Ian Robinson 06/08/2018
Eden Collonges

Whilst we leave no stone unturned our annual recruitment drive seems to focus more and more on the Goff’s Land Rover and Tattersalls Derby sales held in Ireland in June. The selection of store horses at the Doncaster May sale is smaller and, in our view, lacks the depth of the Irish sales. Nor were we attracted to the inaugural running of the store's sale at Tattersalls Ireland in May, as the selections and profile of horses made a limited appeal.

Gone are the days when you could buy a wide selection of horses out a field, and even where you still can in France the prices have exploded as the success of French jump recruits at the top level has risen every year.

We go to the sales every year with the aim of continuing to improve the quality of our portfolio whilst keeping the ownership experience affordable. Since 2014 this task has become more and more difficult as prices have continued to rise sharply. Historically the bloodstock market has run ahead of the global economy, let’s hope the trend is continuing and we are set for a period of increasing prosperity. It is not clear what is driving prices, but it is clear the profile of the buyers in the national hunt sphere has changed substantially. A small number of high profile buyers dominate the market more than ever before, and the Irish point to point trainers have established operations of greater scale which fuel demand. Sales prices for point to point graduates have hit the stratosphere, which in turn has increased the base price point to point trainers will pay for store horses.

Against this background buying store horses has become a perilous past time as even when you spot a horse you would like to buy it is likely you will get ripped apart in a bidding frenzy once the horse enters the ring. Tattersalls and Goff’s don’t sell horses they sell dreams. Dreams of owning the sort of horse that might win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and those dreams can come true! Even if they don’t it will provide the ultimate adrenaline kick and days of endless enjoyment with friends on the racecourse.  

Then there is the consideration of pedigree over the individual in front of you. As the entire evolution of the thoroughbred has been based on breeding the best stallions to the best female lines it clearly cannot be ignored. The consideration in National Hunt racing is stamina over speed, at a time when breeders seem to be obsessed with speed. The result of the race for speed in the breeding ranks has seen the gradual erosion of the big old-fashioned chaser from the horses presented at the sales. As the flat stallions become lighter and the old national hunt dam lines decline it is likely to be a trend that will continue.

There are many horses which simply belie their pedigree such as IMPERIAL COMMANDER who was the only black type, or semblance of a racehorse in his entire pedigree. But he was a gorgeous individual and a great athlete which made him easy to buy. In truth his pedigree was not without hope as Flemensfirth his sire came with a big reputation, and his dam Ballinlovane was a tough racehorse with stamina in abundance having won three Irish points. Not to mention that the dam sire was top class stayer Le Moss. The same Flemensfirth to Le Moss cross also produced Tidal Bay so it is easy to see how pedigree can become an obsession. At the time of purchase the first crop of Flemensfirth were 3-y-o’s so his reputation was built on his exploits in Japan. We will return to this theme when we come to one of this seasons recruits who is by the little-known sire Davidoff, but a fantastic athlete.

In our case it is a fleeting consideration, given any athletic horse with good conformity and a top-class pedigree is beyond our budget. Equally any horse with a top-class pedigree who lacks athleticism or has poor conformity is to great a risk at any price to merit our consideration. So, we are left shopping in an overcrowded middle tier looking for horses with good conformity and athletic prowess hopefully backed up by their pedigree.

Whilst the market is becoming increasingly competitive we do have one advantages in that  we have the services of what I consider to be the best bloodstock agent in the business in Kevin Ross (not to forget his wife and business partner Anna). We have also developed a way of narrowing the field which is based on a clear understanding of the type of horse we are looking for, and whether they are likely to fall into our price bracket. Ultimately we are looking for horses who will go onto to jump a fence, and we are prepared to give them as much time as required. Our ideal model is scopey, athletic, good conformity and movement (no horse is perfect, so you must decide what you can forgive), a good attitude, and a likely to have the ability to clear a fence at speed in the longer term. The compromise is usually pedigree and buying horses who are going to take time. Where other buyers and trainers want horses to go to the track in a short time, we are happy to buy a more backward individual and give him the time to mature. Store horses take a lot longer to get to the track but you are buying raw potential, and avoiding existing problems or ailments which can be inherent in point to point horses or graduates from the flat. You are buying raw potential and the ability to mould it as best you can.

Buying stores allows us to get greater value from the market. Although the horses we buy are often not as forward the horses who fetch the top prices, they are often athletes with huge potential but simply less attractive to buyers who want to a horse to get on the track in quick time. We have never pushed our younger horses further than they want to go at any stage. Our philosophy had been to let the horse tell us when he was ready to press on, and more importantly, tell us when he wanted a break. For that reason, some of our horses are bought a year before they are  even syndicated. This is because they needed time and it takes the pressure off when you don’t consider the immediate requirement of owners who understandably want to see their pride and joy on a racecourse. We have several such horses who will reward the patience of their owners this coming season.

Imperial Racing has always been purely about the enjoyment of racing and the thoroughbred racehorse. We don’t run for profit, and we measure our success by the experiences and enjoyment of our owners. Our aim is to make ownership easily accessible and move the owners closer to the horse. With the ownership experience not just being based around spending 5 minutes in the parade ring before the horse runs. Our Champagne Day which opens our season takes place at Mount Top Stud near Belfast on the 24th August. This gives our owners an early opportunity to get close to their horses as they complete their training. A mixture of our trainers and the staff who look after the horses in their training yards are in attendance. There is an abundance of champagne and a long lunch to socialise with fellow owners and horse lovers after the event.

The joy of National Hunt racing is the absence of the negativity that has pervaded all the other major sports, with lack of sportsmanship, integrity and greed oozing through the fabric of the mainstream sports. In the last few weeks, we have seen Bryony Frost bounce off the ground having been thrown from a galloping horse at more than 30 mph, trodden on by a horse behind when she is lying on the ground, and insisting she walks to the ambulance to be transported to the hospital. Contrast that against Neymar falling over and squealing when another player very nearly made contact with his leg. For that reason, we should be wary of the racecourses drive to attract a new audience and maximise their return on assets. The recent viewing of inebriated brawls shows the agenda of the racecourses is more driven by attracting volume than the quality of participant. The individuals in question have no interest in horses or horseracing, they are not the same as us and not needed in our sport. They cannot be allowed to detract from the grace, courage, power and spirit of the equine athletes that take part in the sport. Or from the work ethic, humility, and professionalism of the stable staff who tend to every need of the horses they love, and who themselves make exceptional company. The racecourses, their control of image rights and their prioritisation of return on capital over the needs of our sport will become the biggest challenge we face going forward. In another era, the only racecourses open may well be those that they couldn’t get permission to build houses on. And the race programme may well be curtailed in order that the resident boy band can complete their performance in time to get home and complete their homework assignments.

It has been a mixed season for IMPERIAL RACING with two major setbacks dampening the atmosphere. The loss of a horse is never easy to bear but losing two such promising horses in quick succession was an almost unbearable blow. The first came in the loss of AN CAISTEAL NUADH to a gallops accident. AN CAISTEAL NUADH was always a difficult horse to train but had an abundance of talent. Gordon Elliot was convinced he would have won the beginners chase at Fairyhouse the day after his accident. He had long periods off the track during his career, and his loss was felt even more deeply as it came at a time he seemed to be getting it all together. His jumping at Fairyhouse when finishing third on his chasing debut was joyful, and it appeared fences would have been very much to his forte.


IMPERIAL ELOQUENCE had a disappointing season and bled on his final appearance at Musselburgh. He had high class bumper form and was clearly capable of much better than his recent form would suggest. We had barely got into his summer program before we tragically lost him to colic and a twisted gut which proved inoperable. Another who would have been seen at his best over fences, and a loss of great potential.  

Despite the more competitive conditions, we believe IMPERIAL RACING enters next season in a strong position. We have been successful in increasing the quality of our portfolio year on year, and we have a nice group of young horses who will progress next season. In addition, we have added three more high-quality individuals to the group from our acquisitions in the Goff’s Land Rover Sales and Tattersalls Derby Sale.

We will start the season with fifteen horses running in our Gold Cup winning colours, with more to be added before it ends.

DEPUTY COMMANDER has never been the luckiest of horses and we hope he will have a change of fortune this season. He is currently side lined with a tendon injury but was back in pre-training for the back end of last season. He will have a full scan of the leg before he commences any more training and we will decide on targets from there. He jumps fences well and with another drop in his handicap rating for his absence he must surely return of a highly competitive mark. His owners have been more than patient and we really need to see him back to his best or consider options going forward.

EDEN COLLONGES is no taller than one of our favourites IORA GLAS. He is our sole representative in the point to point field and has been progressing in Northern Region maidens. He was purchased as a foal in France from the same stud as Neptune Des Collonges. We haven’t pressed any serious buttons yet, but he has been ridden by top point to point jockey John Dawson who believes him to be capable of winning a maiden next time out. Where we go from there is yet to be decided. His young trainer Jacqueline Coward is Mick Easterby’s granddaughter and proving very capable with multiple winners in point to points and under rules. We may offer him on a no upfront fee and monthly upkeep only basis to compete in staying hurdles in the North. His trainer thinks he is more than capable of winning a few.   

IMPERIAL ACOLYTE is another who wouldn’t be the tallest, but he has a great attitude and is not short of ability. He really impressed his trainer with his work on the Naunton gallops before his debut. Whilst not disgraced when finishing 5th under an educational ride, his trainer was disappointed and expects much better next time out. He didn’t really handle the long trip to Perth as well as we would have hoped and wasn’t well on his return to the yard. As a result, we took the decision to give him an early break at summer grass to allow him to recover. He will be back into his pre-training in the next few days and is expected to do well when returning to the race course. He jumps hurdles with a real fluency and is one we are looking to see over timber next season.

IMPERIAL ALCAZAR was acquired from the Tattersalls Derby Sale last year. He was affordable as he is by unfashionable sire Vinnie Roe. Despite the fact he isn’t in vogue Vinnie Roe is the sire of Neon Wolf, Vinndication, Royal Caviar and Barney Dwan to mention a few. Add to that IMPERIAL ALCAZARS dam Maddy’s Supreme had already bred a black type winner in Jesber’s Dream and the package adds up. His activity upon arrival to Fergal O’Brien was curtailed by an untimely dose of ringworm keeping him in isolation. Since his return, he has blossomed into a very handsome individual who strikes the eye of everyone entering the yard. His lack of a full season in training due to ringworm meant he didn’t make the race track. As a result, he remained at Fergal’s yard having been kept in work longer to compensate for missing his early work.

IMPERIAL AURA was a horse worth waiting for. His owners experienced a frustrating time last season as he had a start-stop pre-training campaign. We were never happy with him despite the fact he was showing real ability and suspected a bone issue. No matter how many scans we took no problem was visible, but there was bone growth which is evidence of the bone repairing itself. As a result, he remained in pre-training for the experience but wasn’t risked in full training with Kim Bailey. When he arrived, the yard was delighted with him, partly because he looked a picture and partly because I think they were beginning to believe he didn’t exist (a view shared by a few of his owners). Kim and Matt Nicholl (his assistant) did a fantastic job with him, giving him plenty of time. By the time he made his debut rumours about the quality of his homework had spread and hopes were high when he made his debut at Kempton. In the end, he got stuck in the gluey ground with the race being won by Commanche Red who had plenty of experience including winning a point in Ireland. He didn’t benefit from being held up last and simply got stuck in the ground when staying on to finish third. He made no such mistake at Ludlow last time easily accounting for Ferrobin when conceding 8 lbs. The runner-up is well regarded by Dan Skelton, so the form looks solid. The one thing this horse has always done well is jump and he will improve further with an obstacle in front of him.

IMPERIAL ELIXIR is a gorgeous looking son of Doyen who has yet to show his ability on the racetrack. He has produced three solid performances in bumpers including last time at Newton Abbot when he would have been a lot closer if ridden to instructions. He is a still a big baby and his proper job is jumping fences, so he is a long way from being the finished article. He had a troubled season with two bouts of a respiratory infection requiring antibiotics. This was followed by a bad dose of mud rash which required spa treatment and more drugs. All in all, not the greatest of experiences for a young immature horse and he was one I was glad to pack off on his summer break. He has done well for his summer having grown and filled out. He looks an absolute picture and is full of himself. I expect him to improve mentally and physically in the coming season. He will undoubtedly improve for having an obstacle in front of him and I am confident he has more than enough ability to find the winners enclosure this coming season. 

IMPERIAL ELYSIAN is similar in profile (if not build) to IMPERIAL ACOLYTE. In that he ran a respectable race on his debut in a bumper but disappointed his trainer in the process. His homework with another of the stables bumper winners prior to running had raised expectations. He also worked very well under stable jockey Paddy Brennan on an away day to the Lambourn gallops. As with all young horses, they must handle the occasion, and a mixture of the experience and the track got to IMPERIAL ELYSIAN who finished 5th. Paddy didn’t give him a hard time once his fate was obvious and made sure the overall experience was as good as it could be. This horse will be seen at his best over a fence, so anything he does in the interim is a bonus. The quality of his work suggests he could be an exciting prospect when eventually going chasing.

IMPERIAL ESPRIT stood over 16’ 3 when we bought him and has grown since. He is another old-fashioned chasing type, with good conformation (important in a horse of his mass) size, scope and a lot of quality. He is by a much under rated sire in Scorpion, whose progeny keep winning top races even if he isn’t much loved by the training community. His size meant he was always going to take time, and he is with a trainer (Harry Fry) who likes to give his horses time. At his time at with Harry he did everything asked of him and his trainer was pleased with his progress. Harry is confident he will be ready to run in a bumper this autumn. He is an out and out chaser and will be seen to best effect over the larger obstacles further down the road.  

IMPERIAL NEMESIS was bought as a quality chaser in the making and has done nothing to date to suggest otherwise. He ran three decent races in bumpers, including when being stuck in the mud in the 2nd division of the bumper IMPERIAL AURA made his debut in at Kempton. Having such a huge frame and being immature physically he began to run up light. We, therefore, decided to give him one spin over hurdles on route to a handicap mark and then turn him out for the summer. He was entered at Perth over 2 miles which is probably short of his best trip, but ran on to finish a closing 2nd beaten 2¼ lengths. He is still a shell and will improve in leaps and bounds for each of his next few summers. He is a rare commodity in that he is an out and out chaser in the making. His trainer was delighted with his run at Perth, and given time has an exciting future ahead of him.

IMPERIAL REPRISE is a forgotten horse who was written off with a life-threatening bone disorder. Several years on he is thriving and one run away from gaining a handicap mark. His trainer Colin McBratney considers him well capable of winning races and will look to get competitive once the handicap process has been completed. He stays well and will improve for a step up to extreme distances and would prefer decent ground. Colin campaigns his horses on both sides of the Irish Sea, so you can expect to see him pop up in places such as Perth, Kelso and Carlisle as well as he Irish tracks. It is great to see him loving life, given the original advice from the vet was to put him to sleep. We kept him going in the hope that he would have a future as a riding horse with no illusions he would ever see a race course. It will be a day of great celebration if as his trainer predicts he hits the winners enclosure next season.

LYRICAL PURSUIT is a nice looking 3-year-old filly by Poets Voice. Her trainer is adamant she is much better than her current flat rating would suggest, and she has been treated for issues with her hocks recently. Whilst we are very patient as a rule, she must start showing us something soon to justify her place in the ranks. She has a future in the paddocks if her racing days are over.

WELD AL EMARAT is by top sire Dubawi and will be best over a stiff mile with plenty of cut. He is ready to run and considered well handicapped by the Easterby yard, but with the current spell of weather there is no soft going to be found. He is one who will be kept busy at the back end of the flat season on the autumn ground and will win his fair share.

Which leaves our new recruits:

IMPERIAL ALLURE is a gorgeous filly by sought-after sire Fame And Glory. They won’t be any easier to find as Fame And Glory is now dead, and she has an outstanding pedigree to back up her good lucks. She stands over 16’ 1 and has plenty of scope. She has a great step and is a very athletic horse. She has progressed nicely since being broken, and once she completes her pre-training will be heading to the Gordon Elliot yard to begin her career. There is a very lucrative mares programme in both Ireland and the UK so plenty to aim for. She is a horse of real quality and we were lucky to be able to secure her at the Goff’s Land Rover sale for what we believe will prove to be a bargain price. She has already sold out.

IMPERIAL ICON is a big scopey son of top National Hunt sire Shantou, acquired from the Goff’s Land Rover sale. He is a full brother to Themanfrom Minella and Fulham Road who was favourite for the Champion Bumper two seasons on the trot despite never seeing the racecourse. I was at the sales with a member of the Willie Mullins yard who confirmed Fulham Road was very special if unfortunately, injury prone. Standing 16’ 2 his long-term future lies over fences, but he is forward enough to be seen to good effect in bumpers and hurdles before that day comes. He is an athletic, long-striding horse who covers a lot of ground, and the type we have found to be in short supply at the sales in recent times. He wasn’t the cheapest horse we have bought but we believe he still represents great value. He will be trained by Kim Bailey. We have 25% left to sell at the time of writing and full details can be found here:

FANTASTIKAS was our selection from the Tattersalls Derby Sale. He is by the French sire Davidoff (by Montjeu) who has sired a black type winner Saturnas and has a winners to runners strike rate of 40% from very small crops. Those crops won’t get any bigger as he is now deceased. FANTASTIKAS is a fantastic athlete who stands 16’ 2 high. You didn’t need to know the sire to want to buy him, as he has a lovely long stride at the walk, and an easy rhythmic beat when trotting. He was easily the most athletic horse I saw in two days. He was acquired at what I am confident will prove to be a bargain price given he had cost 33,000 Euros as a foal. He has enhanced his reputation further since we got him back to Mount Top Stud, doing everything we have asked of him with ease and displaying a great attitude and temperament in the process. He has sold very quickly, and we have only 10% left. Full details can be found here: http://www.imperial-

Current promotion has been limited to social media, but we will be advertising them soon. So if you have any interest in our new recruits please contact either Paul or myself – they are a very nice bunch.

That brings this update to a close.I n the next episode I will tell you about our young team of horses, including my developing Archipenko obsession, two very nice Champs Elysees recruits and an unraced son of Sea The Stars out of a Generous mare who cost £240,000 guineas as a foal and has just joined us for £5,000 from the William Haggas yard, and Manzil who may attempt to become the first son of Bated Breath to win a juvenile hurdle. More news soon……. 

Categories: 'buy share in a racehorse' 'cheltenham' 'fences' 'Fergal O'Brien' 'Goffs Land Rover Sale' 'Gordon Elliot' 'imperial racing' 'Nigel Twiston-Davies' 'racehorse ownership'