The ups and downs of owning racehorses – and, indeed, backing them – were encapsulated at England and Scotland’s biggest National Hunt festivals, with Datsalrightgino being pulled up as favourite at Cheltenham but then winning at Ayr the following month at 8-1.
The seven-year-old, by It’s Gino, is owned by the GD Partnership, formed of husband and wife Hew and Jane Glyn Davies plus son Piers and daughter Anna.
He has proved a shrewd acquisition from the Goffs Land Rover Sale of 2019, with four wins, six seconds and two thirds from 17 starts, topped by that Grade 2 strike on Scottish Grand National day.
For trainer Jamie Snowden, jockey Gavn Sheehan and the owners, it went a fair way to making up for Cheltenham, where Datsalriightgino was a well-supported favourite for the Plate but was never in the hunt on ground turned unsuitably soft.
Explaining the background, Hew says: “I’ve always been interested in National Hunt racing. I used to go with my father to point-to-points when we lived in Kent.
“After growing up and living in London and all that comes with that, I didn’t do that, but when we moved back from Hong Kong we bought a cottage in north Dorset and when the children were very young we took them to Larkhill and Badbury Rings, the local point-to-point tracks.
“Then through a friend, William Wallace, he bred a horse called Lemons Ground and we had a leg in him.
“He won his first race, a bumper at Fontwell, so that was very good. That was in May 2013 but after a break he never really went on from there in five more runs, and unfortunately he died of colic. So we lost our first horse.”
It was not, however, a case of once bitten, twice shy, as the interest in Lemons Ground proved just the start.
“Once we’d got used to Lemons Ground, we then thought we’d do the GD Partnership, and in total we’ve owned nine horses and have got three at the moment,” says Hew, a banker.
“There’s Datsalrightgino, who won the Grade 2 at Ayr the other day, Colonel Harry, who did very well in the Tolworth and won a maiden hurdle at Sandown and a novice at Newcastle, and was last time second in a Grade 2 at Kelso, and we’ve also got a share in a horse with Charles and Caroline Gregson, Flyawaydream, a four-year-old Flat horse with Sir Mark Prescott.
“I think we’ve had 22 winners to date, a lot of which came from Chapmanshype, who was very much a summer horse. He won nine races from 27 starts; his first win wasn’t in our ownership, that was at Punchestown, and then we bought him.
“He did very well for us. He had a fantastic win under topweight in a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Kelso in September 2020, when Covid was going on, setting a course record.”
Jane adds: “He was probably our best horse to date before Gino and Harry, and we retired him last year. He’s now doing dressage.”
As for why Chapmanshype and others were placed with Snowden, Hew explains: “Lemons Ground went to Jamie as his parents lived near William Wallace, and we were then introduced to Jamie and got on very well with him.
“We like dealing with him, he’s a personable guy, trustworthy, and he and bloodstock agent Tom Malone have chosen most of the horses we’ve had, and they’ve done pretty well.
“Jamie hadn’t long been at Folly House in Lambourn when we were involved with Lemons Ground, and the yard has expanded since then. He’s had Cheltenham Festival winners, including this year with You Wear It Well, and we’re happy to take his advice.”
The trainer’s faith in Datsalrightgino has been vindicated, last season bringing a couple of wins and some what-might-have-beens.
“If he’d have jumped the last two fences better on Trials Day at Cheltenham, he’d have been a lot closer to Stage Star,” reflects Hew. “He was then runner-up again in the Pendil at Kempton, where the field gave Solo a six- or seven-length start. He’d have won in another 20 yards. That was frustrating but enjoyable too as it was a good run.”
The year-younger Colonel Harry, likewise bought by Snowden and Malone at the sales, in his case after winning a point-to-point at Ballyvodock, also had a fine campaign. “We were very excited by his win at Sandown in November,” says Hew, “but I suppose the highlight of the recent season was Gino at Ayr.” All the more so, of course, after what happened the previous month at the Festival.
“He was third favourite on the morning of the race and we went to Cheltenham thinking we were in with a chance,” says Hew. “Stage Star won the first race that day, the Turners, and Gino went from third favourite to outright favourite.
“However, after the Turners the rain came down and the ground wasn’t to Gino’s liking. There was a false start and a big field, and he never seemed comfortable. Gavin rightly pulled him up.
“That was a huge disappointment and you felt rather, I’m not sure if the word is guilty, or worried, that people had put money on him and he hadn’t performed. But he got it right at Ayr, that was the main thing.”
Datsalrightgino was not the first horse to carry the GD Partnership silks at the Cheltenham Festival, as Hew says: “We had a runner in 2015 in what was then the Fred Winter, Souriyan, who came 11th. He was a good horse.
“He bolted up at Exeter on his second run for us and was then nabbed on the line at Ffos Las. After the Festival he went back to Cheltenham the next month and was second to Might Bite. Later, he had a bad fall and never really got over that.”
Jane says: “When we had a runner at that Cheltenham Festival we were quite new to racehorse ownership and didn’t realise the enormity of it. Now we’ve come to realise that even getting a horse to the Festival is a huge plus. It takes a long time to get these ‘Saturday horses’. Fingers crossed but we seem to have a couple at the moment.”
Their Flat horse, Flyawaydream, has pretensions to join that club too – though, in Jane’s words, it is a “privilege” just to be an owner with Prescott, last year’s Arc-winning trainer.
“Flyawaydream has had a first, four seconds and a third in his six races, and has done very well for us,” says Hew. “Sir Mark has a fantastic set-up at Heath House in Newmarket. He’s a great one for stories and they’re well worth listening to.
“We’ve got only a share in this one horse so we’re probably his most insignificant owners, but you’d never know that in the way he is with us. We saw Alpinista in her box on one visit, which was great.
“Gavin, Jamie, Tom Malone, Sir Mark Prescott, all of it works very well for us, it’s a pleasure to be with them.
“Gavin has been absolutely fantastic in his riding of Chapmanshype, Gino and Harry, and had a great season. He’s in his prime.”
Jane adds of Sheehan: “He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves – although that does mean we can keep getting him, so that’s fine!”
So too is their all-round experience of owning horses, as Jane says: “Racing seems to be quite a small world really and you can get to know people, including fellow owners. For us, it’s lovely that we can do this as a family. Piers and Anna love it, have got their mates involved, and it’s great fun.”
Hew sums up: “When the sun, the moon and the stars align, it is a very fulfilling experience, and unbelievably great fun. The alternative is you can go home in a bit of a mood!”