Owners Group looking forward to festival targets

Thu 2 Feb 2023

Success continues to breed success for the Owners Group syndicate, who enjoyed their most successful weekend to date with five winners last week.

Donald McCain’s Maximilian landed the Grade Two River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster and the Paul Nicholls-trained duo of Stage Star and Hacker Des Places claimed handicaps at Cheltenham.

They were supplemented by the victories of Unit Sixtyfour at Fontwell and Richhill at Southwell on Sunday for the microshare syndicate.

Dan Downie, racing manager of the syndicate, said: “It was a very good weekend. We’d had a slow start to January, like everybody because of the weather, and we thought it was going to be a busy weekend but to have five winners was extraordinary.

“Donald told me Maximilian got a bigger cheer coming back in than when he won the Grand National!”

Despite winning a notable trial for the Albert Bartlett, though, Maximilian will skip the Cheltenham Festival and wait for the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

“I loved the way he looks after himself, he’s not particularly flashy and he’s almost lazy the way he goes through a race but he jumped the last, came alive and he’s got a lot up his sleeve it looks like,” said Downie.

“Donald said he’d almost given up and I started to think that, but then Brian (Hughes) gave him a squeeze and he came back on the bridle again. He’s very good. He races like a real staying hurdler. He wouldn’t be the biggest in the world and while all options are open, he does look a staying hurdler at this stage.

“We’d spoken previously about where we’d like to end up this year and we’re happy to miss Cheltenham and aim for Aintree with him.”

Stage Star jumped impeccably at Cheltenham
Stage Star jumped impeccably at Cheltenham

Stage Star, a Grade One-winning novice hurdler, looked a class apart when defying top weight in the usually informative Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

“Stage Star was very impressive. On a day like that when everything goes well, he looks very good,” said Downie.

“To be fair to him, he has had excuses when he’s been beaten but he looked a very good horse on Saturday. It’s not like he just throws the towel in.

“We’ve had brief conversations with Paul but nothing is concrete. He will go to Cheltenham but we haven’t discussed it more than that really.

Hacker Des Places is very tough, too. He’s not very big but he’s a strong traveller, he jumps well and loves those big fields and hopefully the Betfair Hurdle should suit him down to the ground.

“The aim is to just keep going and not lose sight of everyone who is involved, that’s the point. It’s not to get them involved, it’s to keep them involved.

“The horses are selling really well and I hope it is giving people a chance to get involved as we know how expensive having a racehorse is. Hopefully it is doing the job for everyone.”

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