The Mariscottis

The opening race on Derby day was a tasty aperitif: a close finish fought out between three fancied runners, and a slice of drama with the jockey on the runner up banned for seven days for careless riding.

Runner-up Emenem was, curiously, owned by April’s Magical Moments men in the spotlight, Robert Moss and Dale Brennan, while the winner, Drochaid, is one of 11 horses currently in training for this month’s featured ROA members Mick and Janice Mariscotti.

For Mick, being born and brought up in Epsom, a winner on Derby day is special, and the occasion certainly ranks high up the list of most memorable moments for the owners.

“The Derby was part of the sporting year,” recalls Mick. “It was on the Wednesday back then and we used to have the afternoon off school.”

Many would have the race returned to a midweek slot, and the Mariscottis would be able to attend with no work commitments in the way – their racehorse ownership life dates from 2006, after Mick had left Coral, where he was finance director, following the merger with Gala, able to become more involved in a sport he had always been interested in.

He went to school, in fact, with Bjorn Nielsen, and while the Mariscottis’ racing empire is not as expansive as Mick’s boyhood pal, they have owned 43 in all since setting out with Andrew Balding.

It wasn’t a conspicuous start – their first horse was“just not very good”, and Mick is still “amazed we went back” – but the next five all finished second on their debut and then won.

“We thought, ‘This is so easy’,” recalls Mick. “But then reality sets in, and it’s tough when you have a run of poor results.”

At least the Mariscottis have only themselves to blame – which is how they like it – as they pretty much select all their horses themselves as yearlings at public auction. They aspire to Group-race runners and winners but for now the reality is that having runners on big racedays, given their budget, is the top end of expectations.

There is, of course, in any case much more to the ownership experience than racedays and there are several aspects the Mariscottis enjoy.

“We’re in Buckinghamshire, so not particularly handy for Andrew’s yard, or Charlie Hills, our other trainer, but we do love being on the gallops watching serious work,” says Mick.“On a sunny morning it’s fantastic.

“We really like the sales as well, and spend a lot of time there. It’s fun. There’s no one else to blame if it doesn’t work out, but equally there’s satisfaction if you pick a horse that turns out to be decent.

“We enjoy it when a plan comes off and always have sales races and bonuses in mind. Zanetto got us a big pay cheque, for example [in the £100,000 Tattersalls Millions 3-Y-O Sprint]. Such races aren’t easy to win but we like working out what racesthere are to aim at.

“Drochaid had one of the worst pages in Book 1 of Tatts but we all agreed he looked an athlete and he’s turned out to be decent value. He’s already won more than he cost and is worth considerably more now.”

To have a football team’s worth of racehorses (nine with Balding and two with Hills), the Mariscottis have obviously been successful amid the ebb and flow of buying and selling – they got a “nice price” for Real Dominion, for example – while experiencing some magical days on the racecourse.

“The highest rated we’ve had has been Havana Beat,” says Mick. “He contested two Gold Cups at Ascot and the Gold Cup at Meydan, and was third in the American St Leger at Arlington, where, as owners, we were looked after fantastically well.

“Goldoni won a nursery at Glorious Goodwood, and the Derby Trial at Epsom – only he was a gelding and it was the year they introduced the ‘win and you’re in’ incentive. He rather ruined that! It did get them lots of publicity, mind!

“Drochaid winning on Derby day was fantastic and it looks like he has a decent career ahead, having followed that up by finishing fourth in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot. You’d love to be contesting Group races, but you need to get lucky and that’s a bit out of our league at the moment. Having runners on big racedays, Derby day, the Ascots and Goodwoods, would be a more realistic aim.”

He continues: “Five of the nine with Andrew are three-year-olds.Drochaid would be the pick but Native Prospect was beaten by the horse we beat at Epsom [Emenem] and is also a decent horse in the making.

“The others are two-year-olds and it’s always exciting when they make their debut.”

The Mariscottis gain much enjoyment out of ownership, though Mick has one particular bugbear, namely that while large amounts are paid for media rights, he and Janice often find themselves scrabbling around to watch re-runs of their races.

“I’d love for the ROA to have a dedicated site for owners to watch race replays,” he says. “There are huge amounts of money being paid for pictures, and while we’re not looking for a slice of it, having somewhere straightforward to watch re-runs would be very welcome.

“There’s bet365’s website, and the Racing Post used to have them, but it’s a scrabble – and a bugbear.”

The Mariscottis much prefer the Flat, but they do attend the Cheltenham Festival and there is an admission that the type of horse they buy lendsitself to a subsequent hurdling career. The Graduate is one such horse.

But that’s a rather ‘watch thisspace’ notion. For now, more magical moments on the Flat is the hope.

(July 2017)