The Curious Tale of Long To Be, Labaik & The Supreme Novices Hurdle...

Following on from our previous Shootin' the Breeze article regarding racehorse ownership options, 'Racehorse Syndicates - Living the Dream... Is it for you?' A couple of years ago, we decided to take the plunge, and we did dare to ‘live the dream’… We bought a one twelfth share in a National Hunt racehorse syndicate through Hambleton Racing: 

The horse is called Long to Be and is currently trained by Phil Kirby at his stables in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The initial cost of the share was £5,000, and on top of that, there was training fees of £250 a month for two years. The total investment being £11,000. It was a lot of money. But hey, we had always wanted to do it, so we did. 

Before we tell you how the horse performed, let us tell you the curious tale of why we decided to invest in a horse called Long To Be…

    Long To Be in training with Phil Kirby.

The tale starts on the second Tuesday of March 2017. The opening day of the famous Cheltenham Racing Festival. The first race of the day and of the festival is the prestigious Grade 1 Supreme Novices Hurdle. It was won by an ex flat horse. A 6 year old grey called Labaik at odds of 33/1. Trained by Gordon Elliot and ridden by a 17-year-old Jack Kennedy to give him his first ever Cheltenham victory. He beat a Willie Mullins trained favourite called Melon (3/1 JF) ridden by Ruby Walsh and a Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Ballyandy (also 3/1 JF) by a couple of lengths going away at the line. A replay of the race can be watched here:

Labaik, while an extremely talented racehorse, can only be described as an equine delinquent. He was once called "the Liam Gallagher of horse racing". He had earned the well-deserved reputation of being a very stubborn and difficult horse to ride. Labaik had a history of refusing point blank to race when at the starting tape and had refused on all three of his previous starts. His notoriety spread, and it actually led to an investigation by the Turf Club into the refusal to start rules in National Hunt racing. However, when he did decide to start, he was more than a decent proposition, to say the least. He had previously won two races in late 2016, first at Punchestown and after then a novice hurdle race at Navan. Being keen students of form, we both fancied him in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and backed him for a good few quid at 33/1 at the track. To be fair, we weren’t the only ones to note his ability. The famous amateur National Hunt jockey Mr. J.J. Codd, who had ridden him out on the gallops as a work rider, also tipped Labaik at 88/1 to anyone who cared to listen during a Cheltenham preview night, saying he was one of the best work horses he had ever sat on. He was literally laughed off the stage by the audience in attendance. However, as the old saying goes, "the rest is history". We were the only two people cheering him on at Cheltenham that Tuesday as he jumped the final flight to take the lead and fly home up the hill to win comfortably by a good few lengths. A great win, a great piece of punting, and some serious money had been won. Some great Cheltenham memories were made that day. Later that night, when we were out together celebrating Labaik’s win, we happened to bump into Labaik’s owners and connections in Jury’s hotel in Cheltenham, who, let’s just say, were also in the mood for a party!

Dave counting the Labaik winnings after a night out in Cheltenham

The Labaik story then took a few more strange turns… He was Liam Gallagher again at his next race at Punchestown and wasn't having any of it when under the starter's orders. He obviously soon got over it, and in his next race and what would prove to be his last race on the 28th of April again at Punchestown three days later, he was in the mood and finished fourth in the Champion Hurdle. After the race, it was discovered that he had suffered an injury and would never race again. 

This is where the truth starts to become stranger than fiction. After his Punchestown run, Labaik was seized by armed officers of the Gardai, actually at the racecourse. The reason was to stop him from being sold, as John Boylan, a bloodstock agent who owned 90% of the horse, was being investigated under the proceeds of crime legislation. It had been ruled by the Irish High Court that the €28,000 used to purchase Labaik was procured by the proceeds of crime via drug dealing. 

During the court case, it transpired that the ownership structure of Labaik was that he was 90% owned by John Boylan, 5% owned by another partner, A.J. O'Ryan and 5% owned by the trainer, Gordon Elliott. During testimony at the court case, it came out that Gordon Elliott had never spoken to the owner, John Boylan, even though he trained him when he won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, one of the biggest and most prestigious races in the National Hunt calendar. During the same testimony, Gordon Elliot was asked to estimate the value of Labaik; it was set at €300,000 following his Cheltenham victory but then effectively zero due to the injury he sustained at Punchestown.

Sadly, Labaik died in 2019 after experiencing complications when contracting Colic.

 So… What has all of this got to do with a horse called Long To Be, we hear you ask? 

While we were searching for the right horse racing syndicate to join, we looked at dozens of horses and dozens of stables and had almost given up hope of finding something that suited us. We then contacted Hambleton Racing, who told us they were on the verge of acquiring a horse to syndicate that had been recommended by none other than Gordon Elliott and would be trained by Phil Kirby at his Richmond stables in Yorkshire. He was a 6-year-old French bred, unraced National Hunt horse with good bloodlines. It sounded interesting. Very interesting. They sent us the details, and we saw his breeding: His sire was Montmartre, who also sired Labaik. Not only that, but he was also an absolute spitting image of him! A half-brother to the infamous "Liam Gallagher of horse racing". We had finally found our horse...

                                                                                                                              Breeding of Long To Be

The contracts and paperwork were sent through, and we duly signed on the line that was dotted. We were in to the tune of eleven grand for the next two years. Our learning curve was about to begin. It was time to live the dream. Or was it?

To be continued...