The favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kemboy, is one of dozens of horses prevented from running by a suspension placed on an ownership syndicate, the Supreme Horse Racing Club. Since Monday of this week, the syndicate’s account with Horse Racing Ireland has been frozen, meaning it cannot pay entry fees and is effectively prevented from running its horses.
HRI acted after Supreme failed to provide information in response to complaints made by some of their 500 members, who pay an initial sum for a share in one of the club’s 29 horses and thereafter pay a monthly fee to cover costs. According to a report in the Racing Post, the club faces allegations of financial impropriety from its members, including one that shares in Kemboy have been significantly oversold to them.
It is believed Supreme would not be able to run its horses in Britain or France, pending resolution of its troubles in Ireland. Although it might be technically possible for the club to set up and fund an alternative ownership account in Britain, a spokesman for the British Horseracing Authority indicated any such attempt would be unlikely to succeed in the circumstances.
Supreme was founded in 2011 by Jim Balfry and Steve Massey. Balfry first got involved in racing when running the syndicate of 24 prison guards who owned Micko’s Dream, a classy steeplechaser who fell at the first in the Grand National of 2000. In an interview in January, Balfry said they had tried to set up Supreme in England but gave up because “the BHA were making it hard for us”.
Balfry estimated there were “about 15 or 16” shareholders in each horse and added: “Apart from myself and Steve, nobody knows when the owners show up on the day whether someone has a 5% share or a 1% share … We have the odd knocker but you’ll have that.” Calls to a phone number on the Supreme website went unanswered on Thursday.
Kemboy is the most high profile of the club’s horses, having been an easy winner of top-class races at Aintree and Punchestown in the spring, beating the winners of the King George and the Gold Cup. He is the 13-2 favourite for the Gold Cup in March and was expected to have his first run of the new jumps season at Down Royal a week on Saturday, which now seems in considerable doubt.
Supreme’s other horses include Aramon, a Grade One-winning hurdler, and Cadmium, a six-length winner of the Topham Chase over the Grand National fences when last seen in April. All three are trained by Willie Mullins, who did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Aidan McGarry, HRI’s owner-relations manager, said: “Horse Racing Ireland has engaged with Supreme Horse Racing Club to seek information to resolve a number of queries and concerns. Following an unsatisfactory response from Supreme Horse Racing Club, Horse Racing Ireland has suspended Supreme Horse Racing Club’s ownership accounts from all activity.
“At all times, Supreme Horse Racing Club was aware the penalty for the non-delivery of the information requested by Horse Racing Ireland would be that a hold would be put on all entries and declarations.”
Later on Thursday, the Supreme-owned Listen Dear, winner of a €20,000 race this month, was sold through Goffs auction ring at Doncaster for £38,000, prompting at least one person to claim through Twitter that he was a part-owner who had not given consent to her sale.
Henry Beeby of Goffs said: “Willie Mullins’s stable entered this horse for the sale and he has authority to act, as the horse’s trainer. We take a lot of entries from trainers. After we heard this morning’s news, we double-checked with Willie as to his instructions and were told to continue to offer the horse. We didn’t hear anything from anyone else until after the sale.
“No money has been disbursed to anyone yet and won’t be for 35 days, under our terms of sale. If anyone in Supreme has concerns, obviously they have time to deal with that. If there was a dispute, we would ensure everything was done transparently and in as a straightforward a manner as possible.”