THOROUGHBRED OWNER & BREEDER – September 2018 issue

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, the TBA’s This Filly Can campaign, which was launched in association with the BHA in 2016 to encourage more owners to put fillies and mares into training, is already having a beneficial effect. Two syndicates in particular – Hot To Trot, managed by Sam Hoskins, and Fillies First, run by Upper Lambourn trainer Jonathan Portman – are making the point.

Hot To Trot, in its seventh season, is up to 12 horses, six in each group, with the Queen Mary Stakes winner Heartache the star turn after her lease from Whitsbury Manor Stud.

Hoskins explains: “Breeders mainly tend to sell their colts and keep the fillies, and Whitsbury have been great with us in this respect, because we’ve leased fillies from them and had all the fun of racing them, while putting value on them at the same time.

“We’ve been able to lease well-bred fillies that if they had gone to public auction, we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford.”

Hoskins adds: “I’m not sure how you would have valued Heartache as a yearling, because she was the first foal of a Listed winner and Group 3-placed mare, and although she’s by Kyllachy, at the time his best progeny had been colts.

“What I do know is that we’ve got Heartwarming, Heartache’s two-year-old half-sister, this year, and we certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford her if she’d gone up for sale.”

Heartwarming got off the mark at Sandown towards the end of July, but not before she had run second to another debutante Kurious – also carrying the Hot To Trot colours – over the same track the previous month.

“Not really what we expected,” Hoskins admits, adding: “Kuriousis by the Australian stallion Kuroshio out of the dam of the Abbaye winner Tangerine Trees, and we’ve been able to lease her but almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to buy. Her aim is the Redcar Two-Year-Old Trophy.”

Taking an overall view, Hoskins says: “The benefit of racing fillies, which is what the This Filly Can campaign is all about, is that fillies-only races have been proved to be proportionately good value, and there’s the Plus 10 scheme – another TBA initiative – as a bonus.

“I’m a huge filly fan. They’re definitely value for money, because you can almost have a free bet to nothing. If racing doesn’t work out and the filly has a pedigree, there’s still value as a broodmare, especially if a half-brother or half-sister comes along to win a decent race. From the leasing aspect, we don’t benefit in the long term, but we do get all the fun of racing for just over £2,000 a time. And not every owner will have a runner in a Group 1 race, even a winner, as we have done with Heartache.”

Following in the hoofprints of Hot To Trot, Jonathan Portman set up Fillies First, although a quirk of fate prevented the syndicate’s opening shots being fired by the stable’s Mrs Danvers, the poster girl for This Filly Can’s initial campaign in 2016.

Instead, Mrs Danvers, who was bred by the staunch #thisfillycan supporters Mark and Connie Burton and was recently sold to a top Irish stud, raced in the Turf Club colours and carried all before her in an unbeaten, five-race two-year-old campaign that culminated in Newmarket’s Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes.

Her success prompted Portman into further action. “I’m appalling at marketing anything – myself or horses,” he concedes, “but Fillies First was set up on the back of Mrs Danvers.

When she was doing well, the This Filly Can campaign took off and it gave me the idea to push fillies, so I set up the syndicate.”

Four individual winners since last December – Unveiling, Folies Bergeres, Indiscretion and Hewouldwouldnthe – have given the enterprise a flying start.

“There are seven or eight people in the syndicate, with room for more,” Portman says, “and they include a number of new people to the yard. All the horses are leased from their breeders. It’s what the breeders I know seem to want, and I love to train fillies. They suit my way of training well, and one can get better value.”