The day Copper Knight won the Gosforth Park Cup at Newcastle at the end of June really was a notable one for Tom Denham.
Founder of Ventura Racing, the valuable handicap victory on ITV4 was just the syndicate’s second success – 24 hours after their first – and the day was also Denham’s last in his 9-5 job. He is now focusing full-time on making a success of his venture, and after just a few months of operation Ventura Racing boasts a healthy14-strong string spread among their members, with a nice variety of horses.
Denham inherited his interest in racing, and at 24 is young for an owner, especially one responsible for the enjoyment of many others.“I’ve been interested in racing all my life,” he says. “I have dad and grandad to thank for that. They started owning through syndicates and I’ve done the same.
“Being an owner is completely different to just watching. At Ventura Racing we had our first runner in March, and we currently have 14 in our colours up and down the country.”
Copper Knight is with Tim Easterby, while other trainers for the syndicate are Richard Fahey, Roger Fell, Marco Botti, Luca Cumani and David Lanigan.
“We wanted to start out with a pretty decent number of horses, as away of starting as fast as possible and getting our colours recognised,” says Denham “We planned for that in the first year.
“It’s just Flat horses, though I wouldn’t rule out getting involved in jumping further down the line.”
He adds: “I think some of the trainers are a bit surprised at how young I am, but racing is what gets me up in the morning. I want to help take racing forward, and ownership is a key element of that. Once you have the bug, you have the bug for life.”
Of the purchasing policy, Denham continues: “We don’t go to the sales with a type in mind, we’re open-minded and not just after precocious two-year-olds.We’re happy to buy a bigger type who would want further.
“We do, however, buy with trainers in mind, and would think of fitting a certain horse with a certain trainer, for example our Excelebration filly is with Marco Botti.”
Botti it was who saddled Ventura Racing’s first winner, Capla Rock, a two-year-old filly by Society Rock.“She looks like she has a promising future,” says Denham. “The ground was awful for her second start, but she went back to Nottingham and won.
“We also like an unraced two-year-old with Richard Fahey called Commander Solo – I like Star Wars, we tried for the name Han Solo but that got batted away!”
That first winner would certainly count as a magical moment for Denham and his Ventura Racing members, as with of course would Copper Knight’s victory at Newcastle.
“That was a real thrill,” admits Denham. “We weren’t expecting that much going into the race, but David Allen said that actually he had run a good race at Musselburgh the time before given things had not gone to plan.
“He was only our second winner, having had the first the day before– after waiting for three months we then had two in the space of two days!
“Copper Knight’s win was great exposure. There isn’t a plan for him.He has run in Pattern races but seems to relish big-field handicaps, so we’ll stick to them.”
While like any owner Denham would hanker after victories in big races, for now the delight of seeing Ventura Racing’s colours on the track is satisfaction enough that all the hardwork has been worth it.
“It doesn’t matter that much really; you get a similar buzz winning any race, whether it’s a 0-80 or a Pattern race – I don’t think the buzz is all that different for owners,” he says.
“One of the particular perks of running syndicates is seeing others enjoying themselves and getting winners. That’s a real thrill and one of the best aspects.“On the flip side, as a syndicate manager, it was very complicated setting things up. The way the system is at the moment, it’s not really that suited to syndicate ownership. The BHA sees this as an important partof the future, but I found the system quite confusing.
“Once you are up and running it’snot too bad, but it was tricky getting going. As for our experiences on racecourses to date, I can’t say we’ve had a bad one. Racecourses have been helpful.” What wasn’t previously helpful for Denham in terms of running Ventura Racing was having a ‘day job’.
He says: “The day that Copper Knight won was my last in my job. It was difficult running this alongside working, as I couldn’t really contact owners until the evening. It wasn’t ideal, but now I can give Ventura Racing my full-time focus.”
With youth and energy on Denham’s side, Ventura Racing is sure to benefit from that.