Spirit Of St Louis. Photo by Club Menangle
The phone rings. Summit Bloodstock’s Jamie Durnberger-Smith is quick to answer the call.
I’m keen to discuss his emerging pacer Spirit Of St Louis who last Saturday headed to Victoria and won the Group 2 Bendigo Cup.
It came off the back of an eye-catching Inter Dominion campaign which included a second round heat win at Bathurst.
“These are the things you dream of as a kid when you go to bed at night,” Jamie said.
“Last night I dreamt about it. When I think about it I still get smothered in goosebumps. And that will stay with me for the rest of my days.”
It has been a golden few months for the ownership group. Group being the operative word.
“So how many exactly are in the ownership of this horse?” I ask Jamie.
He pauses. Reflects. “Actually I’m in front of the computer right now. I’ll look it up,” he replies.
“One. Two. Three …” He stops at 19.
“And that’s people from all over the place at different levels of buy-in. It’s brilliant.”
Jamie, through Summit Bloodstock, is just one of them.
“It doesn’t matter if you own one per cent or 100 per cent. There is no difference. The feeling of having a horse and seeing it race and especially seeing it do well is like nothing else,” he muses.
“I wish I could bottle it and bring out that feeling in the dark times!”
It’s an ownership model which Jamie sees as part of the future for the harness racing industry. A foot in the door, test the waters, baby steps process which he hopes will continue to bring more owners to our sport.
“I always say to people, come in with whatever you can afford, jump into a horse and see if you like it because there are ways that we can get more people involved,” he said.
“And then use the money you’ve made to re-invest if you’re keen to expand your portfolio. But I firmly believe forcing people into the industry is not going to keep them. You have to have or at least develop that passion.”
“It’s about showing people that owning a horse is possible and giving them the thrill of watching it race, either trackside or on television. Because it’s a buzz and there’s nothing quite like it. That obviously goes to another level if you happen to win.”
It seems to be working too. Summit alone has enlisted more than 250 new to the industry owners nationwide.
Jamie reckons he’s fielding more than a dozen enquiries a month from people who’ve never owned a horse but are keen to join the ranks.
And, join the ownership group chat when horses like Spirit Of St Louis chase Group race glory.
“We’ve got 178 horses now so there’s a lot of group chats. But that one over the past couple of months has been brilliant. Things like ‘oh I can’t wait’ and ‘I can’t sleep’. The hype that goes with being in ownership is wonderful to see and it brings a lot of people together in a very unique way as well,” he said.
“We all talk about our horses every single day. And they all talk to their mates about it which broadens the conversation and has a snowball effect.”
“Interest in our sport is growing. And that can only be a good thing for the industry.”
The Spirit of St Louis is testament to that.