Highclere on the hunt for the next big thing as Yearling Parade showcases horses set for the top
Just over 100 years since the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun was unearthed by George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, his descendants are still seeking fame and fortune with headline-grabbing discoveries of their own – only now, they’re searching for the next star racehorse.
Harry Herbert, whose father – the seventh Earl of Carnarvon – was Queen Elizabeth II’s racing manager and a close confidant of Her Majesty, heads up Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, who held their annual bloodstock exhibition – known as the Yearling Parade – last month.
Potential owners visit the scenic surroundings – famous as the home to the hit period drama Downton Abbey – to get a first look at this year’s crop of yearlings, hoping to invest in the next big thing.
Together with John Warren – another racing manager to the late Queen – and his son Jake, Herbert and his team spend months at sales events hoping to purchase young racehorses high in potential and at a palatable price.
And, after this year’s event, Herbert is confident his team have amassed an exciting string of horses from across the UK, Ireland and France.
“We couldn’t be more excited. We think we have an as good – if not better – group than ever,” he said.
“All of them have wonderful pedigrees and fabulous looks.”
Soprano, who was one of the star's of last year's parade, won on his debut and is already competing at Group 1 level, while Herbert is tipping Defiance, another who won on his first start, as a future Derby contender.
The 2021 crop have already provided Highclere with some memorable victories, with Cachet winning last year's 1000 Guineas and Durston triumphing in Australia's Caulfield Cup.
Some of Highclere’s most famous exports include Harbinger, who won the 2010 King George VI Stakes, while Motivator was the winner of the 2005 Epsom Derby.
The Highclere team have to compete against some big names with even bigger buying power, but continue to mix it at racing's top table year on year, three decades since sending out their first runner.
So, what's the secret to Herbert's success?
"We will always put integrity at the top of our list but also the brilliance of the Warren selection process and the communication we provide to our share owners," he said.
"Each owner is treated entirely as though he or she is the sole owner of the horse, so in effect we act as a personal racing manager to each individual.
"We use sophisticated communication systems in our office so that we can constantly be in touch with our owners with essential information on their horses.
"Our trainers are constantly using more high tech data to improve every aspect of the horse’s welfare and ability."