Owner in Focus - Margaret Masterson
The Festival™ supporting WellChild was the most successful ever for Irish-trained horses in 2021, with no fewer than 23 of the 28 contests won by horses trained in Ireland over the four days at Cheltenham.
It was the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It who got the ball rolling when taking the opening race on day one, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, by 24 lengths in the colours of Margaret Masterson. It was almost a Grade One double for the owner, when Kilcruit was the half-length runner-up in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper on day two, while Sayo ran a fine race when race when a staying-on fourth in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle.
The Masterson Family has had horses in training for more than 20 years and Appreciate It is the latest in a line of talented performers to have carried their colours to success. Others have included Balder Succes (Maghull Novices’ Chase, Ascot Chase), Cherub (Champion 4YO Hurdle, Punchestown), Neon Wolf (Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle), Carraig Mor (Mor Novices’ Hurdle), Two Rockers (Prestige Novices’ Hurdle) and Silver Jaro (County Handicap Hurdle).
Margaret’s father is Michael Masterson, a native of the island of Achill off of Ireland’s west coast but now based in Hertfordshire, where he heads up construction group Masterson Holdings. Masterson Holdings is a longstanding sponsor of the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Cheltenham’s October Meeting, a contest for four year olds which was won by a certain Tiger Roll back in 2014.
Explaining the family’s racing connection Michael Masterson said: “I had my first horses more than 20 years ago when David Nicholson was still training at Jackdaws Castle. Alan King was his head lad at the time and I have had horses in training with him subsequently including Balder Succes.
“I continued to have horses at Jackdaws Castle after David retired and Jonjo O’Neill sent out Cherub from there to win the Grade One juvenile hurdle at Punchestown in 2004.
“The horses we have in training in Britain run in the colours of Masterson Holdings, while those we have in Ireland run in the name of my daughter Margaret.”
In an ordinary year the family would usually have been watching The Festival from their box at Cheltenham but COVID-19 restrictions meant that in 2021 it was a case of watching from home.
Michael celebrated Appreciate It’s victory in the opening race of The Festival by generously donating £10,000 of the prize-money to WellChild, a gesture which was matched by others during the week.
He continued: “It was obviously different and there are plusses and minuses. I would usually be there every year as I have a box but it was what it was and I just relaxed watching it on television. It certainly helped having the first winner of the meeting, although it would have been nice if he had rolled up the hill 20 lengths clear!
“I thought the link with WellChild was a great initiative and we were more than happy to donate a portion of winnings from Appreciate It to WellChild.
“I do know the Irish trainers, jockeys and stable staff were over the moon with Cheltenham and how they were looked after and were very grateful for all the work done by everyone at Cheltenham.”
Racehorse owners have been permitted to return to racecourses in limited numbers from Monday 29th March, meaning some will be in attendance at Aintree’s Randox Grand National Festival between April 8th and 10th. Masterson, however, will not be present, with Appreciate It and Kilcruit both likely to be heading to the Punchestown Festival in Ireland instead.
He concluded: “I think it is now next season that is going to be the real test as to how things are going to work out with the return of owners and spectators to racecourses.
“It is only just over a month to the new jumps season. We are getting there with COVID-19 restrictions and when the rest of Europe is vaccinated hopefully we can get back to something like normal. It is going to take time and we just have to patient.”