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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Celebrities dreaming of big race spoils because of Mullins

Augusta Kate is owned a celebrity syndicate (Racing Post)
Augusta Kate is owned a celebrity syndicate (Racing Post)

An idea hatched on the lush green fairways of Augusta National could see 'Ant and Dec' swap the jungle and its Bushtucker trials for the surroundings of Cheltenham and Aintree in 2016 with Augusta Kate.

The comedic television presenters, who recently finished another series of popular reality game show 'I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!' in Australia, are part of a star-studded cast that make up the 'Masters Syndicate', a group of owners that also includes the Premier League's all-time leading goalscorer Alan Shearer, professional golfer Lee Westwood and sports agent Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler.

The man charged with arranging the syndicate was Graham Wylie, who, along with his wife Andrea, is no stranger to big-race success, having enjoyed Cheltenham Festival glory with the likes of Inglis Drever and Tidal Bay among others.

Wylie explained how a trip to the Masters in Georgia with some celebrity friends ended with them owning a racehorse together.

Wylie said: "It all started when myself and Alan and Ant and Dec were at Augusta for the Masters. We got talking about having a horse while we were there and they all decided they'd leave it to me.

Bred

"I told them that rather than spending a lot of money on a horse that might be no good, I might have one at home that I'd bred."

The horse Wylie decided on we now know as Augusta Kate is a daughter of unbeaten racemare Feathard Lady, who retired with injury after a stunning victory in the Christmas Hurdle a decade ago.

Augusta Kate, sired by the mighty four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats, was born and raised at former trainer Howard Johnson's yard in County Durham.

"I had a few mares at one stage, but she's the only one I have now. It's obviously a long-term thing and after a while I decided I'd rather just go out and buy horses that were proven," said Wylie.

"The first foal she had was too small and the second unfortunately broke a leg in training. This was the third foal and Howard kept her until she was a three-year-old.

"After chatting with the guys, I decided to send her to Willie Mullins and asked him to tell me whether he thought she'd make a racehorse or not.

"He told me she might be good enough to win a little race or two, which we were happy with and because of where the idea had started, we decided to name her after Augusta and we just felt Kate was a nice name for a filly.

"We're also called the Masters Syndicate and she runs in the green colours because of the green jacket the winner of the Masters gets."

Given her connections, it is hardly surprising Augusta Kate was a hot favourite for her racecourse debut at Listowel in September.

Wylie insists his expectations were not high, but the four-year-old trounced her rivals by upwards of 23 lengths and was impressive once more when stepped up to Listed class at Navan last month. Wylie said: "She went to Listowel for her first run and we weren't expecting too much. I was just thinking to myself 'please don't make a fool of me here and finish last!' By all accounts her work at home hasn't been brilliant, but as it turned out she won very impressively and then when she stepped up to the Listed race at Navan she did it very well again. She's obviously bred for it."

Shearer shared his excitement with the world after the Navan victory, posting a video of himself watching the race on his Twitter feed.

Augusta Kate is now set for a winter break before returning to action in the spring, with Cheltenham, Aintree's Grand National meeting and the Punchestown Festival all potential ports of call.

"I think she would probably then go to Aintree rather than Cheltenham, but we'll see.

"It would be great if we could have a day out together, but obviously they've all get very busy schedules.

"I've given them the dates for Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown, so hopefully we might all get together on one of those days and enjoy it."

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