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Magical Moments

First appeared in the January 2017 issue of
Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder

O Maonlai - Colin Perry

O MaonlaiColin Perry is a novice owner who has enjoyed an “amazing run of luck”, but when it comes to horses he’s a veteran handicapper and still goes hunting a couple of times a week.

Perry, 76, lived in Staffordshire as a child, with his parents and siblings very keen on racing, and trips to Cheltenham and local track Ludlow a feature of his upbringing, though as it happened he was rather a slow-burner.

“I was brought up in that environment but was probably the least keen in my family,” he admits. “I rode in a few point-to-points on my mother’s horses, aged around 18 to 20, but lost touch with the racing world when I went to university and then into business, and I lived in the US for a bit.”

The sport was “always there in the background”, however. Perry started riding again aged 50 and he was a regular at local racecourses, while his children got involved in ponies and horses.

His first involvement in ownership came more through luck than judgement, however, as in 2013 he ended up being involved in the Henry Daly-trained Cyrien Star after an auction. The horse won three on the spin over hurdles and the seed was sown.

‘I quite like this’ thought Perry, who a couple of years later, after asking around, was recommended Tom George.

“I went to see him, we got on well, and I dipped my toe in the water by taking a thirdshare in a horse who’d been bought at Doncaster sales, Kk Lexion,” says Perry. “He won over hurdles at Southwell, then finished fourth at Cheltenham and third at Uttoxeter.

“That was all good, and after a few runs I said to Tom and Sophie George I’d be interested in owning a horse 100%. O Maonlai was in the stable and the owner wanted to sell but Tom didn’t want him to leave. I liked the look of him and bought him.

“He won the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase on his first run for me at Newbury on Hennessy day, so that was all very satisfactory! I’ve had an amazing run of luck and have seen all bar one of the horses’ wins.”

While ownership was unfamiliar to Perry, his colours definitely aren’t.

“They are dark green with pink crossbelts and sleeves and were the colours I rode in when riding my mother’s horses 55 years ago,” he explains. “The colours were allowed to lapse but no-one had them so I re-registered them a few years ago.”

Less explicable is the name O Maonlai – “I’ll have to find out about that,” says Perry – but while Kk Lexion is not exactly standard either, his co-owner revealed the origin.

“Tom asked the breeder about that,” he says, “and was told that Kk was the name of his favourite golf course and Lexion the name of his favourite tractor.”

Key to enjoyment is the relationship with George, whose stable is about an hour’s drive away from Perry’s home in Worcestershire.

“I like the set-up, and Tom is a good communicator,” says Perry. “He sends a weekly newsletter by email and you’re not kept in the dark. It’s interesting to see the horses on the gallops – Tom’s is very tough; it looks like a 45-degree slope!

“He’s successful and has a brilliant retained jockey in Adrian Heskin. He’s an intelligent rider, quiet in the saddle.

“O Maonlai is a big horse – I’d have thought around 17hh – and that dictates the way he’s ridden. Bigger horses are often more nervous than smaller horses, and the tactic with him seems to be to start at the back of the bunch, with the horse gaining confidence by halfway, then picking them off one by one. That’s how it looked to me at Newbury.”

Unsurprisingly, that victory ranks as the magical moment so far, though O Maonlai is in good hands and can hopefully provide some more in 2017.

“Newbury was the highlight of my brief period of ownership,” confirms Perry. “It was a good race at a top track, and I was there with my wife, daughter, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. So it was a proper family celebration. And AP McCoy presenting the prizes was another plus.”

Perry retains a business interest as he has a company that manufactures medical and laboratory equipment, and while the vagaries of owning a jumper or two include, naturally, not a lot of notice over where and when they are running, even that has not caused any personal frustration as Perry’s role is more part-time than full-time.

“I used to be Chief Executive of a listed quoted engineering group and in more recent years owned small manufacturing companies, but I’ve sold them and have just the one left,” he says.

“It leaves me time to go out two days a week hunting. I’ve got two hunters, one of which is getting a bit old, like me. It’s nice country, very beautiful. I’m with the Ludlow Hunt and it’s a good set-up with a good Master Huntsman.” 

Two hunters, two racehorses, his family and his business – that should all add up to Perry’s new diary having plenty of entries already.

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