Jenny & Chris Powell
After barely missing a meeting at Cheltenham as racegoers, Jenny and Christopher Powell decided in 1991 they wanted to up their level of interest in racing by becoming owners.But how to go about it? As it happened, a good friend sponsored Peter Scudamore’s car, an introduction followed, along with a conversation about how to buy a horse and where to send it.
Scudamore at the time was a business partner with Nigel Twiston-Davies, and after Paul Webber had bought a mare – as requested by Jenny Powell – at the horses in training sales, Gulsha, out of Ben Hanbury’s yard, was duly sent to Twiston-Davies.
“She won over hurdles twice within a week, at Wolverhampton and Exeter,and we were over the moon and thinking it was easy,” recalls Christopher Powell.
Bitten by the bug, the Powells fancied another horse, though in the early 90s a depression had hit and Webber was given a “very tight budget”.
“Lo and behold we paid the princely sum of £6,000 for Gaelstrom, who had won the mares’ class at the Doncaster sales,” says Powell. “She turned out to be extremely good and won six for us.
“The highlight was the Sun Alliance Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1993; she was the first mare to win it for donkey’s years. Needless to say we thought owning horses was easier than ever!”
The Powells kept the same formula for their next buy, the mares’ class winner at Doncaster through Webber and Twiston-Davies, and this time it was Gospel.
“She won a few races too,” says Powell, “including the National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle Final at Cheltenham’s April meeting, and she held the course record for something like ten or 12 years.”
From Malvern sales, where Jenny Pitman was a show judge, came the Powells’ next horse, a gelding by Kaytu with eyecatching markings on his legs. Nicknamed Pongo, he was named General Pongo and was to turn out to be a particularly cherished horse, not so much for his triumphs but for what he had to overcome to get them.
“He had appalling problems,” recounts Powell. “He had colic and then his intestines were taken out. It was a miracle really but he came back to win at Bangor, a valuable handicap chase at Uttoxeter, and again at Chepstow.
“In sentimental terms, he was our greatest pleasure, because of what he achieved despite his problems. He cameback from the dead.”
Magical moments aplenty
The horses mentioned so far have probably been the “star ones” in the Powells’ years as owners to date, but there have been plenty of other memorable – for different reasons – horses, right up to the present day.
Gatsby, for example.
“He finished fifth in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham and then crossed the line first in the Fox Hunters’ at Aintree,” saysPowell. “Trouble was, he’d unseated his jockey at the eighth! He was a good horse on his day and a pleasure to have.
“Tom Scudamore won six on the bounce on Glevum, while Greenwich won the Lady Dudley Cup, one of the most prestigious prizes for point-to-pointers.”
The Powells did try their hand at breeding but admit it didn’t really workout, and with it their investment in National Hunt racing lessened.Gulsha was sent to Batshoof and the result was the Powells’ most successful horse as breeders, Gulshan, who won the EBF Novices’ Hurdle Final at Newbury and an EBF intermediate chase final at Exeter the following spring.
Things took a different turn for the Powells subsequently as they set out to find a horse to win the Triumph Hurdle with David Minton, who had been a good friend for years.
A horse by Eagle Eye was spotted and bought, and named Goggles by Jenny Powell. Goggles did rather well at two, winning a maiden at Goodwood and then the hugely valuable St LegerYearling sales race at Doncaster from just three starts.
The following year he won the then Listed Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, after which an “irresistible” offer came in from Hong Kong.
As it happened, while Minton was sorting out the purchase of Goggles, Christopher Powell took a shine to a Grand Lodge youngster at the same sale and stuck his hand up. Successfully as it turned out. Named Grand Fromage, he didn’t make it to the Triumph Hurdle either.
He did score at Chester, smashing the course record on good to firm ground, but that effectively ended his racing career. Now 20, Grand Fromage currently lives at Juliet Minton’s, serving a useful role as a guiding light to younger horses.
Aside from General Pongo, Genre was the other horse mentioned specifically by Christopher Powell in terms of magical moments, for he says:“Genre had been quite disappointing and after he’d finished unplaced at Doncaster, and come back with his heels bleeding, Jenny said to Richard Hannon to put him away.
“Richard, however, said he’d be fine and less than a month later he went to Windsor and broke the course record. It was an amazing turnaround, and he then won at Doncaster by eight lengths. We sold him to the US – he went on to stand as a sire in Canada.”
Ghetto was another winner for the Powells sold to the US, as were Grand Prix and Gal Aloud, while Gems Bond – the first horse trained for them by Richard Hannon snr – landed the TBA Handicap at Ascot. Gene Autry –permission to name him was successfully sought! – was another winner, and he was sold to Hong Kong. Golden Jubilee won a good few times, including the Newmarket Challenge Whip, a special event in racing history.
By the way, by now, you might have picked up on a pattern. Not every horse owned by the Powells begins with ‘G’, but the vast majority of them do. Why deviate from a lucky letter, they thought when starting out on the right foot.
Despite plenty of success, the Powells’ cupboard had been a little bare in recent years. Until July, that is,when along came Ginger Nut to plunder the richly endowed Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury at 16-1 – a victory she so nearly followed up at Newmarket last month, before gaining another victory in a nursery at the Ebor meeting.
Ginger Nut was a second Super Sprint winner for Richard Hannon jnr, to go with seven saddled by his father.
Jenny Powell, speaking on the day, said: “It’s a huge thrill. She was long odds this morning, but we never bet –we gamble owning horses!”
Those horses these days include Flat and jumpers, with Nicky Henderson,Twiston-Davies, Charlie Hills, Archie Watson, Hannon and his brother-in-law Sylvester Kirk on the trainer roster.
“We’ve been with Nigel since day one, 27 years ago, which is frightening,” says Christopher Powell. “A common thread with trainers we’ve been with for a while, Nigel, Richard Hannon snr and Charlie, is that it’s entertaining being owners with them. It’s important to have a good time as owners; it’s not just about winning.”
With messrs Henderson, Watson and Kirk also on their side, however, the Powells are certain to continue having not just an enjoyable time but their fair share of winners.