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The women of the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate are putting the boys to shame with a superb winning record and a model which uses expertise and intuition in equal measure.
Golden Jaguar (USA) Ahmad bin Harmash - Connor Beasley wins the Meydan Classic Trial Sponsored by Mina Rsshid Marina Conditions at the fifth Dubai World Cup Carnival race meeting on January 31st, 2019 Image Credit - Erika Rasmussen
It was only one day after announcing the launch of the Phoenix Ladies Syndicate (PLS), the group’s horse, Walking Thunder, a two-year old son of Violence, stormed the 1,400 metre Emirates Holidays maiden. However the all-women syndicate hasn’t stopped there, in the six short months since starting, the syndicate has racked-up an impressive near 50% winning rate, with five winners from 12 runs, quite remarkable for a syndicate still in its infancy.
Established to increase female participation in racing, the all-women syndicate is an off-shoot of the successful Dubai-based Phoenix Thoroughbreds model. “It’s a spin-off from Phoenix Thoroughbreds,” says principal Pamela Cordina. “It was handed to us as a challenge, which we took on, and we’ve been successful in just six-months… honestly it’s been a dream! “None of the women had out-right experience in the equine industry. Like all successful businesses we surrounded ourselves with people who know what they’re talking about, and where we lack, they fit in. It’s a chain - where I fall short, my partners pick up the slack, and vice versa.” The PLS equine committee consists of their trainer, the Phoenix Thoroughbreds CEO, various bloodstock agents and of course, the five women. On the selection process, Pamela says: “We decide which sales we wish to participate in; we then go through the catalogues and shortlist the horses we are interested in.
We carefully consider their pedigrees; discuss our choices with our bloodstock agent for their feedback (an absolute must whenever we are shopping for horses) and, of course we never lose sight of the fact that we have budgets allocated which we have to stick to."
When asked specifically how the Syndicate chose their horses for PLS Pamela says “the first thing we looked for was the pedigree, then the cost, and primarily young horses with a lot of potential.
Then we tried to visualise how they will be – albeit, of course, we don’t have a crystal ball. With our relatively small budget for PLS we looked at two-year olds and we took our time to see if we could grab a bargain. As regards which trainers PLS uses Pamela said “At the moment we have two trainers in Dubai, however, moving forward, it is our intention to use different trainers in different parts of the world.
While the investors are not involved in the purchasing ‘decision making,’ Pamela points out, they are involved in the ‘process’ of that decision. She says, “they know and understand the decision-making process step by step.” Currently, PLS has 11 horses in training, the best of these to date is Walking Thunder, trained by Ahmad bin Harmash and ridden by Connor Beasley he recently romped home in the UAE 2000 Guineas trial. Pamela says of the win: “It was a pinch-me moment- just seeing him go into the field… it’s a huge, HUGE deal!”
“The emotions that these animals can give us, and the love and the connection is unbelievable and something I have never experienced before… only horses can elicit these emotions!” Walking Thunder’s next big race will be the Dubai World Cup on 30th March. “There’s a lot of excitement and build-up,” she says. “It’s like a big family wedding coming up - its that sort of anticipation.”
There’s already been talk of Walking Thunder heading to the US for the Kentucky Derby and eventually the Triple Crown. “Justify did it, so why can’t we?” Pamela says. “The philosophy of our company is you can dream… and you’re allowed to dream big… work toward that!” To date, PLS has won over 1 million Dirhams.
Due to their early take up of subscriptions, PLS is now fully subscribed, however a second syndicate, PLS 2, is now underway and the team are currently building the platform. “We’re playing with the big boys now, in this business you
earn your respect,” says Pamela. “And yes, it is perceived as a male game, when they see these little ladies coming in, because we’re so excited…we’ve already upset them!” The PLS team are passionate about creating a ‘female driven’ collaborative and supportive environment. They’ve utilised various investor skills to develop areas of the group such as the website and marketing materials. “There’s a lot of respect for the whole team, we listen to each other and we laugh with each other and that’s the recipe for us - it has worked.”
Another area they are keen to develop is the CSR side of PLS. “We’re very keen to give back to our community,” says Pamela. “We’ve looked at how we can get kids into the stables to learn and explore and we’re also developing a programme for equine therapy for humans.” “Fundamentally, we want to not only educate people in the equine industry but we want to share the benefits that spending time with horses has to offer.
Walking Thunder (USA) Ahmad bin Harmish - Connor Beasley wins the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial Sponsored by Strata Conditions at the second Dubai World Cup Carnival race meeting on January 10th, 2019. Image credit: Dubai Racing Club - Erika Rasmussen
The White Turf
Explore the wonders of alpine equestrianism
Multiple inches of snow may not exactly have you thinking of saddling up, but for one event in particular, snow is not just a welcome sight, it is vital! The White Turf event held each February in the shadow of the Swiss Alps in St. Mortiz has been running since 1907 and is a celebration of equestrianism, as well as all things high-end and luxurious. Aside from racing there is also gourmet catering, lively music and inspiring art exhibitions all to be found in the carnival-like atmosphere of the event village, which attracts people from all over the world – with some 35,000 people regularly attending.
The event gives people the opportunity to experience the wider equestrian culture and also gives them the opportunity to watch and participate in some more unique sports and racing formats which replace typical grass and dirt with ice and powder. One of the most spectacular and unusual events taking place at the White Turf is Skijoring – a race format which sees Thoroughbred horses galloping at breakneck speeds with jockeys being towed behind on skis.
Charlton Heston once described Skijoring as being like “Ben Hur on snow”. It is a truly apt description. This most unusual style of racing has its roots deep in Nordic culture. Translated from its native Norwegian, Skijoring means simply ski-driving and was simply a common mode of cross-country transportation across Scandinavia. Indeed,
Laplanders have been harnessing reindeer and strapping on Nordic skis as a way to travel across vast snowy expanses for hundreds of years and while it is not known exactly when the reindeer were exchanged for horses or when some bright spark decided to make a race out of it all, but the sport gained popularity at the turn of the 20th century, making its official debut in Stockholm at the Winter Games of 1901, 1906 and 1909.
The race itself is fraught with danger and plenty of excitement, with jockeys often eye to eye with the horses as they jostle for position.
When you consider the proximity of the jockeys to the horses’ legs as they gallop at full tilt, it must be as thrilling to participate in a race as it is terrifying. Equally exciting to watch, is the Trabrennan races, otherwise known as harness racing or trotting. However, at the White Turf, the trotting races use sleds rather than wheeled buggies giving the race a new and challenging dimension. This particular race takes enormous skill and horsemanship in order to accurately and carefully position the racing sleds.
But perhaps the most glamorous and high-profile races are the flat races – which look both incongruous and spectacular in equal measure on the ice as the horses gallop at dizzying speed with snow and ice flying in their wake. This format attracts the great and the good from across the world and are a wonderful showcase of two horse racing breeds, with some of the finest Arabians and Thoroughbreds anywhere all taking to the ice. Indeed, the Arabians run is their own dedicated races with the H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Listed Cup being one of the most high-profile races and the H.H. Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies World Championship offering a competition for the top female jockeys to compete.
The 2019 edition of the White Turf will be taking place on the 3rd, 10th and 17th of February. St. Moritz is easily accessible. From Milan it takes around three hours by car and the 280 kilometres from Munich can be managed in four hours. A train to St. Mortiz from Zurich will take nearly three hours and will allow visitors more easily access the venue without driving the hazardous mountain passes. It also gives visitors time to admire the general splendour of the Alps from the comfort of a warm train seat.