In a 2021 interview in Owner Breeder, Celia Djivanovic explained that on her budget she would “need a bit of luck to get a Saturday horse”. It’s fair to say that in the shape of Classic Chase heroine My Silver Lining, she has indeed struck lucky.

My Silver Lining’s Grade 3 Warwick success in January when partnered by the owner’s son-in-law, James Best, was followed by a fine second in the Grand National Trial at Haydock, taking her career earnings to over £145,000, and this improving eight-year-old looks set to add more to the coffers before the season is out.

Djivanovic’s history with horses began in the dressage arena, being shortlisted for one of the GB youth dressage teams at 16 – “that was the peak; it was downhill all the way after that” – while her daughter, Izzy, also took the same path, featuring in the GB under-21 squad in 2012.

The move into racehorse ownership came after Izzy made the decision not to continue with her riding career.

Djivanovic says: “I’d spent an awful lot of money on supporting my daughter eventing. When she retired it suddenly released some funds which I decided to put towards National Hunt racing.”

Those first steps as an owner were taken with trainer Colin Tizzard. Having been asked by a friend to accompany her to the stable to watch a horse on the gallops, Djivanovic was later invited to an owners’ day and subsequently took a share in a horse named Cannington Brook. It proved a wise decision.

“We had a wonderful ride with Cannington Brook – I even pre-trained him for a year”, explains Djivanovic, a retired solicitor in the commercial property sector. “He won two Tommy Whittles but very sadly he died in a field accident.

“Tragedies on course are terrible and worse for being public, but it’s just as bad when you lose one in the field. It also happened with a horse I owned that had just run in his first Grade 1, who was full of promise for the future. He took a smack on his hock and that was that.”

Having relocated from Exmoor to the Cotswolds, Djivanovic’s ownership journey continued with Emma Lavelle, following a recommendation from renowned horseman Yogi Breisner.

She says: “I had a horse that had a delicate leg and Yogi said with Emma’s facilities it would be a good place to go.

“I like having my horses within an hour’s drive. I want to be able to pop in regularly and when they don’t win very often – or even make it to the racecourse – a lot of the pleasure is in going to the yard and talking about plans, seeing them in the stable and on the gallops, and chatting to the people who look after them.”

My Silver Lining entered Djivanovic’s world after the owner decided she needed some help in sourcing new recruits. Step forward agent Gerry Hogan.

“The revelation was I’d always been very hands-on in choosing my own horses – and obviously wasn’t very good at it!” Djivanovic says.

“I’d pick something that moved nicely with good conformation but perhaps wasn’t the best racehorse. I have to thank Gerry, Emma’s agent; he found me the mare. It was my second last bid that secured her. For what she cost she has turned out to be so far above expectations and what’s so exciting is hopefully there’s more to come.”

Runner-up on her sole point-to-point start, My Silver Lining has more than recouped her £55,000 purchase price. A brief hurdling career featured an easy win at Lingfield but the trainer’s view that the daughter of Cloudings would prosper over fences has been proved correct, with wins at Wincanton (twice), Cheltenham and that Classic Chase strike at Warwick, a Saturday meeting covered by ITV Racing.

Djivanoic says: “It’s difficult to choose one magical moment above the others, but I think it would have to be the win at Cheltenham in April. Cheltenham has this iconic status. It’s the place you want to win at and if you can’t have a winner at the Festival then a winner on another day is very nearly as good.

“It was such a happy day. You’re looked after so beautifully, whether you have a winner or not. Everyone dreams of standing in that winner’s enclosure. It was hugely exciting and a very special day.

“Warwick was fantastic. After the race I had so many congratulatory messages from people who I didn’t even know followed racing.

“As for James, he had ridden winners for me before he even met my daughter. The first time he came home with Izzy, he had a bit of a shock when there were pictures of him and this horse on the corkboard in the kitchen!”

While most National Hunt owners tend to favour geldings, Djivanovic has a different policy with her runners and has decided to focus on racing mares. Interestingly, three of the first four home in the Classic Chase were female.

Djivanovic explains: “I concluded that I couldn’t keep shelling out large sums of money on National Hunt geldings that have no passing on value and if anything will cost you money to retrain at the end of their careers or sort out their retirement.

“Plenty of trainers and owners still aren’t really interested in mares, which means you can get better value, while if they suffer a career-ending injury and can’t go on to a second career, as long as they have done well on the track, they will have earned their place in the breeding barn.”

Djivanovic, who is based near Cirencester, continues: “I won’t breed from her – I was always told that fools breed horses for wise men to buy, and I’ve only ever bred one foal and it wasn’t a great success! We don’t have the right facilities at home and we’re not on the right ground, on top of the Cotswold brash.

“If I’m going to delegate it all to someone else, effectively you’re losing complete control and don’t have the fun of having the horse around. It’s better left to the professionals. I will sell her on at the end of her career but hopefully that’s a decision a couple of years down the line.”

Along with My Silver Lining, whose end-of-season target is the Scottish Grand National, Djivanovic is looking forward to the debut of Jesuila Des Mottes, a five-year-old mare shared with Cannington Brook’s former co-owner Sara Biggins, while her work as a Board member of the Racehorse Owners Association – she is the ROA’s representative on the Board of charity Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) – keeps her occupied away from the racecourse.

“When my spell with The Horse Trust finished – I served two three-year terms – I’d become immersed in racing and was longing to put in my ‘tuppeny worth and try and do something productive,” Djivanovic says.

“I enjoy my position at RoR; the organisation recently launched its three-year strategy, which has been adopted by the industry. I would love to see RoR having the funds to do more promoting the social licence for racing in highlighting the amazing careers that ex-racehorses go on to have. I am a passionate advocate for the versatility of former racehorses.”

The issue of poor prize-money, particularly over jumps, is a concern for Djivanovic – “we’d all like to see improved purses but realistically that isn’t something the ROA can demand, because it has to come from somewhere and there is a finite pot” – while asked about one change she would like to see the industry make to benefit owners, she does not hesitate in pinpointing the raceday experience.

“I think larger, improved facilities for owners are needed,” she says. “During midweek, owners turn up after the first race, watch their horse and then go home, so facilities are not under such pressure. On the big days everyone stays for the whole afternoon.

“When you have a big day, the racecourse knows how many owners are coming because nearly everyone books through PASS. They will know when the owner facilities are not big enough to accommodate everyone comfortably, with boxes booked out etc, so would it be so difficult to put up a temporary heated marquee with additional seating? Chepstow does a fantastic job in that respect – other racecourses could also do this but I’m not sure the will is there.”

Racing politics aside, it is My Silver Lining who is occupying her owner’s thoughts with the big spring festivals rapidly approaching, although the Grand National is off the agenda for her prized mare.

“I hope she continues to enjoy her racing – sometimes with these extreme distance horses they decide they’ve had enough.

“At the moment she wants to run, the Scottish Grand National is her target, and she will race on next season. That’s the wonderful thing with a mare of her quality – the end game is sorted, and her second career is mapped out.”