If you know anyone who enjoys settling down with a good book, treat them this Christmas to a copy of ‘A Year Of Free Love’ by retired head teacher and racing enthusiast Tony Linnett.
Tony realised a dream when he set up own syndicate with a group of friends two years ago and his self-published book takes you on the roller coaster journey that is racehorse ownership.
The star character is a filly called Free Love, who was bought as a yearling at the sales by Tony and his pals and, after months of doubt and disappointment, has gone on to become a multiple winner.
“I’d only ever written schools reports and newsletters but this was an easy narrative that’s begged to be told,” says Tony, who heads up the North South Syndicate.
“We have all enjoyed such a great experience, from picking out and buying the filly at the sales and the highs and lows of watching her race, and the book tells the story of that unforgettable first year.
“Getting a book into print isn’t easy so I decided to publish it myself,” he explains. “I didn’t do it for commercial gain but simply wanted to tell our story and hopefully inspire and encourage other racing fans who would like to buy a horse like we did.”
Tony, 61, and his friends enlisted the help of Newmarket trainer Tom Clover to buy the daughter of Equiano for 10,000 gns at Tattersalls Sales in October 2017.
She made her debut at Kempton Park the following May but excitement and anticipation turned to dismay when she trailed in a distant last.
Free Love failed to win in seven starts for Clover but began to improve after joining Mick Appleby later that summer.
Her first outing for the Oakham trainer in a Catterick nursery was a winning one and since then the filly has won three more races – two at Nottingham and another at Windsor.
“As a small syndicate, we found the cost of having a horse in training in Newmarket to be very expensive and two of our members lived in the north so couldn’t get to see her that easily,” explained Tony.
“Tom helped us buy the filly and did us a good job and we parted on friendly terms, but we needed to find a trainer who was geographically more in the middle and Mick was ideal.
“He has such a great reputation for improving horses and took Free Love from being a 63-rated maiden to a 90-rated sprinter.
“We’ve had such an exciting second season and running her in a £70,000 handicap on Ebor Day at York was an amazing experience. She was badly drawn and ran well under the circumstances but just to be there on the day as owners was something we’ll never forget,” recalls Tony.
Free Love is due to have a winter break before re-appearing for the syndicate on turf next spring, but what are their hopes for 2020?
“Well, we will run her up to the summer and make a decision from there, but she could be a nice broodmare one day so we may decide to sell her and go again,” he adds.
The success North South have enjoyed this year has encouraged Tony to begin penning a follow up. “The second book will continue the story of our adventure so far but will also focus on my experience of writing the first book.
“A Year Of Free Love was a lot of fun to write and has been so well received that it’s whetted my appetite to do it again.”
A Year Of Free Love can be bought from the Racing Post bookshop, the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket and through Amazon.