20 April 2024

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks

For the last eight years, Charlie and Francesca Poste have been bringing on young National Hunt horses and mentoring riders from their base, a former railway station, at Station Yard in Ettington, Warwickshire.

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks

This year they’re broadening their operation to include Flat racing, sending their first consignment of two-year-olds to the breeze up sales in Newmarket and Doncaster. Whilst they will continue with their jump horses, they see the opportunities in the more commercial Flat sphere and are keen to explore new avenues that this venture may open up.

Prior to marrying Francesca, Poste was a professional jump jockey for 16 years, with his most notable win coming in the Welsh Grand National on Le Beau Bai. Francesca’s success was in the amateur jumps sphere, training horses for point-to-points, as well as riding a few winners under rules. The business has grown organically following their marriage when they gained a few more point-to-point horses to train for clients, Poste describing their limited facilities as ‘a farmyard with a grass field with a bit of a hill to train up.’

As the winning totals grew, it was time to look for something bigger and they moved with just eight horses to Station Yard with its gallops, barns and a horse walker. Today Station Yard supports between 55 to 60 horses at any one time, combining the point-to-pointers with breaking in jumps horses for some of the area’s most well-known trainers including Dan Skelton, Olly Murphy, Jonjo O’Neill, Ben Pauling and Goldford Stud. The breaking and pre-training side of the business brings around 150 horses through the yard per year, whilst their point-to-point operation encompasses that whole industry.

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Charlie Poste gives instructions to the riders

Poste explains, “We have owner-riders, people who work in London during the week whose passion is to ride in races at the weekend, so we train their horses and develop them as riders. We also have young riders that we have produced from the yard, like Alice Stevens who is doing incredibly well now as a professional jump jockey. She started off as a novice with us and won the national novice rider title and we repeated that feat last year with another talented young rider, Amber Jackson Fennell.

“Luke Scott, who’s a conditional jockey doing well at the moment rode his first winner for us too, so it’s about producing people as well. Alongside that we have the point-to-point investment side, where we buy unbroken three-year-olds which we hope we can win with or have them placed as four-year-olds that we can then sell on [to National Hunt racing] for profit.”

Station Yard produced horses already making headlines include multiple Graded Cheltenham winner Third Time Lucki, Newbury Listed bumper winner, Royal Infantry, Punchestown Festival winner Hereditary Rule and Kinondo Kwetu who holds entries in all the major staying races this spring at Aintree, Ayr and Sandown. Having built up a pedigree of producing talented National Hunt performers, the Poste’s are now ready to diversify further.

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Blue Point x Platinum Coast colt_ Lot 147_Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up 2024

“Over the last few years, we’ve looked at the breeze up market and it’s evolution, seeing the likes of Native Trail, Cachet and last year’s star Vandeek being sold as breeze up horses”, continues Charlie. “We’ve noted the growing popularity and we’re seeing it as something that we might like to tap into.”

“I actually started as an apprentice on the Flat, first with Geraldine Rees and then with Richard Fahey, for whom I had a couple of hundred rides. Flat racing has always been a passion for us – we’re avid attendees at Royal Ascot and Goodwood. We’d been a bit wary of taking the plunge, because of the success of the other side of the operation, but a couple of people last spring said they were interested and would we be keen to do something alongside them?

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Calyx x Almond Brook filly_Lot 86_Goffs UK Breeze Up Sale

“We got a syndicate together which we marketed with the aim of raising £250,000 to take to the sales to buy five yearlings. Fortunately a few of our existing clients who’d invested in the jumps horses were really interested in the idea. I think they saw it as a sharper turn around, you’re buying in the autumn and selling in the spring, for better or worse, and we’re about to find that out!

“If something didn’t sell, and it would rely on the majority support from the syndicate, but the plan would be to put them in training briefly – it was part of the syndicate manifesto that we’d all commit to a month’s training fees. The horse would go to a flat trainer with the view that as they’ve been produced to breeze, they’re 80% ready and then they would run and hopefully on the back of that, they would be sold.”

On the selection process Poste comments, “Francesca is brilliant at buying National Hunt horses, she’s really switched on with conformation and knowing exactly the right type of model to buy. However, we didn’t want to be arrogant and dive in with the Flat yearlings, so we did some research and went with Blandford Bloodstock, who are huge buyers in the breeze up market. Tom Biggs was highlighted as a young agent on the up, he was excited about the whole idea, and he became the agent for the syndicate.”

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Charlie Poste gives instructions to the riders

Biggs supplied them with a list of 12 possibles for the Goffs Sale at Doncaster, which Poste admits was a novel experience having been used to looking at 200 National Hunt horses a day in Ireland. They gave Biggs their thoughts and left him to it and though unsuccessful at that sale, the same methods at Tattersalls in Fairyhouse yielded the first four of their five yearlings.

“We’re lucky to have a Calyx and a Kodiac – fillies that look really sharp – and then a really big scopey Churchill colt, that for all that he’s a bit light on pedigree in the first dam, he just looks like a real athlete and is deceptively quick.”

“I think similar to the National Hunt side, as pinhookers you’re looking for margins. There has to be a little bit of give and take, it’s either the way they’re put together, or their pedigree and the Churchill colt is a shining example of that. We thought we’d have to spend €50,000 but we got him for €25,000 and we’ve been really excited with him ever since. The marquee one from that sale was probably the Blue Point colt which we picked up for €76,000. Blue Point speaks for himself as a champion first season sire with two Group 1 winners. Ours has been a very impressive colt all the way through, ultra-professional, super sharp, good action, and he looks to have plenty of pace, so we’re very excited about him.

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Francesca and Charlie Poste at Tattersalls Cheltenham sale

“The final one for the syndicate was a Blue Point filly out of Natalisa that we picked up from Tattersalls Book 2 for 72,000gns. She’s full of quality, though we’d like it to dry out a bit before the sale as she’s got a real quick ground action. Though I’m sure that’s going to be the same for a lot of other consignors, it’s been such a wet winter – I don’t think any of us envisaged having to breeze on good to soft or even soft ground.”

They also managed to come in slightly under budget for the syndicate which was divided into 10% shares, of which they also have a stake. In their first year they’re consigning as Station Yard though they’re not ruling out a catchier title if things go well. Poste is keen to emphasise that though the model of horse might be somewhat different to what they’ve been used to, there are plenty of similarities in the preparation.

Station Yard Racing – Changing Tracks
Churchill x Heroic Heart colt_Lot 295_Tattersalls Guineas Breeze-Up Sale

“We’re providing them with a platform to showcase what talent that they have, trying to get a bit of life experience into them. So that when they go out there to perform, they’re able to produce somewhere near their best – it doesn’t matter if it’s in a point-to-point or at Newmarket up the Rowley Mile when everyone’s watching. We need them to bring their ‘A’ game first time up, though of course the two-year-olds do a lot more sharp work to build that speed into them.”

So far, the Poste’s admit the process has been really exciting for them. The Blue Point colt and filly will get the ball rolling at the Craven Breeze Up, with the Kodiac and Calyx fillies heading to Doncaster and the Churchill colt concluding their adventure at the Guineas Breeze up in May. They’ve tried to make it a fun experience for the syndicate too, with visits and dinner scheduled before sales and enlisted breeze-up stalwart ‘Flash’ Gordon Power to ride for them. Consigning is not the only angle they’re looking at either, as they also hope to attract some Flat trainers to use their breaking and pre-training services too.

“I think we’ve proved that we can produce quality horses in our own right and if we get one good enough there’s no reason why they can’t perform at the highest level. We trying to maximise the returns we can get for our investment and our investors which is really important. We’ve got massive overheads, we need these horses to make money for the business to survive – this is just another way to making opportunities for that to happen.”

Debbie Burt


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