Jamie Lovett only has one regret about Mugatoo’s win in The All-Star Mile – that he was unable to be there in person.
Lovett, who runs the hugely successful Australian Bloodstock syndicate in partnership with Luke Murrell, had committed to attend a wedding with his wife on Saturday, 13 March; but fortunately the pair still managed to sneak away to a local pub to watch the third edition of the world’s richest mile race.
Whilst the mood in that pub perhaps wasn’t as electric as the atmosphere generated by the rain-drenched spectators at The Valley, Lovett’s celebrations after ‘The Mug’ crossed the line first – so pocketing $2.25 million for his connections – were, to put it mildly, exuberant.
Those jubilant scenes were replicated by the 10 or so owners – all long-term supporters of Australian Bloodstock – who had made the journey from New South Wales to Melbourne to experience the $5 million showpiece.
To repay the faith and loyalty they had shown in their judgement meant the world to Lovett and Murrell, who have handsomely reaped the rewards of establishing their syndication business more than a decade ago.
“The night before The All-Star Mile, I went through the list of owners and I did think that it would be extra special to win the race with so many familiar faces in the group,” said Lovett.
“They’ve invested a fair bit of money into our business us and really backed our judgement almost from the start, so I got a huge kick out of winning the race not just from a personal point of view, but also for them. You never get tired of winning big races, and even though I wasn’t there myself I still got a big thrill from seeing some of the scenes on TV and social media, and from the many messages I received.
“Some of the other owners who didn’t make the trip got together and watched the race back here in Newcastle, and they had a big celebration that night so I reckon there were a few sore heads on Sunday morning, but I don’t think anyone was complaining!”
Since its inception, Australian Bloodstock has enjoyed a number of high-profile wins, with 12 Group 1s highlighted by Protectionist’s victory in the 2014 Melbourne Cup.
Four of the owners who savoured that success in the ‘race that stops a nation’ – Geoff and Maureen Barnett, Walter Power and John Hunter – also took shares in Mugatoo who, like Protectionist, was bred and raced in Europe before being brought over by Australian Bloodstock to plunder the riches on offer Down Under.
Having amassed more than $3 million from just 13 careers starts on Australian soil, their investment has been an extremely profitable one; and whilst money was not the main motivation for Lovett’s decision to ditch a successful real estate career in favour of pursuing his passion for horseracing, there is no denying that any successful syndicate is heavily reliant on big race wins to put their name up in lights.
“It’s obviously not just about the bottom line, but as anyone in racehorse ownership and syndication will tell you it can be a tough and expensive business sometimes and there are always plenty of lows as well as highs, so of course the huge prizemoney was important for our business,” he said.
“But even if the race was worth half as much, I would’ve still got a massive kick out of winning it because it was a long-term plan to target the All-Star Mile with Mugatoo. We race a lot of horses with [trainer] Kris Lees and we have a great relationship with him, so to share the win with him was massive and I was also really pleased for his travelling foreman Cameron Swan, who looked after the horse the whole time he was in Melbourne. There are a lot of variables with travelling a horse and so much can potentially go wrong, so to see the plan come to fruition was amazing.”
Whilst Lovett was unable to watch the race in person, from his vantage point more than 1,000 km away he could still sense the excitement of the occasion and also appreciate the horsemanship of Hugh Bowman on Mugatoo and his fellow jockey Damien Oliver, who delivered an equally masterful ride on the runner-up Russian Camelot.
“Obviously I’m a bit biased, but I think people will be watching replays of that race for many years to come,” he said.
“Hughie and Ollie going toe to toe like that, it was like watching two heavyweight boxers at the peak of their powers slugging it out in the ring. It was great theatre and great for racing – if you love the sport as much as I do, there’s nothing better than two champion jockeys going head-to-head on two high-class horses.”
As for whether Mugatoo will return to Melbourne to defend his All-Star Mile crown next year, Lovett confirmed he has already provisionally pencilled the date in his calendar – not least so that he can avoid another clash with a wedding.
“It’s definitely found its place on the racing calendar now, and we’ll absolutely be targeting it again next year,” said Lovett.
“If you’ve got a decent miler in your stable, you’d be mad not to at least throw a nomination in. The voting process is great fun to be part of, and the build-up to the big day is really exciting.
“Even though it’s only been around for a few years, it’s definitely here to stay. People have really embraced it across the country, and it’s only going to get bigger and better in the years to come.
“Greg [Carpenter] and the rest of the team at RV have done a great job in promoting the race, and cutting through to the mainstream media. It has definitely captured the attention of people who wouldn’t normally watch racing, which is obviously great for the industry and also for our business. The hype and interest it created in the build-up was great to see, and then the race itself delivered in spades.”