MOTIVATOR - EXTENSIVE BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE VODAFONE DERBY FAVOURITE
The horses racing for the Royal Ascot Racing Club are managed by Harry Herbert, who together with his brother-in-law John Warren, the bloodstock agent, bought Motivator for 75,000 guineas.
They both recall how Motivator was purchased as a yearling at Tattersalls Sales in Newmarket on October 8, 2003.
Herbert, who is also managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, which is Europe's most successful racehorse multiple ownership operation, explained: "Motivator was a yearling in the Wall boxes at Tattersalls. These are on the side of a hill and are a difficult place for vendors to sell their horses from.
"He had slightly gone in his coat. But he walked very well and had a terrific head - there was something very taking about him. John saw him and the first thing he said to me was goodness, this horse is going to change out of all recognition in the next few months'.
"Motivator was the perfect example of that sort of horse who might not have been the most obvious to pick out at the sales but John's eye could see where the animal was headed.
"He was from Montjeu's first crop - we have not been frightened of first crop sires over the years - sometimes it is an opportunity. Tiber, a Highclere horse, was by Titius Livius and there have been a few over the years. If they are lovely horses - the athlete first and foremost - and came into our price bracket then we would not be frightened to have a go.
"We bought two more Montjeus that year, both for Highclere syndicates. Crete, the property of the Sawmill Syndicate, won a 12-furlong handicap at Leicester on Tuesday (May 31) in good style for William Haggas and is a progressive sort while Estate, trained by Dermot Weld for our Irish syndicate, has reached the frame three times.
"Now we would obviously struggle to buy a Montjeu because they would not be in our price range any more. John knew everything there was to know about Montjeu - he looks after Madame Boulay's interests and, therefore, along with Coolmore, he managed the horse. He was keen that we looked closely at the Montjeus and we were very fortunate to come up with Motivator.
"We work all of the sales together - we know how many horses we are going to buy and how much money we have got to spend. We always buy the horses first and then we allocate them into the various syndicates. The Royal Ascot Racing Club in our mindset has always been another Highclere syndicate. That is the only way I think you can approach these things.
"I initially came up with the idea of the Royal Ascot Racing Club (RARC) and put it to Douglas Erskine-Crum. I worked on it with Douglas and the Duke Of Devonshire (Her Majesty's Representative at Ascot), refined it and got everything in order. It was very exciting when the Ascot Authourity decided to commit to the concept - it was a lot of money to spend on the facilities themselves plus 300,000 guineas for six horses at the start in 1997.
"The RARC horses have always averaged around the 50,000 guineas mark. The great thing about buying for the RARC and the Highclere syndicates is that you may spend 100,000 guineas on one and average down on the others. Motivator fell into that bracket - costing 75,000 guineas - and we bought a couple of others cheaper that year for the RARC.
"The important thing is that John only buys the horses he is mad about. As far as which syndicate they are going in, they have to fit from a price perspective and they must also fit from a physical balance side of things - you do not want three backward horses in the same syndicate - you try and get a precocious one, a late summer horse and one that will run at the backend of the season. It never quite works like that but that is the idea.
"It has worked out over the years - the acid test is when our owners and prospective owners come to the yearling parades at Highclere. The RARC has its own day and we parade all the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing yearlings as well.
"The owners have never really been able to pick between the Highclere Thoroughbred racing syndicates. Even if you are in the least expensive slot, the horses themselves will look magnificent - it is just that they won't have as good pedigrees as the ones in more expensive syndicates.
"We have something called the trainers' challenge where we invite our trainers to pick three yearlings each year that they like the best from the RARC and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing horses.
"We add their Timeform ratings together at the end of the year to find the winner - we have never had two trainers who have put in the same three horses. That in itself is a very good test of the level look of all the horses - John has a terrific record picking horses.
"You would have thought the professionals would know which the nicest three horses are but it has never ever happened.
"They are a uniform group of horses and you never know where a champion might come from. We have been lucky enough to have four champions - we hope Motivator will be the fifth."
Warren remarked: "I work on the same basis no matter whom I am buying for. That is basically on the principle of elimination. At any auction I go to, I would attempt to spend 95% of the time eliminating horses I don't think will make it on the racecourse for one reason or another.
"It may be because of pedigree, though we try and give as many horses as possible a chance on paper as we can.
"Then it comes down to continually going through the horses time and time again to eliminate conformation that I don't particularly like until I have got a fine-tuned list of horses I am interested in - the pedigree would then dictate the price but the physical specimen should be the same for a 50,000 guineas and a 150,000 guineas horse.
"Time is our enemy at the auctions - I have just recently spoken to the two big sales companies and said that large numbers in any particular sale are preventing us from giving every breeder a fair opportunity, because there are simply some horses we cannot see because we have run out of time.
"I can look at 100 a day when I am on a roll, weather permitting, for the eliminating process. Closer to sale time, I am studying the horses left on the shortlist.
"On the pedigree side, there is no point looking at yearlings by Sadler's Wells and Danehill if my budget is going to be capped.
"I buy a relatively small number of yearlings each year - probably about 25 - though there is a perception that I purchase a lot more.
"As far as Harry is concerned on the Highclere front, there is a chance if I am particularly keen on something that I can spend 200,000 guineas and then I might buy another for much less, say 25,000 guineas. It gives scope to play and Harry has been fantastic at allowing me to buy what I like, obviously within a certain budget.
"It gets harder for me when I am working for Harry as the sales season goes on because, once we have got 10 of the 15 yearlings, I have to draw in my horns about how far I can go above budget because we are getting to the end of the wire and the maths has got to fall into place.
"I am always prepared to spend more if I think the horse has the ability to be a middle distance Classic prospect - like Petrushka and Highest - and if I ever feel they will stay a mile and a quarter or a mile and half and be proper horses I will throw the dice and spend more.
"If I feel it is a sprinting type and a magnificent two-year-old prospect but will reach a ceiling then I reduce the spending limit because I have always have an adage before buying yearlings - I think about selling them.
"So there would be no point me spending 200,000 guineas on a run and jump two-year-old - he might do quite well but if I cannot sell him on for decent money then I have done a bad day's work for the syndicate.
"Whereas we have sold plenty of mile and a half prospects, who have not reached Group class, as jumpers for very large money because they had fantastic physical stature.
"So that has quite a bearing. The selling is hugely important. If we do not give a return to the Highclere shareowners, they will say it was a nice idea owning these horses, having had fun, but we have lost and go and find another sport to spend money on.
"This is why Highclere Thoroughbred Racing has not had enormous turnover of clients because the shareowners have often been playing with money generated from previous syndicates.
"Harry and his team are very personable. He is one of life's hugely great optimists. He can back his judgement with optimism because he is such a good judge. His cup is half full and mine is half empty because I am always the cynic in the organisation which is probably why we work it out so well between ourselves.
"The three-year-old prospects of horses are always at the back of my mind but it is very difficult for someone who has paid plenty of money to sit and wait for a three-year-old to develop so I have to organise myself to buy nice two-year-olds.
"I have this strange thing that I remember every horse I have bought fairly intimately. Motivator was sold from the Wall boxes at Tattersalls. If you are looking at a horse you have to be on the same level as the horse and, to give the horse the best chance, people need to see it walk on the level. The Wall boxes are all on a slope.
"I liked Motivator very much. It is a bit like looking at a girl - you either like them or you don't. Being a nice horse, I had to take him away from the Wall boxes which is always a bit of a performance - most people look at horses where they are.
"I took him up to near the main ring where there is a nice flat piece of land. I walked him up and down there two or three times and he was a horse who excited me.
"The problem was that most people were after Montjeus - this was his first crop. Motivator had the frame but not the muscle development at that time.
"You won't find a middle distance class horse that is built the same as a fast run and jump sprinting type. The muscle formation on a later maturing horse is completely different - it is a bit like looking at Linford Christie and a Kenyan marathon runner.
"So Motivator would have been in most people's eyes a horse who was going to take time and, if he didn't gain his strength and didn't develop the right way, be a slowish middle distance horse. I took the view that he used himself beautifully - a fantastic athlete - you could not hear him when he walked as his feet never seemed to touch the ground.
"I can remember saying quickly you can put him away - we don't need to see him again', rather than making a big deal of him being brought out in the open again and keep looking at him. I cannot remember the bidding.
"He was out of a stakes winning mare - he was in the right price zone and he could have easily made 150,000 guineas if someone else had been after him. He was nice enough that we would have given more for him. Ironically, if we had paid more for him he would have possibly fitted a Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicate better than the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
"It has all worked itself out for the Royal Ascot Racing Club. I buy for different people and you never know where the next very good horse is going to come from.
"People ask if I am picking the best horses for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. Harry always says if they have made the list they should be bought. The physical specimens are the same and then the pedigree has to do the talking.
"I was excited by Montjeu's offspring because I was associated with the horse and still am now. I was involved with John Hammond through Montjeu's career.
"He was, for me, nearly the best horse I have ever known. Although I had seen Mill Reef and other great horses perform, being close to Montjeu, I could not believe what the horse was doing. He was winning Derbys with his head in his chest and King Georges in hack canters - it was unbelievable and we always felt that if we threw caution to the wind that we could have brought him back in distance and won a Group One over a mile very easily.
"He always had that ability. That was also our debate about Motivator this spring. We felt he could have done that too but if you are trying to train them beautifully and classically, thinking of the long term, it is best not to mess horses around, particularly if you are trying to make stallions out of them."
Warren's buying record is a good one. His Group One winners have included Creag-An-Sgor (Middle Park - 20,000 guineas), Mister Majestic (Middle Park - 26,000 Irish guineas), Park Express (Champion Stakes - 42,000 guineas), Lake Coniston (July Cup - 22,000 guineas), Cloudings (Prix Lupin - 100,000 guineas), Tamarisk (Stanley Leisure Sprint Cup - 78,000 guineas), Housemaster (Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup - 70,000 guineas), Petrushka (110,000 Irish guineas), Arctic Owl (Irish St Leger - 10,000 guineas), Leadership (Premio di Milano 350,000 Irish guineas), Tiber (Hong Kong Classic -150,000 Irish guineas) and now Motivator.
He added: "These were not generally expensive horses. We cover the ground. We try to buy value for money and a good physical specimen. I would rather not buy unless I can buy what I like the look of - I have never just bought a pedigree, something that never pays off.
"I am lucky to be given orders to buy horses like Motivator. What is exciting is to be able to buy a horse that has provided 230 people with plenty of pleasure - it is so rewarding."
FOUR ROYAL ASCOT RACING CLUB MEMBERS WHO ALSO HAVE SHARES IN HIGHCLERE SYNDICATES
Debbie Clark is a long-standing supporter of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, having been a shareowner in its syndicates since 1997. She is based at Cholderton on the edge of Salisbury Plain, where she keeps three-day event horses. Her daughter is a professional three-day event rider, partnering former racehorses.
Debbie explained: "I was involved with Highclere Thoroughbred Racing long before the Royal Ascot Racing Club, having been a member of the syndicates that raced Tamarisk, Petrushka, and Beekeeper. This year I am involved with the Orangery Syndicate's Distinction and Abide in the Red Kite Syndicate.
"The comfortable facilities offered were the main reason for me joining the Royal Ascot Racing Club. I would be the first to admit that, as I have a horse of my own and am also involved with Highclere, I wasn't the greatest supporter in the world of the club having horses - I have certainly been proved wrong!
"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we could end up with a Motivator! It's just amazingly exciting, no matter how small your share in the horse.
"I went to Doncaster to see Motivator win the Racing Post Trophy last season and saw his Dante Stakes win on television. I have seen him work in Newmarket quite a few times when I've been up there to see Highclere horses, which I enjoy even more than going to the races."
Debbie is certainly looking forward to being at Epsom Downs on Saturday, June 4: "I have only been to the Derby once before and could not miss it this time - it's a definite must-go' this year.
"I would have taken a large bet against the Royal Ascot Racing Club having the Derby favourite! I think that it is good for racing, particularly as Motivator was not particularly expensive."
Worthing-based Michael Gibbs, a retired former director of the Woolwich Building Society, has been with Highclere Thoroughbred Racing since the 1990s and subsequently joined the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
This year he has Brunel, who will run on Derby Day in the Diomed Stakes, Linnet and a number of two-year-olds.
He is looking forward to Motivator's participation in the Vodafone Derby on Saturday and said: "I was involved with Housemaster in a Highclere syndicate back in 1999 and to have two runners in the Derby in the space of half a dozen years is quite something.
"Housemaster finished a good fourth, we were almost third but just got pipped on the line. I remember because I was standing right down by the line! It was a great thrill.
"Now to have the favourite running for you six years later - what more could you ask for? Harry (Herbert) suggested I join the Royal Ascot Racing Club. When I saw the facilities on offer, there was no question - it's the best thing I have ever seen in racing. It's just a very good package. You get everything you could possibly want and when horses like Motivator come along it's almost a freak!
"There is an element of good luck but it is also down to good buying by Harry and John Warren. With the sort of horse they buy, you've always got the chance of a Group winner. I love the involvement and Highclere is a great company with great people."
John Hess frequently travels all the way from Owensborough in Kentucky, USA, to Britain to watch Motivator and horses he has in Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicates.
His initial involvement was with the Royal Ascot Racing Club and then with Highclere Thoroughbred Racing. He works as an investment broker with Edward Jones and is married with four children.
John commented: "Motivator's run in the Vodafone Derby is the most exciting thing to have happened in my life in a very long time!
"I became involved with Highclere through Highest and thought I'd reached the pinnacle when he was second in the St Leger but here we are making it to the big dance with Motivator - it's just incredible.
"We really enjoy our visits to Britain. The Highclere team and the Royal Ascot Racing Club have given us the ability to race at the highest level of the game. I came over to see Motivator win the Dante and will be over for the Derby with my wife and one of my sons, who is the managing editor of a horseracing publication in the USA.
"My first involvement with British racing came when I told my friend Ted Bassett, who was chairman of the board at the Keeneland Association and the first president of the Breeders' Cup, that we were going on vacation to England, scheduling our visit round the 1993 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.
"Ted told me to call Colonel Sir Piers Bengough and that he will take care of you. Sir Piers invited us to lunch at Ascot. We enjoyed our visits to Ascot so much that we kept returning and it was then that Jane Platts suggested we join the Royal Ascot Racing Club. It was a year or two after that we linked up with Highclere.
"I met Harry Herbert at Keeneland Sales and told him that I had really enjoyed my involvement with the Royal Ascot Racing Club but that I would like to take our racing to the next level. Harry asked me if I was lucky with the horses and I said yes.
"He had one share left in a Highclere syndicates and that horse turned out to be Highest! And the second horse I had was Saturn! It has just been unbelievable.
"We have been to watch horses run at Royal Ascot, in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, the St Leger as well as both the English and Irish Guineas.
""This year I have Planet, Councellor and Conservation - I think he could a horse to follow. I was really impressed when I saw him gallop at Newmarket with Peter Chapple-Hyam.
"It's just another great year, not only with Motivator. Councellor should win races, Planet is a good, steady performer (won at Goodwood on May 29) and who knows what Conservation will go on to?"
Colin Day hails from Marden in Kent and joined the Royal Ascot Racing Club after having enjoyed considerable success with Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicates that raced the likes of Contraband, Distinction and Brunel.
He sold his fruit and hop-growing business in 1999 and first became involved in Highclere Thoroughbred Racing that year, subsequently joining the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
"This year I am involved in the Golf Links, Nursery and Sir Charles Barry syndicates for the two-year-olds
"With the three-year-olds, I am a member of the Sheridan Syndicate, the Saw Mill Syndicate and the Moat House Syndicate
"When I joined the Royal Ascot Racing Club, along with most other people, it was to utilise the facilities available - the horses were purely incidental.
"The facilities at Ascot were great and when the course arises like a phoenix they are sure to be even better.
"Obviously, it is great that the Royal Ascot Racing Club has the favourite for the Derby - I just wish he was in one of my Highclere syndicates, which he could easily have been!"
THE ROYAL ASCOT RACING CLUB
The Royal Ascot Racing Club came into being towards the end of 1997 and was the brainchild of Harry Herbert who manages its horse.
The idea of having luxurious facilities open to a limited number of members plus horses was taken up by Ascot Racecourse. Herbert is also managing director of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, the most successful racehorse multiple ownership operation in Europe.
The Royal Ascot Racing Club has a current membership of 230, with a joining fee of £6,000 and an annual subscription of £4,700 (plus VAT in both cases) paid last year.
The club had exclusive facilities at Ascot and continues despite the Berkshire racecourse being closed for complete redevelopment - there is no subscription this year and members pay if they want to use special facilities at Royal Ascot at York and at Epsom for the Vodafone Derby.
The Club had its first runners in 1998 with half a dozen two-year-olds selected by Harry Herbert's brother-in-law John Warren and trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Hannon.
The Royal Ascot Racing Club includes some well-known figures like Lord Lloyd-Webber, Simon Cowell, Sir Clement Freud, Ken Bates, Chris Gent, Mel Smith, Lord Vestey, Chris Wright and prominent owners such as Peter Deal and Terry Neill.
Brancaster was the Club's first successful horse and he won the Group Three Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury and the following year ran in two classics, finishing fourth in the 2000 Guineas before coming 10th in the Vodafone Derby.
Siege was also in the first crop of horses, coming second in the Britannia Handicap At Royal Ascot and was also runner-up in the Magnet Cup at York. He was then sold for a significant amount of money to Sheikh Mohammed and went on to win a Group Three in Dubai.
Bannister won the 2000 Gimcrack Stakes (Group Two) at York, while Revenue took the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2002.
Tacitus was beaten half a length in the Group Three July Stakes at Newmarket and came fourth in an Italian Group One in 2002, while Supremacy won a Listed race at Ascot in 2003.
The Michael Bell-trained Motivator won the 2004 Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last year and made a winning seasonal debut in the Group Two totesport Dante Stakes. He now has the members dreaming of glory in the premier Classic, the £1.25 million Vodafone Derby at Epsom Downs on Saturday.
The Royal Ascot Racing Club has had six black-type performers carry its colours from 25 horses.
The three horses racing this year for the Club are Motivator, Geometric with Richard Hannon and Vanish with David Loder.
HIGHCLERE THOROUGHBRED RACING
Highclere Thoroughbred Racing is the most successful racehorse multiple ownership operation in Europe. There are 19 active syndicates with horses, with between 12 and 20 shares in each.
Harry Herbert said: "Touch wood, the horses are running well - the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing horses have won 10 races (up to the afternoon racing of Wednesday, June 1) so far this year.
"I think we have probably got as nice a group of two-year-olds as we have ever had. There are 15 of them and 35 horses in all for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Syndicates plus three for the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
"Hopefully, we have syndicates that suit everybody. We try to produce well above average horses for our owners. That is the purpose of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and the policy has resulted in four champions plus winners and placed horses in six Classics.
"A really important statistic is that 40 per cent of our syndicates have produced Group or Listed horses - people come into Highclere Thoroughbred Racing because, as much as anything, they want to go to Royal Ascot and other Festival meetings with a runner. Our horses have won or been placed in over 40 Group races."
Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, which prides itself on personal service, has been consistently successful since it launched in 1992 - with the first runners in 1993 - and has had champions in Lake Coniston, Tamarisk, Delilah and Petrushka.
Lake Coniston - European Champion Sprinter 1995. Lake Coniston was purchased for 22,000 guineas and sold for £2.45 million (pounds).
Tamarisk - Cartier European Champion Sprinter 1998. Tamarisk was bought for 78,000 guineas and sold for £3.5 million (pounds).
Delilah - European Champion Staying Filly 1998. Delilah cost 70,000 guineas and sold for US$550,000 (dollars).
Petrushka - Cartier European Champion Three Year Old Filly 2000. Petrushka cost 100,000 guineas and sold for US$5.250 million (dollars).
Highest, second in the 2002 St Leger, was subsequently purchased by Godolphin for £1.7 million (pounds) while in 2003 Highclere Thoroughbred Racing sold two horses - Tiber and Saturn - to owners in Hong Kong for very substantial amounts, giving the shareowners in those syndicates a return.
Last year Brunel gave Highclere Thoroughbred Racing a second European Classic success when winning the German 2,000 Guineas, following on from Petrushka's Irish Oaks victory in 2000. He remains in training and is due to run in the Group Three Vodafone Diomed Stakes on Derby Day.
Harry Herbert - Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Managing Director
Harry Herbert began his career in the thoroughbred industry in the United States in 1982. There he worked for Bloodstock Research, the world's leading equine computer company, researching pedigrees before moving on to the Matchmaker Group, a bloodstock sales, finance and promotion company.
Harry returned to the UK in 1984 to represent Matchmaker in Europe and the following year set up his own thoroughbred management company, HMH Management Ltd., to provide world-wide advisory and promotional services to those in the bloodstock industry.
In 1992, Harry started Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Limited which swiftly became European leader in the field of syndication.
The company has raced four champions in Lake Coniston, Tamarisk, Delilah and Petrushka as well as many other good horses. Harry works closely with his brother-in-law John Warren buying yearlings, as well as in many other areas of the industry.
Harry also founded the Royal Ascot Racing Club, which provides luxurious facilities for its members at Ascot Racecourse, and is the racing manager of the members' horses who currently include one of Britain's leading three-year-olds Motivator.
He is racing consultant to Cartier and oversees the Cartier Racing Awards (Britain's equivalent of the Eclipse Awards in America) which took place for the 14th time in London in November. He is a member of the Jockey Club and a director of Newbury Racecourse plc
John Warren - Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Director
Over the past 25 years, John Warren has established himself as one of the most talented horsemen in the thoroughbred industry.
Having spent time under the tutelage of Barry Hills and Peter Walwyn in this country, Con Collins in Ireland and Francois Boutin in France, John set up his own company, John Warren Bloodstock, in 1980 and it soon became apparent that he had an exceptional eye for a yearling.
His early purchases included the Group One two-year-old winners Creag An Sgor and Mister Majestic, both of whom won the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. This success continued with the creation in 1992 of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing Limited of which John is a director.
His purchases for the company include four champions, Lake Coniston, Delilah, Tamarisk and Petrushka, as well as German 2,000 Guineas winner Brunel plus Motivator for the Royal Ascot Racing Club.
John is married to Harry's sister Carolyn and together they own and run Highclere Stud where they stand two leading stallions, Efisio and Dr Fong. John is also bloodstock advisor to Her Majesty The Queen and is a council member of the Federation of Bloodstock Agents.