HnR purchased Living the Life (IRE)(LTL), a four year old filly by Footstepsinthesand o/o Colour and Spice by Machiavellian, in February 2014. LTL’s acquisition was a private purchase from a U.K. owner via bloodstock agent Carl McEntee @Darby Dan Farm.
This transaction was part HnR’s plan to buy young, raced fillies with good pedigrees in the U.K.; import them to the U.S. to run initially at Del Mar; qualify for the Del Mar ship in bonus; and step up the value of the horse via success on the race track, hopefully including black type. LTL became available earlier than required for Del Mar, so I decided to fulfill a lifetime dream and become a licensed U.K. Racing Owner and campaign LTL in the U.K before shipping to CA.
During an extended business career I traveled to the U.K. many times and eventually made a ritual of attending thoroughbred racing there whenever I could. Also, I read every Dick Francis Racing Mystery novel published and became a bit of an anglophile with a romanticized view of U.K racing. This was one of many reasons I decided to get involved in thoroughbred racing after a career in technology.
Phil McEntee, a long-standing trainer in Newmarket and Carl’s brother, who assisted us in evaluating LTL and other HnR U.K. purchases, was the clear choice to be LTL’s trainer. LTL came to Phil’s barn with 15 races on her resume: 3 wins, 3 places, and 1 show, earned on both turf and all-weather surfaces. Given the low purse structure in the U.K., her earnings were a meager 10,000 pounds, which, at that time, was less than $15,000.
Phil’s experienced eye and strong affinity for working with fillies resulted in immediate improvement in LTL’s form and resulted in a wonderful four-race campaign for LTL stretching from February to April 2014. All four starts were @Lingfield Park at 7 furlongs on the Tapeta A-W track. Phil immediately put LTL on a diet to add weight/muscle to her fairly thin body. Also, thru observing her races and training, he decided that blinkers would help LTL focus and improve her race outcomes.
He sent her out twice in February in Handicap races where LTL demonstrated a new front running style, took leads of 6 to 7 lengths into the stretch only to be caught in the final furlong, once for a place, and once for a photo win, with Paddy Aspell up. Based on these encouraging results, and due to the U.S. shipping window opening up, I traveled to Lingfield to see LTL’s 3rd U.K. start on Wednesday March 15th.
Coincidentally, Carl McEntee was able to join for a great day at the Lingfield track. LTL faced a field of 11 in a Handicap Field that included 7 male contenders. Paddy Aspell placed LTL near the lead and then rode out to a two-length lead late in the stretch. Once again LTL was run down late, finished 3rd by 2 ½ lengths. All in all, it was a great day, but a win would have made it even better.
Video Living the Life A-W Championship
After returning to the U.S., Phil floated the idea of entering LTL in the 1st A-W Championship Series in April. Her win in February, automatically qualified her for a slot in the race. Phil gained a commitment from Adam Kirby, the leading jockey at Lingfield, to ride LTL. After considering the pro’s and con’s and LTL was nominated to the A-W Fillies & Mares Championship Race on Good Friday April 18th.
As race day approached, a field of 14 female runners were entered in the race. LTL drew postposition 8 and was established as the 4th favorite in the Morning Line odds. With unbridled optimism, I headed back to the U.K. to be on hand for the race. On a 7 race card, including 6 Championship races, we were mercifully in Race 2.
Lingfield Park went all out to promote the A-W Championships and was rewarded with a turn away, standing room only crowd. The weather was perfect and the day historic as this was the 1st Good Friday that saw racing in the U.K. LTL was available early on at 12:1 odds via the on track bookies. As post time approached, LTL was bet down to 8:1 still the 4th favorite.
At the start of the race, LTL broke sharply and Kirby cut across the front of the field and established LTL in the number one position on the rail. LTL maintained a short lead until the Kirby urged her forward 5 furlongs into the race. She spurted to a lead of up to 6 lengths and won maintaining her margin by 3.5 lengths over favorite High Time Too. Much to our delight, LTL, trained and ridden perfectly by Phil McEntee and Adam Kirby respectively, became the 1st All-Weather Champion.
Having won our race, we were in a position to enjoy fantastic hospitality and excitement the rest of the day. Based on her 4 race campaign, LTL soon shipped to the U.S. with a purse account of nearly $180,000 more than three times her original purchase price. Our original expectations had been exceeded by a wide margin before she headed states-side.