Nestled in between Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum and Khalid Abdullah in the leading Flat owners’ table, just outside the top ten, sits Alan Spence, who is currently enjoying his best season to date in terms of prize-money banked, thanks mainly to his star sprinter, Profitable.
The four-year-old son of Invincible Spirit is one of the fastest horses in training and provided his owner, trainer Clive Cox and jockey Adam Kirby with a huge thrill when dashing to victory in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
That Profitable is still appearing in Spence’s familiar red and white silks is testament to the negotiating prowess of his owner, who has agreed to sell the colt – apparently very well named – to Darley as a stallion. However not before he has a crack at the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York on August 19 and some other top five-furlong races this year.
“I have total control over who rides [Profitable] and which races the horses runs in,” Spence explains to Julian Muscat (The Big Interview, pages 48-52) regarding the agreement with Darley.
“I outlined what I wanted to John Ferguson, he went away, came back less than 30 minutes later and we did the deal. Everybody was happy.”
Spence owned a travel business, which he sold, and now spends his leisure time watching his string of racehorses – his jumpers include the talented chaser Josses Hill, trained by Nicky Henderson – and following his beloved Chelsea FC, where he is Vice–Chairman.
For an owner of some 45 years’ standing, Spence has resisted the lure of thoroughbred breeding, focussing on acquiring his horses at the sales. However all that will change soon, as breeding rights to Profitable will allow the owner to dip his toe into the other side of the industry.
“I haven’t got into breeding because it’s too long-winded for my liking,” he says. “I like to buy and sell, but having these nominations makes me much more motivated to breed some horses with them. I like the fact I will still be involved with Profitable when he goes to stud.
“It could really pay off if he does well, and it was important to me that I can go and see the horse at his new home rather than seeing him sold abroad as [dual Group 1 winner] Jukebox Jury was to Germany.
After 45 years as an owner Spence will dip his toe into the breeding game thanks to Profitable
“That’s why the sale to Darley made me happy. I wasn’t interested in talking to anyone who wouldn’t let me run the horse in my colours for the rest of the season. A really good one’s been a long time coming and I want to enjoy it.”
Kieren Fallon is sadly no longer enjoying the world of horseracing, having quit the saddle last month, aged 51, to focus on his battle with depression.
Rarely far away from success or scandal, Fallon has been one of the leading riders for over two decades. His emergence on the northern circuit (see From The Archives, pages 26-27) proved the springboard for high-profile jobs in Newmarket with Sir Henry Cecil and Sir Michael Stoute, and Ireland with Aidan O’Brien, that yielded a multitude of big-race winners all over Europe.
Yet, initially, Fallon did not convince everyone of his merits. I recall one well-known scribe (now deceased) saying that the rider “did not cut the mustard” when it came to the elite level, following an unfortunate outing on 4-7 favourite Bosra Sham in the Coral-Eclipse in 1997, not long into his association with Sir Henry Cecil. How wrong he was to doubt the Irishman.
Perhaps the issue of depression in racing – and sport in general – will be brought more into the public arena by the plight of Fallon and others.
Among jockeys in particular, required to perform at a weight that barely seems possible to those of us not used to denying ourselves food on a daily basis, it would come as no surprise if the issue of depression is more widespread than just a few individuals. Now is the time to act.