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Not so quiet on the Western Front ahead of Cheltenham’s International Hurdle

Written by

In The Paddock Staff

Posted on December 14, 2018

As if Josh Apiafi didn’t have enough to keep him busy, the prospect of being a winning owner in Cheltenham’s Unibet International Hurdle will keep him from attending to the Christmas shopping on Saturday. From work‐rider to multi‐million‐pound business creator and betting entrepreneur, Apiafi is a man who already had plenty on his plate before recently being unveiled as a regular pundit for the new Sky Sports Racing television channel which launches on December 1.

One of the most consistent themes to his involvement in racing has been a willingness to get his hands dirty, but another has been his regular adventures in ownership, finding ways to share his zealous love for the sport with others by sharing the highs and lows. Some of the greatest moments came with the David Pipe‐trained Big Occasion. Bought with four fellow former employees of the Betfair betting exchange, ‘The Old Betfairians’ enjoyed some great days, including success in the 2013 Midlands National.

“We’d all worked together, we’d all stayed in touch and I thought it would be a bit of fun for us to have a horse,” explains Apiafi. “Uttoxeter was great but I think my favourite day was up at Ayr when he finished second in the Scottish National. All five of us were there, all with our partners, and an awful lot of good times were had that weekend.

“It’s not just the day of the race, of course, but the build‐up to it, the anticipation and the knowledge of all the work that has gone into these things. We had a WhatsApp group to exchange messages between us and there’s no way we could have let the trainer or jockey see what we were saying – everyone is more of an expert in training than Martin Pipe and a better jockey than AP McCoy when they’re paying their training fees!” Western Ryder has already given Apiafi and his fellow owners from The Albatross Club big days at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree’s Grand National meeting, not to mention four victories, including success over Summerville Boy and Lalor at this same fixture last year.

“The Albatross Club was set up by a few guys including Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding, the owner of YourGolfTravel as an exclusive racing syndicate designed to bring people together who love both their racing and a good round of golf,” Apiafi says.
“They’ve got some really nice horses for the jumps this season but I believe Western Ryder was the first horse in their ownership ‐ and what an amazing horse he has been to be involved with. Six of us took a share, including Ross and Andrew, and Lee Westwood was one of the original shareholders too. Since then, half of the horse was sold to Bryan Drew, but we’re all still involved. “He’s not the biggest, but he really is a little tiger and you only have to look at the horses he beat a year ago to realise what he can do on his day.

“Will I have a bet on him tomorrow? No. Do I think he might run well? Yes. If he gets into a rhythm with his jumping I think he can get involved and he certainly won’t mind the decent going. “How do most people get into racing? The answer is that they are taken along by friends and the same is true about ownership. I love being involved in owning horses with people who are finding their way in the sport and sharing it all together.

“The old days where racing was dominated by individual owners, with the big trainers heading to the posh clubs in London to try and sell a horse or two, are on the way out. Racing clubs and partnerships give a much wider range of people the chance to have the ownership experience. It’s the future and as a sport we should be shouting about it from the rooftops.”

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