GARY Robinson was still relatively new to racing when he went to Goodwood last year to buy himself a horse. Not your average day out at the races, but there was a seller on the card and there lay the opportunity he was after.

Aggagio won comfortably by four lengths under Oisin Murphy but the race was an underwhelming as a seller can be. Just three runners. The Racing Post assessment of the runner-up was that he was going backwards and the third had shown little since he had switched yards.

The bidding kicked off and gradually made up to £10,000, then £20,000 and finally £23,000.

“I think people laughed at me when I bought the horse,” Robinson recalled. “I’m pretty sure people thought I paid well over what he was worth, but you know, I just thought if he can win a race here and now, why couldn’t he win a race for me? Maybe it wasn’t the most scientific way of thinking but that’s what I thought.”

At the time, he was still in the process of opening his ownership account with the British Horseracing Authority so the paperwork couldn’t be fully processed. The auctioneer came over and asked him what the plan was and he replied that he assumed the horse would go back with the previous trainer and he’d arrange to have him picked up in the coming days.

“I think that showed my general naivety and understanding at the time. The auctioneer came back to me said, Gary, do you have a plan B? I rang Charlie (Hills) but he didn’t pick the phone up so then I rang Gary Moore, who I already had a couple of horses with. Luckily Gary answered and he said he’d take him, and came up to collect him from the course.

“The previous trainer said he was a bit tricky and his first three runs were only okay. But this year he has won six times from nine starts, on the flat and over jump and has become a specialist at Goodwood, which is my local course.

“He is an amazing little horse who has turned out to be exceptionally good value and we’re hoping there is more to come this jumps season because he has a nice low rating there.

“After the horse started winning, Gary kept saying to me I was the luckiest owner he knows.”

That was the tip of the iceberg.


Robinson will tell you himself he’s a rookie when it comes to racing. From Havant, a town just outside Portsmouth, the plumber by trade has made a huge success of his business, Aura Gas Limited, which comprises boiler fitting and central heating. He started off as one man with a van but now has 25 people working for him. That started 15 to 18 years ago he reckons. Hard work, dedication, a sharp business focus have been the key ingredients.

He’s not a football fan, he prefers rugby, specifically the internationals. Racing was never really on his radar at all really, until Covid.

“You couldn’t go to the pub and you couldn’t go out to dinner,” he recalls. “So we’d be sitting in on a Saturday afternoon and a lot of the time, racing was the only sport on television.

“Then I started to recognise the jockeys, trainers and horses more. I started reading more and more about it. You don’t realise how deep the sport is until you really get into it. Racing for me pre Covid was the odd day out with friends and family. It’s a whole lot different now.”

Like plenty, he caught the bug pretty quickly. His willingness to become involved accelerated quickly and having had jumpers, he wanted to explore the flat and in particular to go racing as an owner during the summer.

He had been put into contact with Charlie Hills via a few friends who had horses with the trainer. Shortly after he bought Aggagio, the pair met at Newbury, and like many good plans, it all came together over a pint.

“Charlie told me he had this horse who was qualified to run in the Goffs Million, and I asked what is that? I’d never even heard of the race before. He explained it to me and I said to him, Charlie, if you can get me a horse to win that race, we’re booking a trip to Las Vegas and it’s all on me.”

Three weeks previous, the Camacho colt that would be named Galeron - which is a name derived from the first letters of Gary, wife Leanne and their daughter Ronnie - was sourced by Johnny McKeever. McKeever is best known for buying Sea Of Class and had recently begun working with Charlie Hills at the major yearling sales.

“I do succinctly remember ringing Charles to note two or three horses that Eddie O’Leary had,” McKeever recalled this week. “They were all quite nice and this Camacho colt was among them. He was actually the first one that went through I think and we got him for a very reasonable price. We were as happy as Larry.

“We actually said at the time he could be one for the Goffs Million but you know you’re only hoping and praying at that stage. Of course you’re always hoping but were we going over to buy a horse specifically to come back for that race? Not at all. Any yearling you buy, you’re just hoping will turn out nice.

“Whether they are expensive or cheap, there is always a chance they might be a good horse and there’s always a chance they won’t.”

Galeron turned out to be a good horse alright. Sixth in a maiden at Goodwood on his debut, he built upon that experience to get the better of the subsequently impressive Trillium on just his second start, the duo coming seven lengths clear of their rivals. He then ran respectably at Group 2 level twice, in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood again and then in the Gimcrack at York.


By this stage, the Goffs Million was very much on the cards and even more so when he handled the hustle and bustle of the big Weatherbys sales race at Doncaster early in September. It was after that the plane and accommodation tickets were booked for Ireland.

“I’d never been racing in Ireland before and I hadn’t been in Dublin for 15 years so we decided to make a weekend of it and bring over six friends,” Robinson says. “I was looking at the prize money in the race and I worked it out that anything better than ninth place would have paid for the horse’s trip over and ours. If he placed, we’d be well in front.

“I was a bit nervous through the first few furlongs, I didn’t think he was travelling as well as he could have been but he settled in after that. He got to two out and started to make his run through.

“I thought he’d gone too soon to be honest but fortunately Shane (Foley) let him press on, he didn’t try and hold him back for a bit longer and no horse could get to him.

“It was just mad to be honest. The feeling was immense. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to own horses. It’s the buzzy feeling. The first time I had a runner, there was that kind of feeling in your belly, a type of buzz, when they’re leading out and you see them in the paddock, and they go out and you start watching them.

“It’s that buzzy feeling that they may potentially win and when they actually do win, it’s a bit like a drug, you’re chasing that feeling all the time. You’re always looking for that feeling again and the way to do that in racing is to buy more horses. Winning with Galeron at the Curragh was out of this world.”

Most will tell Robinson it’s all downhill from here and despite his whirlwind start to ownership, he doesn’t necessarily disagree.

You’d forgive him if he had pretensions to conquer the racing world but he knows himself he’s hit the jackpot, quite literally. He celebrated his big win accordingly too and it was a nice touch that he managed to track down Johnny McKeever, back over in Ireland for the Orby Sale, for a celebratory drink after the races.

For that bloodstock agent, it was a hugely satisfying win for many reasons, not least his budding relationship with Charlie Hills.

“Gary knows he’s been lucky but he’s a lovely man and he has also now decided that this is a great recreation and is willing to spend more money on horses,” McKeever said. “Of course it’s very satisfying for us, especially as Charlie is a new client. Actually I thought the best thing about it was that it was the perfect horse to win the race for the sales company.

“The horse didn’t cost a fortune, wasn’t by a highly popular stallion and provided a guy like Gary with a dream win and now he’s willing to get into the game more. There is a lot of marketing you can do with that.”

As McKeever mentioned, Robinson wasn’t long spending some of his money. He had his flight booked home on the Monday but on a high from a such a sensational weekend, he stayed around and attended the Orby Sale with Hills and McKeever.


He bought two more horses so his team will grow to 12 in total, between flat and the jumps. The question now is how big does he want to get involved.

“I don’t know really,” he replies. “I guess I started off thinking, I’d love to have a horse in training and before I knew it I had three or four, then seven or eight and now I’m up to 12. I don’t think there is a burning ambition there to grow it any further but it depends on how things go. It becomes quite addictive really. As I said, you’re chasing that buzzy feeling.

“Maybe we could end up selling a few as well. I think if you can have a hobby and you’re fortunate enough to monetise it as well, that’s the ultimate for anybody, so who knows what we’ll do.

“We’re looking at going back to the Curragh next year with Galeron, for the Irish 2000 Guineas. Charlie won it before with Phoenix Of Spain, who arrived there fresh and so we might do the same. I don’t think he’ll run again this season but there is lots to look forward to with him.”

And what about Las Vegas?

“It’s booked in, we’re heading away in mid November. We just need to allow Charlie to get to the end of the season and then we’re all away. I’m a man of my word.”

Just don’t give all that Goffs money back.

“No I hope I don’t,” he says laughing. “We might double it!”

With his luck, you wouldn’t bet against him.

A new owner’s perspective on...

The Curragh

I thought it was a really really nice course. Even when we arrived, the way we were looked after was absolutely brilliant. We received our own racecards with our owner colours on the front.

It was our first time at the Curragh and I don’t really know what the situation is with the track but we had a great experience.

Advice for getting into racing ownership

Try and find somebody who can take you under their wing and give you some advice because it’s not a cheap sport to involve yourself in. I’ve been very fortunate that a friend of mine introduced me to two good trainers at the very start. I think you could end up just opening your wallet and throwing money away if you tried doing it blind.

Ownership experience in Britain

Everybody knows the prize money abroad compared to the prize money in Britain is totally different. That is a shame but the one thing I’ve found even more frustrating than the prize money is a lot of courses don’t seem to value the owners, and what I find really annoying is that actually without the investment that owners put in, the racecourses wouldn’t have a show at all.