Brewin’upastorm and his connections were content to look on from the sidelines as preparations continued for this month’s Grand National meeting. The classy ten-year-old has appeared at Aintree in April for the past three National meetings – it was of course cancelled due to Covid-19 in 2020 – and trainer Olly Murphy will be hoping one of his stable stars can again shine on the big stage.
Nine-time winner Brewin’upastorm is owned by ROA member Barbara Hester, who is not from a stronghold of National Hunt racing but whose passion for horses is lifelong.
She explains: “I was born and raised in Canada and horses have always played a huge part in my life, not necessarily racing.
“As a child in Canada I spent any spare minute at a local stable mucking in and mucking out. On my 11th birthday, my grandad, who had emigrated as a young man to Canada from England, gave me a wonderful black and white picture book of the Grand National. I don’t know why he did, but perhaps in hindsight he was trying to tell me something!
“I moved to England about 1989 for work in the City, and started hunting. It was through that I got involved in point- to-pointing in a small way. I remember a hunt email looking for new owners to support a local point-to-point trainer. I had a glass of red wine in my hand at the time and pressed reply and agreed to buy a horse!
“That was 2012 and so began a passion for racing. I was involved in point-to-pointing for a couple of years supporting local trainer Julie Wadland. I learned so much from Julie and her husband Charlie about pointing and racing under Rules. It was about two or three years later, February 2015, that I went to Ireland to buy my first horse to run under Rules.
“It was a magical trip to Cashel, where I met Timmy Hyde, a complete prince of a man and a very astute judge of a horse. He sold me my first form horse and it was the beginning of a long and successful relationship. He’s since gone on to sell me numerous horses, including Brewin’upastorm.”
The son of Milan has provided his owner with her three most high-profile wins – two Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdles and a valuable Class 2 hurdle at the inaugural Winter Millions meeting at
Lingfield – but is not the only contributor to magical moments.
“I’ve had 14 horses who have raced in my silks under Rules, ten of whom were bought from Timmy, some privately, some through public sales,” says Hester. “That will be dwarfed by the number
of horses I’ve owned in my life. I’ve likely owned 25-plus that I’ve hunted, and I currently have a small stable of showjumpers as well, with the talented young rider Joe Stockdale.
“I was an investment banker, now retired, and was Master of Foxhounds for 15 seasons. The job description now is racehorse owner, showjumping owner, and I do a bit of showjumping myself.”
Murphy is her man when it comes to racehorse training – location comes into it but is not the only factor.
“There are two guiding principles that have determined why I’m with Olly,” she says. “Number one is that whatever I’m doing in horse sport, and indeed in other areas of my life, I want to support
young, upcoming people who need you, with whom you can make a difference. I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond.
“And secondly, I’m local to Olly Murphy Racing. Horses are a huge part of my life and I want to be able to see that first-hand. I don’t just want emails and pictures and videos. I’m on this journey with each of these horses myself.
“I joined Olly with six horses in the autumn of 2017. He had taken out his licence six months earlier, so his journey really has been my journey. Not only have I been able to participate along with my horses, but it’s been in everything he has accomplished.
“I’m fortunate enough to own one of his three main stable stars – the other two being Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet. All three horses showed promise at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, and it was at that meeting I was introduced to Grahame Whateley, Olly’s most important owner.
“It became obvious to me very quickly that Grahame was going to play an instrumental part in Olly’s team in the years to come. And I have enjoyed his success with horses alongside my own.
“Every time we have a winner, we’re on the phone to each other. It’s a real team effort in trying to help Olly achieve what he has set out to do. His parents are there with him every step of the way. It’s a great family atmosphere.”
While Brewin’upastorm actually has quite a good strike-rate – nine wins from 24 runs under Rules – his regular punters probably would say that backing him can be a bumpy ride.
His owner wouldn’t disagree but, for her, the mishaps and occasional disappointments are all part of his story – and make the wins all the sweeter when they do arrive.
“Winning is everything, I suppose, however I’d say it’s even better with a horse who just keeps giving to you,” she says. “It’s never about a single day but the journey and how you got there, and
how much character and tenacity a good horse has.
“My first very good horse was Knockgraffon, the first one I purchased from Timmy. Two of his big wins were at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day in the ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase, in 2018 and 2019 – the only day of the year you can do a return trip from Warwickshire in one day as there’s no traffic!
“It’s not the biggest race in the world, but for that track, that meeting, that feature race, the public loved him and it was such a wonderful feeling to take that horse three times to that race and to come away twice having won.
“Brewin’upastorm was bought through Timmy at the Cheltenham Sale in April 2017.
“Leading up to the National Spirit at Fontwell this year, his record was already pretty impressive. He’d won eight races, including a Grade 2 in the 2021 National Spirit, plus there was a Grade 1 second at Aintree, another Grade 2 second in the National Spirit, and he’d twice fallen at the last hurdle in Grade 2s at Cheltenham when travelling well and in contention.
“Basically, when Brew goes racing you never know what’s going to happen. You have to be prepared for anything, but he just keeps trying.
“He had finished quite tamely in the Grade 2 Relkeel at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day this year, we knew something was wrong, and the team, including vet Ben Brain and Ger Tumelty – Olly’s assistant trainer – made a plan for a wind op. Olly had six weeks from the wind op to get him fit and ready to win.
“We never go with this horse just to run, we go to win, because if everything goes right on the day, he’s perfectly capable of winning.
“When we achieved that as a team, it was truly magical, absolute tears of joy. Now we just have to do it again for Aintree, seven weeks on from Fontwell.”
Asked about the best aspects of ownership, and any frustrations, she replies: “The best thing is winning, having a plan, being realistic with your target for a good horse, and getting him there on the day and winning a big race. That’s the best feeling.
“The Auld Reekie up at Musselburgh was Knockgraffon’s Gold Cup, and you could say that the National Spirit at Fontwell was Brewin’upastorm’s Gold Cup.
“Racing for prize-money is a laudable goal, a lot of people do it and I’m not necessarily against that, but for me it’s more about Brew being competitive, for himself and us.
“He likes to be up with the pace and over the last four seasons he’s grown in confidence with Aidan Coleman, who is always holding his hand; he likes to be at the sharp end of a race, so he’s in the
game. That’s what I get out of it, being in a race, knowing you can win it and then actually winning it.
“The worst part, without question, is paying a lot of money for a well-bred store who turns out to have no interest in being a racehorse. There’s nothing more deflating.
“We’re not trying to waste money and throw it away. We’re using our best judgement, guidance and advice to try to find the next Constitution Hill. But they’re not all Constitution Hill, are they?”
Hester’s example of Constitution Hill, as opposed to say Flightline or Baaeed, underlines her considerable preference when it comes to codes
“I have no interest in the Flat whatsoever,” she says. “I own only jumpers and I think that comes from my hunting background. The ground and the obstacles play a huge role in the outcome of a
National Hunt race, whereas normally on the Flat the best horse wins. In National Hunt that’s not always the case.
“Because I hunt and understand what it’s like to gallop across different ground, it just helps me to understand the game better.
“I don’t know how you make a horse go faster to win on the Flat, but I can understand what a trainer and jockey can do to try to improve a National Hunt horse’s chances of winning a race. I
guess it just makes more sense to me.”