AN AMAZING DAY AT THE RACES AS AN OWNER
When Stanthorpe's Michael Jensen lost his best friend, he decided to follow through with a lifelong ambition to purchase shares in a racehorse.
MEET AN OWNER OF... BOOMSARA
We catch up with Aaron Firth one of the owners of Boomsara - the 2019 Magic Millions 3yo Guineas winner - to find out about his experiences with racehorse ownership in Queensland...
Aaron, how did you become interested in racehorse ownership?
I was born and raised on the Gold Coast and have attended many race meetings over the years. I have so many great memories from being at the races and have become accustomed to the smells, sounds and general atmosphere. Particularly, I love hanging about the stalls and mounting yard. The introduction of the Magic Millions Sales was a major boost for racing on the Gold Coast and I enjoyed attending the Sales in the very early days as a child, with catalogue in hand dreaming of one day being able to purchase a racehorse and win the Magic Millions feature.
I never thought I would be able to afford horse ownership. I was actually too scared to scratch my nose in the auctions in case they thought I was bidding! Extended family members and friends raced horses locally, which I keenly followed. Some of these were quite successful and this only further raised my interest in ownership. These horses included Im a Rippa, Secrets Untold, Winning Rupert and Tax Evader. I came to realise that it is not the most expensive horse on sales day that wins on race day! Many horses have proven this to be true.
What research did you do before buying into a horse?
Basically, I never realised that ownership can be actually really affordable. The bonus is having full ownership privileges at most race courses when your horse is racing even if you do only own a small share/or are part of a syndicate. I asked a friend - part owner of Tax Evader - about his ownership, how he came to be involved and basically where to start. He recommended a well known syndication group which he was a part of with his interests (The Last Stride). I was attracted to the fact that the horses they syndicated were affordable, raced locally, had a reasonable success record and they had good communication with owners.
In 2013, I decided to buy into my first share of a racehorse. I was a novice but the syndicate manager was very helpful to me. He actually said to me "If you are thinking you are buying an investment, you are looking in the wrong place". I said that I had no expectations other than to treat it as a learning experience and have some fun. That horse was by Court Command and it never raced. I recall going to a spelling farm where he was located at the time and it was explained to me what some of the issues were and why he would not race.
The stable manager told me not to give up and spent valuable time with me showing me some of the horses at the stable and pointing out the qualities to look for in a racehorse. Although my first horse did not race, I really did learn a lot about ownership from my introduction. I then followed up in another horse when a share had become available with the same group. This horse had already been racing so it was a logical next step in at least being part of a horse which could gallop and handle the pressures of racing. I later experienced my first win as an owner on Melbourne Cup Day at Toowoomba in 2014 with this horse. From then on I was hooked!
I have continued to learn by taking small interests in three other horses before Boomsara. Further wins and setbacks came but I continued to get exposure to horse racing from an owner’s perspective and gained valuable learning experiences. Basically I started with small shares to learn from people who knew the industry.
How did being part of Boomsara’s syndicate eventuate?
Long story short! One of the horses which I part owned was by Sequalo. I entered into this horse as a family member's horse (Secrets Untold) was also by Sequalo and I watched their horse win many Saturday races as a teenager. I also really enjoy watching the Group Racing over the Winter Carnival in Brisbane. Some of the great races involved Temple of Boom and Spirit of Boom who had big followings in Queensland as racehorses. Being a Queenslander, I love supporting Queensland horses and trainers. I liked that Spirit of Boom is also by Sequalo and was new on the scene as a sire at Eureka Stud in Queensland. Boomsara was one of his first crop to go to sale.
A friend of mine had horses stabled with Chris Munce at Munce Racing and he highly recommended them to me. As a punter and racing fan, I followed Chris Munce as a jockey and in his early days as a trainer. I decided that I would look at some of their syndications, particularly a horse from the Magic Millions March Sales by a first season sire and QTIS registered. When Boomsara was purchased by Chris, I became interested as Boomsara ticked all the boxes, which I had established from my earlier learning experiences. I decided to enter into a 5% share fairly quickly (wish it was more but that was my limit at the time as a hobby). I then became further excited when I was informed that Eureka Stud, which had bred Boomsara, had purchased some proportion back and it had been decided that Boomsara would race in the Eureka colours.
How are you involved in Boomsara’s journey on a day to day basis?
Munce Racing are based at Eagle Farm and their stable facilities are exceptional and well maintained. The attraction to this stable for me is that they are a family run business. From day one they have been approachable and accommodating and I cannot think of a better place for Boomsara to be. The welfare of my horses are utmost in my mind and I feel assured that Boomsara is well cared for.
I get regular updates via an application on my phone and emails including jockey reports, videos and information on racing matters/welfare. The account side of things is user friendly and I have no issues at all. I am certainly well informed. I have access to visit the stables with some prior arrangement on most days. On race days Chris Munce is also very informative and supportive. It is difficult to accommodate the expectations of many owners but I am very much involved in the whole process, from spelling to race days and of course the celebrations. I am also privileged to have possession of a winning owner's trophy from one of Boomsara's major race wins.
What happens on a day when Boomsara is running?
I have attended all Boomsara's races to date. I usually like to listen to the radio commentary in the morning and then dress up smart and head to the track. This is where my wife Kerry gets mostly involved. Kerry likes looking her best for the race meetings and gets the chance to buy new outfits and socialise at the race days with the other owners, friends and people we meet. I also have taken my mother to some of the races when Kerry has been unavailable. Being a named owner I am usually invited to bring one guest with me to share in owners' privileges.
We have been fortunate enough to attend major race meetings as an owner and rubbed shoulders with some of the racing industry's major celebrities.
I encourage people to become members of their local race clubs as we have met some wonderful people who just love the racing and do not wish to commit to horses and are just members. I cannot describe the butterflies and nervous energy I feel when I get to see Boomsara saddled up, parade and enter the starting barriers. It is a different feeling for me to punting, which I can only describe as "next level". For me it is all about the build up and I sometimes don't even want the race to happen as I don't want it to end. I mainly want all the jockeys and horses to come back safe, that is the most important thing.
Winning a race is another level again, as I have come to appreciate the tremendous effort involved in preparing a horse to even get to a race day. Winning a feature race is just one more step and it goes on. The Magic Millions Guineas race was a highlight as it was a target for Chris and his team and a personal milestone for me (Childhood dream).
Seeing Chris being able to celebrate and enjoy the moment with us and his family was a great memory. One of the other owner's on Magic Millions Day, when asked by media to describe how he was feeling immediately after the race stated "There is your child being born and then there is this." The whole racing experience for me is a buzz, in all levels of racing. All of Boomsara's owners are great people and most go to his races and are quite vocal in their celebrations. Some are first time owners.
What has been the highlight of your ownership experience so far?
The wins are always highlights but for me ownership is about sharing, socialising and experiences. Boomsara's win in the 2018 Gold Coast Jewel was an amazing experience. He started at $31 or something and I really did not have much expectation of him winning that day. I was just happy being at the track and enjoying the day with my mother. I recall saying when he was half way down the straight "Mum I think he can win this?" and started crying. The first person to congratulate me after the race was my first syndicate manager and his lovely wife. This win really set up Boomsara's career and it is such a thrill seeing him in the Racing Queensland promotional material surrounding the QTIS scheme, representing our Queensland bred horses. Many of my friends and family members now follow his career.
What do you love most about being an owner?
Being an owner can at times be very frustrating and disheartening but it is those moments and periods that you get through that make the winning days even sweeter. I really feel like as an owner you are part of a team. I follow the other stable horses, which I don't own, like I follow my football team. I don't expect to earn from my outlays but in my short period as an owner I have become very fortunate against the odds. Breaking even or being able to race for limited outlays is a realistic goal as an owner in my opinion, however, the handicap system allows many horses the opportunity to win a race.
Would you own another racehorse?
Definitely - I always worry about the welfare of the horses but Boomsara is well cared for and simply loves racing. I know him well enough now to sense that he gets so excited when he knows he is about to race. He does it because he wants to not because he is made to. That is important to me and me makes me happy that I could help to support that. Winning is a bonus!
I will most likely always have an interest in at least one horse at a particular time as it is my pastime and enjoyment. Kerry has now entered an all girls syndicate as a first time owner. The horse is yet to race but she is very excited for the good times ahead, particularly with a big group of girls with the same interest, including Cathy Munce. Again with realistic expectations.
What words of advice would you give to others wanting to become an owner?
Give it a go!! Start small until you are confident. Don't set high expectations and don't give up if there are disappointments. It is not just about winning, it is a journey which opens up new experiences, opportunities and memories. At the very least you will learn a lot if you listen and observe. Warning - Can become addictive!
Thank you, Aaron!
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