Owner of the Day: Sir Busker, Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds

14 June 2022

As the voice of Owners, the ROA are consistently promoting the impact and benefits of ownership whilst working to make ownership more rewarding.

Once again we will be hailing our popular “ROA Owner of the Day” for Royal Ascot, which showcases an owner with a runner at the meeting. 

Today’s (Tuesday 14 June) ROA Owner of the Day is Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds, who own Sir Busker, a runner in the opening Queen Anne Stakes (2.30pm).

Baaeed will be the banker of Royal Ascot week for many, but an even bigger certainty is that the owners of one of his rivals in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, Sir Busker, will have a memorable day whatever the result.

Not that the William Knight-trained six-year-old can be dismissed lightly, having won the Silver Royal Hunt Cup and finished third behind Palace Pier in last year’s Queen Anne on his only two previous appearances at the meeting.

Owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds are one of, if not the, longest-established syndicates in Britain, their blue, red and white silks having been carried to around 200 winners from the late 1980s - though William Buick on Sir Busker will be wearing not the regular white cap but blue and yellow, as syndicates fundraise and show support for Ukraine on the biggest Flat racing platform on the planet.

Looking back and forwards, KVT’s Piers Winkworth says: “Myself, Sam Hoskins and Luke Lillingston bought Kennet Valley about ten years ago off Nick Robinson, and Nick always professed to be the original syndicator in the UK. 

“Henry Ponsonby and Thurloe were just behind, and Harry Herbert used to work for Kennet Valley before he set up Highclere. So we are as long-standing as any syndicate, if not the original one.

“We have 16 people in a horse. The bigger horses on the bigger days, you get more people coming, and we do loads of stable visits too and they have been really well attended. People are out and about now having been cooped up for so long due to Covid-19.

“We’ll have a big turnout on Tuesday, especially with people’s other halves, I imagine we will be about 25 or 30 strong on the day.

“We’re sponsored now by a company called Oakman Inns, and they’ve got loads of pubs, one of which is the Royal Foresters, near Ascot racecourse. There’s a private room that we use as our clubhouse and we can go there before each day of the meeting for brunch. With Sir Busker in the first race, I imagine plenty of people will be getting in the spirit of it quite early on!”

KVT have a noble history of success, with Group 2, 3 and Listed wins alongside big handicap strikes such as Magical Memory’s Stewards’ Cup victory in 2015. A Group 1 has eluded them but they have knocked on the door and in Sir Busker probably have as good a chance of picking up any pieces left behind by Baaeed as any other runner.

Winkworth, who has a safari business - hence the first name of a few horses who were trained by dad Peter, now retired - continues: “We’ve got 15 horses at the moment and they are all one-horse syndicates. Some of our people are in every horse and some are just in one, so we’ve probably got about 120-130 individuals across the board.  

“It’s great for the smaller owner to get involved at big meetings, and Royal Ascot is the one everyone wants to have a runner and a winner at.

“It’s a Group 1, it’s a huge race and Baaeed is already a superstar, so we’re under no illusions. Are we going to be the outsider? Probably yes. Are our odds worth having a fiver or tenner each-way on? I think they certainly are.

“He had a good start to the year, he had three runs in Dubai and really got his act together, finishing fifth - when he could have been fourth - in an incredibly hot Group 1 [Dubai Turf] on World Cup night.

“He’s come back here to be second at Ascot in the Paradise, and he ran a good race in the Lockinge to be fifth, coming from a long way back. He’s a hold-up horse and is difficult to win with because of his running style. 

“If the Queen Anne is a crawl and a sprint we’re probably done for, but if it’s a truly-run race I’d like to think we’ve as good a chance as any of them to come second, third or fourth to Baaeed. I think the market is a little unfair on him. He’s not a win bet but he’s in great nick after a month off after the Lockinge.

“He loves Ascot, the ground should be spot-on for him, and William Knight and his team have done a great job. He’s there to try to pick up as much of the generous prize-money as possible.”

So too, giving KVT an exciting second string to their Royal Ascot bow and something to look forward to later in the week, will be Dance Fever, a five-year-old trained by Clive Cox.

“The plan on the day of our other runner, Dance Fever, is to have a picnic in the car park,” says Winkworth. “He will run in the Buckingham Palace, which is the last race on the Thursday.

“Clive has done a really good job with him. He’s rated 95 and hasn’t won for a while, but he likes Ascot and ran well to be third, beaten only half a length, in the International Handicap last July.

“We probably messed him around a bit on the all-weather earlier this year, which he didn’t like. He ran reasonably well at the Guineas meeting at Newmarket in April, then in the Victoria Cup at Ascot last time, it was a funny race, we were drawn low and he finished in a heap with others drawn on the same side. We finished close to Dark Shift, who was drawn next to us, won next time and is favourite for the Hunt Cup as we speak. 

“He needs quick ground, which we should get, he goes there in good form and if he gets a nice draw, with pace around him, hopefully he’s got an each-way chance.”



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