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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Successful syndicate hoping to be on to a winner at the breeze-ups again

Owners of Quiet Reflection and Corinthia Knight set to reinvest profits

The Quiet Reflection team after the Commonwealth Cup - including OnToAWinner co-founder Niall O'Brien (far left)
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The brains behind the successful OnToAWinner ownership group return to Doncaster today for the Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale, where three years ago their purchase of a Showcasing filly for £44,000 sparked a story that provides one of the best adverts for syndicates and two-year-old auctions of all time.

That filly turned out to be Quiet Reflection, trained by Karl Burke and owned in partnership with the conditioner and Hubert Strecker. She carried the yellow and white quartered silks of the OnToAWinner syndicate to win eight races, seven of those black-type events including the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the Haydock Sprint Cup at the highest level.

Having won more than £650,000 in prize-money on the track, she was sold sold for 2,100,000gns in December to become a broodmare for Coolmore, leaving connections with a sizeable profit.

OnToAWinner enjoyed another big payday with the victory of the Archie Watson-trained Corinthia Knight in the highly valuable 32Red 3yo All-Weather Championships at Lingfield on Good Friday. The colt cost a mere €15,000 when bought by Watson with Blandford Bloodstock at Tattersalls Ireland as a yearling.

Despite the recent spate of windfalls, OnToAWinner co-founder and director Niall O'Brien laughed off any suggestion he might be tempted to rock up to the breezes at Town Moor today in a stretch Limo, dressed in furs and throwing £20 notes around.

“We'll be there, but investing more money depends on whether we like something,” he said. “We usually buy one or two at the Goffs UK breeze-up every year anyway, so we'll see what's there.

“I suppose we'd be looking to increase numbers on the back of selling Quiet Reflection, although we've been growing steadily anyway.

“But with horses like that, it allows people believe to believe the ordinary man can lay out a small amount of money and be part of that amazing story.”

OnToAWinner currently has around 60 horses in training, with 13 wins already on the board in 2018. Last year it had around 50 horses to run and 42 wins.

The syndicate looks on course to beat its 2017 tally as more big pots surely await Corinthia Knight, while several unexposed talents have yet to have the wraps taken off them this year, including Staxton – a £24,000 purchase from last year's Goffs UK Breeze-up Sale with Tim Easterby who finished third in the Rockingham Stakes and Doncaster Stakes last October, and was not disgraced when finishing midfield in the Gimcrack and Mill Reef Stakes before that.

“Every horse we've bought at a UK breeze-up has won, so we're under a bit of pressure to maintain that,” O'Brien joked.

Explaining the OnToAWinner approach to buying, he added: “We generally work the sale ourselves and then if anything on our shortlist matches with our trainers we might decide to go into partnership with them.

“That was a case with Quiet Reflection, as she was on the list of both Simon Bridge, the co-founder of the syndicate] and Karl [Burke], who had trained her granddam Clare Hills to win the Hilary Needler.

“For our part, Showcasing was a big factor as we'd previously had luck with his first-crop son Toocoolforschool [a 16,000gns Tattersalls Guineas breeze-up buy] winning the Mill Reef Stakes. We were probably ahead of the curve with the stallion, the first large owner to really support him. Now everyone wants them.”

The OnToAWinner team – which also includes Steve Bedworth, Chris Patten and Ronan O'Brien – are not afraid to operate on a solo basis at the sales either.

“We've always been fairly shrewd purchasers and have the confidence to go it alone – we don't have to have agents or owners to help us buy,” O'Brien said. “We bought Staxton as well as last year's Pat Eddery Stakes winner Raydiance [a £7,500 Goffs UK Silver Sale yearling] like that, so we're good at what we do.”

Corinthia Knight carries the growingly familiar yellow and white OnToAWinner silks to success at Lingfield on Good Friday

It is wily, inexpensive purchases like those that have fuelled the growth of OnToAWinner into one of the foremost syndicates in the space of seven years.

“We've been going since 2011 – I'd run syndicates for ten years before that, and a couple of friends who had been with me as owners of those earlier horses asked me to go again after I'd given it up for a while,” O'Brien said.

“So we agreed to learn from past mistakes and when I formed OnToAWinner I had a little more support in terms of the people helping to run it.

“Our first two horses, Fast Shot and Yourartisonfire, landed a big across-the-card Saturday double for us on TV in April 2014 and we started to get noticed and grew from there.

“The ambition was never to be the biggest syndicate or anything, we were happy as we were. When people ring up asking to get involved it's hard to say no. But it is all well run, and there's no pressure to reach a certain amount of winners, and we don't have to sell to survive, as myself and the guys who own the syndicate all have work.”

O'Brien, based in North Yorkshire, is an operations manager for multinational Reckitt Benckiser in his day job. He added the syndicate has grown to such an extent that a full-time member of staff has been taken on to deal with admin.

“I don't mind us growing as long as it remains professional and we don't lose touch with the owners who put us where we are,” he summed up.


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Every horse we've bought at a UK breeze-up has won, so we're under a bit of pressure to maintain that
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