Meet The Crowd – #2 – Ryan and Michele Weller

What first tempted you to get into horse racing, especially ownership? Family history or are you the first in the family to get involved? 

  • Neither of our parents were interested in horse racing, though my parents did indulge me with 3 or 4 trips to the races growing up, at either Chepstow or Bath. My earliest memories are of winners I picked because I liked the names; e.g. Red Alligator in the 1968 Grand National, and a 2-y-o called Jeune Premier in around 1971 or 1972 who won at 33-1. The season that really captured my interest was the season that Brigadier Gerard won the 2000 Guineas and Mill Reef won the Derby. Mill Reef was expected to win the Guineas, but Brigadier Gerard beat him over the mile. From then on, the newspaper speculation for the rest of the season, and much of the following season, was when would they meet again, to give Mill Reef the chance to get his revenge? I lapped it up and was hooked! Clare Balding, if you read this, I would love to see a TV documentary of that season, and you’d be the perfect person to create it, given that your father trained Mill Reef. I was really just an armchair fan, watching racing on TV, until 2002 when a change of job gave me a little more flexibility in my working hours, and enabled me to rediscover the joy of a day at the races from time to time. My first experience of ownership was in 2011, with the South Wales Argus Racing Club. Michele’s late mother had seen an advert in the local paper, they were looking to sign up 100 people to pay £100 + VAT each, to have a racehorse with trainer Tim Vaughan for a year. She said “You like horse racing, you should go for that”, so I did! The horse, Quedillac, won at Ffos Las on its second start for the Club. Over the last 9 years, our interest has expanded to several racing clubs and quite a few horses with 26 race wins and counting. We haven’t been able to be present at all of those, but we’ve been there for more than half of them. Best of all, we have met a lot of friendly people with a common interest in the sport.
  • There is also a story behind how we got involved with our first Crowdracing horse, Acom. We were members of Coral Champions Club, and won one of their “Owner For a Day” experiences. That took us to Lingfield Park one December day with a filly called Never A Quarrel, trained by Jeremy Gask. There we met Kerrie Gask for the first time, who looked after us wonderfully well, and even invited us down to the yard at Sutton Veny for a visit. It was the following August before we actually visited so that we could combine it with a trip to Salisbury races. While there, we saw a strikingly handsome chestnut, who we found out was Acom, being shown to another visitor. As soon as we got home, I sought out how to get involved with Acom through Crowd Racing, and soon did so. He was our first Crowdracing horse, the first of many.

RYAN AND MICHELE WITH BORN TO FINISH

•What is your ultimate ambition in racing? 

  • Just to keep enjoying our involvement in horse racing, really. We have already had a winner at Cheltenham, Master Dancer, who was Tim Vaughan’s first, and so far only, Cheltenham winner. At our level of involvement, that is probably the pinnacle of what we can hope to achieve. To better that, we would need to have a winner at one of the major racing festivals.

Do you have an idol? A favourite person in racing (trainer or jockey)? 

  • Not really an idol, but I admire all the jockeys, trainers and stable staff for all the effort and hours they put in to keep the sport of horse racing going. We have got to know a few trainers through being in Racing Clubs with them, and all have been hospitable and welcoming. One of my favourite jockeys at the moment is Ben Jones, a confident and talented young jockey. He has ridden for us several times over the last 6 months or so, including riding a winner. He should have a big future in the sport. Of the lady jockeys, I would say that my favourite is Hollie Doyle, as she is the only one who has ridden a winner for us; a horse that had become quite tricky to win with, but she coaxed him along to get his head in front and keep it there!

• If you could own the winner of any race, which one would it be?

  • I guess I would have to say The Derby. Such an iconic race, and the winner is usually worth a fortune!

 • Do you have an all-time favourite horse? One you owned, and one you would have loved to have owned? 

  • One we owned would have to be Born To Finish, our winning-most horse with 8 wins to date. We have had a share in him right from the start when he was unraced and simply referred to as “The Dark Angel colt” at Jeremy Gask’s. We were present for 2 of his Kempton wins, and also his Wolverhampton win.
  • For one I would have loved to have owned, it would be easy to say Frankel, but instead I will say Medicean Man, the stable star at Jeremy Gask’s. Such a handsome horse, competed at a high level and always tried his best, and our visits to Jeremy and Kerrie Gask at Sutton Veny were such a joy. Kerrie knew everyone, and looked after us all fantastically well.

• We give you a magic wand, and you can change one thing in the horse racing world. What would that be? 

  • I think if I had a magic wand, I would want to solve the staffing crisis in racing; to ensure that all stable staff have a living wage and there are enough of them that they can get a decent amount of time off.

Which is your favourite racecourse to run your horses? 

  • As a racegoer, I love Cheltenham, and never tire of the wonderful views and atmosphere, and high quality racing. To go there as an owner is a special experience too, especially since the redevelopment.

What do you do outside of racing, work-wise? 

  • Manage computer software development projects.

• What are you doing during lockdown? 

  • Still working, but working from home as much as possible. For leisure time, reacquainting myself with the pleasure of spending time in our small garden, and solo walks for exercise around the neighbourhood.

• Do you have any suggestions or feedback for Crowd Racing?

  • We have been with Crowdracing since the early days, and Acom, the first Crowdracing horse with Jeremy Gask. I particularly appreciate the times when you have gone above and beyond to give us experiences, such as arranging private visits to the stables of Sandy Thomson and Lucy Normile when we visited Scotland last year. I also enjoyed the experience of being the Crowdracing ambassador for the day when Born To Finish ran at Nottingham two summers ago. Keep up the good work!

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