Our Saturday afternoon, popular syndicate Foxtrot Racing will be represented by their first-ever Grand National runner in the form of Hogan’s Height.
The Jamie Snowden trained gelding ran out a bloodless winner of the Sefton over the National fences in December of 2019, which his hopes of glory at the April showpiece quashed following cancellation of the 2020 renewal due to the ongoing pandemic.
But this weekend, the dream will become a reality for Dan Abraham and co, whose Foxtrot Racing silks are a well-known and easily recognisable entity in the game, with horses in training with the likes of Olly Murphy, Dan Skelton, Dr Richard Newland and Richard Hobson.
With the Merseyside bonanza nearing ever closer, Dan spoke to aintree.co.uk about his life in racing, the benefits of syndicates in the sport, and what a runner in the most popular race of them all means to him.
What makes Foxtrot Racing Syndicates different to others?
Foxtrot Racing has been established 10 years. While we’ve had a huge amount of success during that time on the racecourse, I think what we do off the course is very impressive. Foxtrot provides a fantastic behind-the-scenes view of racing. Members who join have a variety of knowledge and experience but we make sure everyone feels part of the experience through trainer interviews, forums, virtual and ‘real life’ stable visits. Getting to know not just the trainers but everyone involved from the stable staff to the farrier and gaining a real understanding of what’s involved in getting your horse to the racecourse.
Do you believe your previous background in sports coaching and performance has contributed to the success of Foxtrot Racing?
Yes I do. Firstly in buying horses. Racing is in a strange bubble where £20,000 is considered a cheap buy. Think what else you could spend that money on! That’s a huge amount of money to be spending on a horse so we really do our research before buying a horse. I believe performance analysis in racing is well behind other sports. Decisions are made by connections instantly after the race on the back of a jockey’s feedback yet he/she may have only sat on your horse for a few minutes. What other professional sport makes plans based on so little information nd so instantly? We are very focused on our strategy for each horse, the tactics on raceday and implementing a plan in the same way you might do for a football team. Of course like any sport there are uncontrollables, but we try to identify what we can control and give ourselves the best chance by ensuring those things go right.
Are there any specific things you have taken from other sports during your time with Foxtrot Racing?
There are plenty of ideas we’ve looked at with our trainers especially regaring using technology. But one simple example is the impact of rain. Did you know a jockey can put on up to five pounds of weight in a race due to mud and water? Other sports have made real advances in sports clothing and equipment. We’ve looked at why and how that weight is added and what we can do to stop it.
Foxtrot Racing’s seasonal strike rate is consistently around the 25% mark, what is your secret to finding winning horses?
It may sound obvious but Foxtrot Racing buy horses that we think can win. Some people buy horses because they like the breeding, how the horse looks/walks, what a good eye it has and nice big ears. But they don’t always look at the obvious question of what race can this horse win. The crucial things are whether the horse can stay injury-free and what, where, and how many times the horse can win. Once we’ve bought that horse it’s then a case of implementing the strategy and getting the best performances out of that horse over its career.
What happens to your horses after racing?
It’s very important to us that we find good homes for our horses and we always ensure they are well looked after once they have finished racing for Foxtrot. It’s great to see some of our ex-horses competing in Retraining of Racehorse shows, having in a new career in eventing or Team Chasing or just enjoying themselves out in the field.
The syndicate will have its first runner in the Grand National this season, how big of an achievement is this for you?
Any horse that qualifies for the Grand National must be a good horse so it’s an achievement just to have a runner. We had planned to run Hogan’s Height in the 2020 Grand National and were very excited about his chances. He won the Grand Sefton over the National fences last season and everything was falling into place. Sadly the National was cancelled last year. He’s not quite been in quite the same form this season but he loves the fences at Aintree and hopefully he’ll really enjoy himself and run a big race. He cost £26,000 and we’ve had him since he made his racecourse debut. It’s been wonderful to see him develop into a top class chaser and it’s Foxtrot’s first runner in the Grand National so we are very excited.
You have been the chairman of the Racehorse Syndicate Association for the past five years – do you feel the organization plays a big part in promoting racing syndicates?
With the growth of shared ownership, it is vital that there is a channel for syndicate and club managers, as well as their syndicate and club members, to have a say in racing. Before the RSA, no one was standing up for syndicates and clubs. Indeed many people in racing looked down on them. That has now changed dramatically. It’s the only area of ownership that is growing so it’s vital that racing understands the need to support and encourage syndicates and clubs. The role of RSA in representing syndication is crucial to the whole industry.
How can people get involved with Foxtrot Racing?
Simple – visit the website.
Hogan’s Height has made the cut for this year’s Grand National. What are your expectations in the contest for the 10-year-old?
He’ll love the fences and this has been his plan since the race was abandoned 12 months ago. The trip is a slight concern and we’ll be delighted if he gets around.
The syndicate possesses a promising novice in Witness Protection, who made his Cheltenham Festival debut this year in the Coral Cup. What are your hopes for him going forward?
He’ll make a lovely chaser next year. We bought him as a chasing type so anything he does over hurdles is a bonus. He’s a big baby and there is plenty more to come. He’ll go to Cheltenham’s April meeting for his final run over hurdles and I wouldn’t put anyone off having a bet on him there.
Anythingforlove ran a cracker to win the Grade 2 Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices Hurdle at Sandown. Could we see her back in Graded company soon?
She wants soft ground so unless there is a change in the weather she won’t run again this season. She’s a half sister to Sizing John who won the Gold Cup and she’ll go novice chasing next season. We’ll look to win some lower grade races with her first because she qualifies for the Great British Bonus scheme which means she wins an extra £20,000 per race. She’s won three this season already so that’s £60,000 even before prizemoney is considered. It’s a great scheme. She is on a free lease to the syndicate and has provied to be another very good addition to the ‘Foxtrot Stable’.
Any runners to watch out for in the Foxtrot Racing silks?
Witness Protection at Cheltenham in April, Mister Chiang this summer and Saquon next season.