Crowning glory awaits Michael and Chris Ward in Golden Rose

By Adam Pengilly 

The Sydney Morning Herald

Number crunchers in a former life, Michael and Chris Ward don’t need to be told paydirt might take just a little longer than a mad minute of the Golden Rose.

The group 1 wins their Triple Crown Syndications have racked up to date have been all gallant geldings and flying fillies – not that they’re complaining – but a striking stallion is where the wells of wealth can be drilled.

“The next step is a colt,” says Chris Ward, who forfeited a steady career in the finance industry to launch the syndicator in 2004. “[Gold Symphony] has won three from four and his other finish was second so to win a group 1 on Saturday it would certainly make him a commercial stallion. That’s definitely a goal we’re working hard towards.”

Brother Michael says “this one is the one”. Also chucking in a reliable financial career to pursue his pony passion, he won’t need to rack the brain long to work out the zeros a Golden Rose victory will add to the value of Peter Moody’s Vain and McNeil Stakes winner, surging through his first preparation – $10 million? $20 million? The Wards can almost write their own cheque with success in the stallion-making sprint, which has only been won by one filly, Forensics (2008), since switching to its current name.

If Gold Symphony’s value is yet to be settled – regardless of Golden Rose success or not – the numbers are crystal clear on Triple Crown’s syndication success.

Since the start of 2010, the red and white has been carried to 16 group race victories – more than double the next best of their competitors. Same goes for number of individual horses to have won group races in the same period. All the while working off a budget inferior to most of their rivals.

“There are a lot more [syndicators] now – smaller ones that do exist – and it is more competitive than it was 10 years ago,” Michael says. “It’s a profession you live and die by your results and without them you’ve got nothing. The key focus for us is everything we do is trying to maximise our results on the track.”

Which they’ve continued to do since Chris, “bored” with the calculator, switched to using it to work out the value of horseflesh according to pedigrees and followed a calling.

The family had always raced horses, breeding a few on the side too via the small Eagle Park Stud at Orange. Now they’ve got a backlog of owners wanting to join Triple Crown on the dream of the small outlay-big return the doctor, dentist, mining executive and ex-policeman are chasing with Gold Symphony.

“I was a bit naive in regards to [regulations], but we got all that sorted and every year it’s been growing since,” Chris says.

“I always knew it was my passion. We’ve always had a love for the horses and I knew that’s where the future lay … I was confident in that. And we’re lucky we’re doing something we love.”

Michael’s eldest daughter recites Sydney’s premiership standings, statistics her own father is often oblivious to.

While the directors carefully and cautiously scour sales countrywide for the next potential champion, small-time owners just want the thrill of racing a horse together.

Triple Crown owner Liz Barnes was fighting breast cancer when Peggy Jean won the group 1 Sires’ Produce Stakes for the syndicator early last year. She led the horse back to scale alongside cancer survivor Trish Nicholls.

“That’s the most rewarding part of the business – seeing the thrill people get,” Michael says. “Everybody has got their own story in life, but to see what racehorse ownership can do for you … it’s immensely rewarding.”

Even allowing for omens, Gold Symphony isn’t exactly on track for a gold medal finish in Sydney’s first group 1 of the spring if bookies are to be believed. Ladbrokes has struggled to write a ticket for the colt – winding his price out $21 on Thursday evening for the $1 million race.

Maybe the lack of a push from Peter Moody, who has muzzled himself in front of the media over the stewards’ attitude to the ongoing cobalt saga, has played a part.

But Gold Symphony’s owners will be shouting from the rooftops if Tommy Berry can engineer an upset on the $100,000 yearling, a son of Moody’s former Blue Diamond winner Reward For Effort.

“He’s just been one of those horses on every outing that takes it up to another level,” Chris says. “I don’t think you expect any horse to get more than a couple of runs in their first prep, but he’s been an upward spiral and a very, tough resilient colt. We hope he takes another step this weekend.”

Then a couple of brothers who once dabbled in the finance industry will be dancing all the way to the bank.