Business and sport combine in Howden’s passion for turf

One of the great joys of running is its enduring ability to captivate and captivate people at any stage of their lives. An accidental spark can ignite and ignite. It was like that with David Howden. It’s only been four years since he bought a lot at a charity event at the Dragon School in Oxford which consisted of a morning on the Newmarket gallops and a day of racing at the 2000 Guineas.

“My wife Fiona and my daughters, Talitha, Jemima and Kitty, came with me,” Howden explains. “We didn’t know who we were meeting, but it turned out to be David Redvers. He showed us horses working at a gallop and then took us to some of the trainers courses in Newmarket. We went for a run and had the tremendous excitement of watching Roaring Lion race the 2000 Guineas.

“Having resisted getting involved in racing for many years, when I spoke to David Redvers, I started to think I would like to get into the sport. We came up with a mare centered plan and fillies – buy mares and breed them, and buy fillies, race them and then breed them.

“Like all the best laid plans, it hasn’t always worked out like this – you’re tempted to buy a colt or two – but that’s the heart of what we do. I remember going to Tattersalls Mare Sales in December for the first time, and we bought our first mares there, all in foal – one from Frankel. We bred our first foals, and from there we built our racing mares and fillies.

“This year the focus is on the fact that I have quite a few of my own 2yos, where I picked and bought the mares, or raced the fillies before breeding them, in action. My whole philosophy is that yes, I am passionate about racing, but in the context of wanting to breed, not just buy, I have a real passion for horses, and for the equestrian sport.

The word “passion” comes up repeatedly when talking about – or about – Howden. Passion and dynamism. His genuine enthusiasm is so evident it is contagious, and his ability to inspire the people who work with him means he achieves great ambitions. Horses are at the heart of it; he loves horse riding, as do his daughters – it’s a family activity. It is for many, though few take up the sports that stem from a hobby with such energy and on such a scale.

He owns and co-owns several valuable mares, races their offspring, owns shares in others, and his company Howden, the global insurance broker he founded in 1994, is an official partner of the Ascot Racecourse and sponsored the Crown Prince’s Cup in Bahrain. in January. Jemima and Kitty Howden compete at under-18 level, and the horse racing he founded in 2020 at his home, Cornbury House in Oxfordshire, has quickly become a star attraction on the circuit. No toe here; it’s a dive into the ocean of racing and riding worlds.

Howden’s broodmare group includes 11 mares which he owns wholly or co-owns with Nick Wheeler (Cornthrop Bloodstock) or with Sheikh Fahad Al Thani and David Redvers under the Tweenhills banner.

Redvers said: “Sheikh Fahad and I see him as a wonderful partner because of the shared enthusiasm and passion for racing. He and Sheikh Fahad get along very well – David is a man of great integrity.

After that first meeting in Newmarket in 2018, Redvers asked Howden a few weeks later if he wanted to do halves on a horse at the Arqana May Breeze-up sale. Together, they bought Reponse Exacte (Fr) (Rajsaman {Fr}) for €85,000.

“Because of the kind of person he is, David said yes immediately. She won for the first time two weeks later – her very first runner! said Redvers.

A gamble to race her down the Albany S. at Royal Ascot didn’t pay off, but the filly had done her job – Howden was addicted to owning racehorses.

The first mare he bought, for 325,000 gns at Tattersalls in December 2018, was Bella Nouf (GB) (Dansili {GB}). She was in foal to Frankel (GB), and the filly she was carrying was sold a year later for 350,000gns. Named Majestic Glory (GB), she won Group 3 Sweet Solera S. at the Newmarket July Meeting in 2021. Bella Nouf’s next colt, another filly, this time by Roaring Lion, is in training with John Gosden.

Listed winner Gorgeous Noora (Ire) (Raven’s Pass) has just had a clever filly by Kameko. Castle Hill Cassie (Ire) (Casamento {Ire}) has a “charming” Zoustar (Aus) in training with Hugo Palmer. Run Wild (Ger) (Amaron {GB}), the 2020 Listed Pretty Polly S. winner – in which Howden bought a share when she was racing, and as a broodmare is now owned by David and Nick Wheeler as Cornthrop – has a Siyouni (Fr) filly on foot, and was bred this time to Night Of Thunder (Ire).

While the concept of racing his own stock is clearly very appealing to Howden, who likes to develop a project ‘from scratch’ – at Cornbury House Horse Trials (September 8-11, 2022) he is focusing on the very best of young British talent, in the form of horses and riders – he is determined to have fun and is ready to invest in some ‘fit’ horses along the way. Last year, Howden and Redvers bought Adrian Nicholls-trained sprinter Mo Celita (Ire) (Camacho {GB}), who then started favorite at the Palace of Holyroodhouse S. at Royal Ascot and finished fifth. She did, however, win a Listed race at Deauville under Hollie Doyle in August, a day Howden cites among her most enjoyable at the track so far.

“It was a fantastic day, and the other was watching Wilderness Girl (Ire) (No Nay Never) win at Glorious Goodwood with my mum, who is 95,” Howden said. “It was just before Wilderness [the music festival hosted at Cornbury each summer]; my mother loved it and Charles [the Duke of Richmond] kindly took us to his private dressing room.”

Mo Celita is back in training this year. She ran disappointingly in the Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster on the opening day of the flat season, but was found to be in season. She is joined by colt Zoustar and Bewitchment (GB) (Pivotal {GB}), also dam of Listed winner Nymphadora (GB) (No Nay Never), who is in training with Andrew Balding. Karl Burke is in charge of a Roaring Lion filly out of Roedean (Ire) (Oratorio {Ire}); Hugo Palmer has Castle Hill’s 2-year-old Zoustar Cassie, while 4-year-old Wren’s Breath (Ire) (Elzaam {Aus}), who he owns with Peter Molony, is in Ireland with Henry of Bromhead.

While Howden’s bloodstock efforts are grounded in commercial soundness, his role in the racing world might come across as a full extension of self-interest, were it not for his company’s explosion on the stage as one of Ascot’s three main partners (alongside QIPCO and Longines). Running is much more than a hobby. Howden’s sharp brain means he sees a much bigger picture than that. It’s a great way for his namesake company, which already had a connection to the sport in that it insures racetracks, trainers, owners and stud farms, as well as equestrian associations and equestrian centres, to win visibility and brand recognition, in Britain and around the world.

“You get what you pay for sponsoring races if you place it wisely,” says Redvers. “For a global company like David’s, Ascot is a perfect fit, as it is for QIPCO.”

In June 2021, the Howden Group became official partners of Ascot Racecourse in a five-year deal; as well as a prominent presence at the Royal Meeting and all Ascot Race Days, the two-day pre-Christmas National Hunt Meeting is now Howden Christmas Race Weekend.

Howden says: “After our first year we are really successful and I am very happy with our partnership with Ascot; Our partnership aims to promote the best of Britain, but the Howden Group and Ascot are also companies with a very strong international reach.

“A key thing was for Howden – which has a very large equestrian and blood sports division – to be able to support the racing industry, and what better way to do that than at Ascot, which has done so much to create an experience so phenomenal. for those who love its world-class racing. Last year we were still fighting hard against the Covid pandemic, and it was important for us to support the race in difficult times. It was a great choice for us – a UK company, now the leading UK-based insurance broker in the market, which was built with employee ownership at its heart. We are delighted with how this first year of partnership has gone, both in terms of brand awareness and the entertainment we have been able to offer our customers, partners and employees, but also with the feedback we have had in terms of raising our profile, at home and around the world. This year, of course, is the year of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and we are very happy to be involved in Ascot’s plans for this.

He continues: “First and foremost, we are a people-driven company – almost 3,000 of our employees are shareholders in our company – and the Howden Christmas Racing Weekend is really important for that, because it means we can invite our colleagues and their families. , as well as key customers, to come and enjoy a great day of racing and celebrate Christmas with us.

In January Howden became the first international sponsor of the Crown Prince’s Cup in Bahrain, a venture which Howden approached with usual enthusiasm.

“As well as being a British company, we are also an international company, just like racing, and I was keen to help support a truly up-and-coming racing nation,” said Howden.

In a racing landscape that calls for top-notch sponsors, David Howden must seem like manna from heaven.

“He goes into everything like a whirlwind, and people end up working especially hard for him because he has so much energy and enthusiasm and passion,” Redvers says.

From zero to “hero” in four years; it will be fascinating to see where Howden’s intelligent intertwining of business, sport and family life takes him next.