With the announcement last week that Royal Ascot would be run behind closed doors this year – if at all – came groans of disappointment (if not surprise) from those of us for whom that week in June is something of an annual highlight. The historic Berkshire theatre is held particularly closely to the hearts of Hot To Trot members as we have had some really thrilling days there; none more so than the day in June 2017 when Heartache stormed to success in the Queen Mary Stakes, our first runner at the famous festival.
Co-founder and manager of Hot To Trot, Sam Hoskins, tells us more about the filly who brought the precious thrill of a Royal Ascot winner to each of her 80 owners…
“Luke Lillingston and I founded Hot To Trot Racing in 2012 with the intention of racing a group of 5 well-bred horses on a lease basis per season. We quickly teamed up with a number of major breeders including Whitsbury Manor Stud whose policy of retaining sharp/precocious sorts to race fitted in perfectly with what we were looking for. Heartache looked the part from the first day we saw her in a paddock as a yearling at Whitsbury; a daughter of the very fast Kyllachy and the Listed-winning mare Place In My Heart (trained by Clive Cox), she had the pedigree and looks to give us all good reason to dream a little.
Heartache moved to Clive Cox’s in January of her 2yo season and impressed immediately with her demeanour and movement. As spring arrived, Clive’s tone became more and more bullish. By the time she made her debut at Bath in late May, she had caught a great number of pigeons at home and optimism was high despite the usual caveats. Thankfully, a six length win in a track record time meant she booked her ticket for Royal Ascot with both Adam Kirby and Clive Cox in no doubt that she was good enough and ready for this giant assignment so early on in her career.
The excitement amongst our 80-strong members after Bath was addictive, with the prospect of a ‘serious’ filly not lost after a previous season which had offered just one solitary winner at Chelmsford in October. The organisation for ticketing and picnic plans began straight away, and the head scratching began of how we were going to manage our huge team of members at Ascot!
A 50-strong team of Hot To Trotters arrived at Ascot on that sweltering 2017 summer day to witness our first Royal Ascot runner. With endless rosé and canapés, we made sure our team were going to have a party, win/lose/draw! The pressure was off us somewhat given the Wesley Ward hotshot ‘Happy Like A Fool’ was apparently a ‘good thing’. Heartache had been 20-1 in a place the week before (to the benefit of a number of the members!) but her 5-1 SP reflected the confidence the yard and a number of shrewd tipsters had in her.
Come pre-parade ring time, the nerves began to rattle. Heartache herself strolled around without a care in the world, looking magnificent with hearts brushed into her shiny and impressive backside. We all followed her through to the parade ring where Adam Kirby told of his race plans. Thankfully we were drawn next to the American speedball, which almost certainly meant we were on the right side. The pair left the paddock and we all quickly found our respective places to watch, my own beside the paddock big screen.
As the stalls opened, the dream began with Heartache stalking Happy Like A Fool throughout, drawing upsides 2 furlongs out and then quickening clear. The sensation of effectively seeing the race won at the 1f pole was unreal and then began the ecstatic scenes of endless kissing/hugging and cheering between all the members! It was then all a blur really with interviews beginning, more kissing and eventually the presentation where our team managed to pack the podium full (per the attached photo)! The joy on the faces of our members’ that day was something else – they had tasted success at Royal Ascot, something very few are lucky enough to experience.
Heartache went on to land the Flying Childers (Group 2) before running some very respectable races at the top level as a 3yo, giving us so many more incredible memories that we will never forget!”