The Imperial Racing Club have a number of high quality trainers on their roster (Nigel Twiston Davies, Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliot, Lawney Hill and Fergal O’Brien) with Willie Amos being one of the most recent recruits.
The Willie Amos yard is based just outside Hawick in the Scottish Borders and the horse stables and training facilities form part of his 800 acres of land which is also used as a home for over 1300 sheep and 60 cattle (yep Willie is not only a successful racehorse trainer but also a hard working farmer!).
The horses at Willie Amos’s yard (or ranch is maybe a better term!) have the best of both worlds. They have a huge variety of different terrain to fine-tune their races muscles in preparation for their racing duties with the added bonus being that the same facilities instantly transform into a picturesque holiday camp for them to leisurely stroll around on their summer holidays.
When you meet Willie it is clear why he has been chosen as one of Imperial Racing’s string of trainers. He is polite, friendly, approachable, dedicated, hard-working, thoroughly knowledgeable and at the same time it is clear he doesn’t take any crap from anyone! He has very few runners in the summer months and when I asked him if he had a flat licence he simply replied “no I dinnae really like flat racing, in fact I’m no really sure I would fit in with the flat racing folk!”. Safe to say Willie Amos is a National Hunt foot-soldier through and through!
As I mentioned before the main purpose of my visit was to take a look at RINGAROUND. Like most of the Amos string she was out at grass for the summer. How do you get to see the horses at the yard that are out at grass? Well Willie jumps on one of his quad bikes whilst everyone else piles into 4X4′s and you partake in a wonderful spin up and over the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders! As far as a hands on owners experience goes this has to be right up there. Part of the Imperial Racing M.O. is “to provide a high level of personal service making you feel like the sole owner, and provide you with unrivalled access to all aspects of your racehorses training and racing career”. The small group of owners (with children in tow) were clearly having a brilliant time and from a personal point of view there really isn’t many better ways to spend a morning.
We eventually reached RINGAROUND who was sharing a field with JULIA TOO and one other mare (+ an array of sheep and lambs!). Ian Robinson had told me that chasing will be the mare’s game and when you first see her it’s hard to disagree; she is a big lass! The old cliche “anything she does over hurdles will be a bonus” certainly applies to her.
The plan for the mare is to possibly make her comeback around September time with a couple of hurdle runs the immediate targets. She has only had the 1 race to date (a Doncaster bumper in January) and although Chasing is her main target connections still want her to get 2 or 3 hurdle runs under her belt and let her come to herself naturally before unleashing her over the larger obstacles. I had a quick word with Willie about her and he tells me she has been schooled over hurdles and jumped them ‘very well’.
Ringaround was sired by Karinga Bay and a quick look at her pedigree and Dosage figures (2-0-3-0-5 (10) | 0.54 | -0.60) suggests there is plenty of stamina in her. She looks the sort that could make an impact over the middle to long distance trips.
One thing you can guarantee is that she will be fit. When back in full training she will have to face the imposing 6f uphill gallop that Willie Amos has had installed on his land -
This is a fierce uphill gallop that simply cannot fail to get a horse fit and when you see it you start to realise why horses such as a Lie Forrit are tough old buggers! If they have to climb this beast most morning’s then physical fitness and strength are almost assured.
Mini NTF Q&A session with Ian Robinson and Paul Costello
Whilst at the yard I took the time to fire some questions at the Imperial Racing guys -
1) What is the background of the Imperial Racing Club and how did its formation come about?
[Ian Robinson] I founded the Our Friends In The North partnership to find top class chasing prospects, the first newsletter even set out our aim as “to win the Gold Cup”. The idea behind the partnership was to provide a top class ownership experience which was based around a love of national hunt racing and was above all fun. Since Imperial Commanders victory in the 2010 Gold Cup we have had a lot of interest in joining our racing partnerships, and decided to expand the number of horses and partnerships we run. Paul Costello who had run Abbot Racing agreed to come on-board and help me run the new partnerships and we set about finding some nice young horses. The name of Our Friends In The North was a bit of a misnomer as the members are scattered across the UK and Ireland, so we decided to use a new title and given the success of Imperial Commander and the fact we are using the Gold Cup winning colours Imperial Racing seemed the logical banner.
2) What sets Imperial Racing aside from other racing clubs/syndicates?
[Ian Robinson] We are interested in bringing new owners into the sport rather than generating profits.
[Paul Costello]Unlike many other horse racing syndicates we are always aware that we are supplying a service to our members. Far too often we see racing clubs marketed as a fun way to meet new people, yes they are but at Imperial Racing we understand that one of the major parts of this experience is winners. We want your experience to be the best it possible can and having a winner is a major part of that.
3) What are the main benefits of joining Imperial Racing?
[Paul Costello] We offer a real ownership experience with regular trips to the stable, open days, % of prize money and not forgetting our club tie and having your horse run in Gold Cup winning Silks.
4) What do you hope to achieve for your members in the coming seasons?
[Paul Costello] Our ultimate aim is to not only have runners at all the major festivals but winners. We want to emulate the experience had with Imperial Commander with our members. Success doesn’t come easy in horse racing but we feel that a combination of our experience and expertise coupled with some of the best trainers around will get us where we want to be.
[Ian Robinson] We have some really exciting young horses in our initial partnerships. Imperial Leader has already finished second in two bumpers and but for running green would probably have found the winners berth by now. He will come on for his break and is a winner in waiting when he returns. There is also a Winged Love gelding who has shown enough to win a bumper although he will really come into his own over fences, and a Flemensfirth gelding out of a Shernezar mare who is going the right way. We still have shares available!
[Paul Costello] Oh and don’t forget out mare Ringaround, as you saw she has the looks of a real chaser in the making and will come into herself over fence this winter.
5) What do you look for in a trainer when selecting a yard for one of your horses?
[Ian Robinson] We tend to match the horse to the trainer but basically our criteria are very simple; they need to be good with horses and good with owners. Each trainer has his own methods and there are many different ways to train winners, the secret is to try and place the horse in an environment and training regime which keeps them happy and motivated. All of our horses return to Ireland in the summer and the education and pre-training work done by Eyssen and Kevin Ross at Mountop stud has been a very important factor in our continued success. From there we get to learn the character of each horse and can hopefully make the correct choice of trainer.
6) Are there any plans to add any flat horses to the Imperial Racing squad?
[Paul Costello] Dual purpose horse Elysian Heights should be back on the track in the coming months and will be worth following. He will be the clubs first and only flat runner this season. Going forward we hope to have around 30% of our string running on the flat.
[Ian Robinson] We bought him (Elysian Heights)out of last year’s horses in training sale with a leg problem which has now been resolved, he has certainly improved physically for his break and should continue to improve. The three runs he had for Jeremy Noseda as a 2-y-o showed a bit of promise and we think as well as the physical improvement he will improve for a step up in trip. He is a half-brother to two 100 rated flat performers (Jessica’s Dream and Majors Cast) and he is very well bred being by Galileo.
7) The Imperial Racing Club obviously has strong connections to former Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander (Ian Robinson), is there any news on how he is progressing and is there any targets in mind for his return?
[Ian Robinson] He is a very happy horse in a field in Ireland and looks fantastic. He has a 12% hole in a tendon which brought last season to an abrupt end before he saw any action on the track. I am not a great believer in stem cell treatment so he spent his break doing endless amounts of walking on the roads and the horse walker. A scan just after Christmas showed that the hole had healed and please god he should be ready to return in November. We will give him plenty of roadwork to condition his legs before we attempt any strenuous exercise and hope it all holds together. Whatever happens he will make his own decision as to where he goes from here, he certainly owes us nothing and the day he shows any sign that he doesn’t want to be a race horse anymore will be his last in training. Once we get him back to the Twiston-Davies yard and Richard “Sparky” Bevis gets on-board we will have a better idea of whether he has retained all of his ability, but as it stands he would be aimed at the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
For more information on Imperial Racing and what they have to offer make sure they visit their web-site -
LIE FORRIT & JULIA TOO
It would have been rude of me not to pick up some info on a couple of Willie Amos’s other runners so here is the news of Lie Forrit and Julia Too -
LIE FORRIT - I didn’t actually get to see the stable star as he was on his summer holidays on his own in one of the fields at the other end of Willie’s ranch. When I asked why he was on his own Wille told me that if he is in a field with others, especially a ‘buzzy’ sort like Willie Hall, then he starts fighting with them! Essentially Lie Forrit is a boy you don’t mess with! The horse is still in grand order and basically last season ended in a frustrating manner. They were all primed for a tilt at the Uttoxeter National with him but the fast ground meant they could not run him and then when preparing him for his second target (the Scottish National) the yard got a small cough and Willie decided it was best to draw stumps instead of risking them when potentially not 100%. It was very clear Willie was frustrated by all this (naturally) and Lie Forrit goes into this season the same horse with the same sort of targets; long distance chases with cut in the ground.
Fingers crossed for a clear run….
JULIA TOO - The mare looked in fine fettle with herself. She will be jumping hurdles this season and Willie will be aiming her at Galloping tracks (such as Hexham & Carlise). She needs soft ground (the softer the better) and is a much better horse when she is held up. Her 2 runs last season did not go to plan (wasn’t held up at Ayr and ground was too quick at Carlise) but Willie thinks if he can get her in a race with her optimum conditions then she should win. In Willie’s words “she just keeps galloping”.
Personally this is a horse I like and as Willie says if he can get her on her optimum conditions I think she will win.
A big thanks to the guys at Imperial Racing and Willie Amos and fingers crossed both have a fantastic 2012/13 National Hunt season.