ancestral home of Harry Herbert, who is the youngest brother of the current Earl.

Mr Herbert runs the racing syndicate business, which holds its annual yearling parade at Highclere Stud, which is located on the castle grounds.

Highclere Castle, located in Hampshire, was used to fill the hugely successful TV series between 2010 and 2015.

The number of horses in each syndicate offered by Highclere can vary, as does the number of shares available. The horses are bought for each syndicate by bloodstock agent John Warren, who's also the racing advisor to the British queen.

Mr Warren is Mr Herbert's brother-in-law.

In an interview last year, Mr Herbert said that the company has been very fortunate to have Mr Warren buying its horses.

"Racing is so not elitist because it is an open door for everyone to enjoy," he said.

"Whether it is a fun day out with the family or a dabble into ownership, racing cuts through every social strata and that is so much a part of its magic."

He added: "My share-owners come from every walk of life but everyone gets on brilliantly because there is the common subject matter of their horse which bonds everyone together."

There are usually 10 to 20 shares available in each syndicate, with the cost of each share ranging from about £7,000 to over £47,000 (€8,800 to €60,000).

Most of the horses in each syndicate are sold by the end of their three-year-old careers.

Its 2016 syndicates were named after famous Irish and British writers.

The WB Yeats syndicate included two horses - Redgrave and Tungsten - both of which are Irish. The cost of each share in that syndicate was just under £19,000 (€24,000), and 20 shares were available.

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing has also established arms in the United States, Australia and Bermuda.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business