The annual Ontrack Hunter Valley Horse and Wine Tour is over for 2019 after another special week in thoroughbred heaven for the tour party.
The 28 participants returned home after five special days in the Hunter Valley and the chance to see the powerhouse of thoroughbred breeding in Australia.
“It was another fantastic group of people and they all had a fantastic time. While the studs would love some rain we had perfect weather,” said Ontrack’s Grant Morgan.
“The studs were all fantastic and Ontrack owes a great debt to all the farms for their fantastic hospitality.
“Each stud has a magnificent array of stallions but a special moment was being at Coolmore Stud and able to get a close up look at two Triple Crown winners in American Pharoah and Justify.
“Australia has never played host to a pair of Triple Crown winners and it was fantastic to see both stallions.
“This year’s tour was a mix of new and previous tour clients and they proved to be a terrific bunch and it was a pleasure to make new friends and catch up with old friends.
The tour also featured a new dining venue for the Hunter Valley Tour Group.
This years Welcome Dinner was staged at the new Brokenwood Wines Cellar Door restaurant "The Wood".
The next Hunter Valley Tour will be staged in October 2020.
Dates will be released in the coming weeks for this and all the Ontrack Tours for 2020, as well as for Royal Ascot in 2021.
The full house signs have gone up on two more Ontrack Racing Tours for 2019.
This year’s Royal Ascot Tour in June was fully sold and now the Hunter Valley Horse and Wine Tour in October and the New Zealand Tour in November are fully subscribed.
“It’s fantastic to have such a great response to our tours and the only tour with vacancies is the Hong Kong International Tour in December,” said Ontrack Thoroughbreds Managing Director Grant Morgan.
“Tours are a great part of our business as they provide the opportunity to showcase the amazing thoroughbred industry to many of our existing clients as well as the opportunity to meet new clients and show them the amazing sights the Hunter Valley, New Zealand and Hong Kong has to offer.
“This will be the 13th tour for the Hunter Valley and 12th for New Zealand so we’ve got them all pretty much sorted but we try and add new features and opportunities each year to constantly improve the experience for our customers.
“For instance, this year we added a local guide to Royal Ascot to give extra insight and information and we will be doing the same on the Hong Kong trip in December.
“It adds another dimension to the tour to have a ‘local’ with inside knowledge of the racing industry in Hong Kong able to share their experiences and knowledge with our guests,” said Grant Morgan.
by Grant Morgan
The 'rolls royce' of our tour fleet is our sojourn to Royal Ascot. So special it is, we only embark on this trip every two years. And in doing so, we limit the group to 25. This enables our guests to get to know each other and most importantly, the very special guests we meet along the way.
I believe we delivered our best Royal Ascot tour yet, and we look forward to replicating this in 2021.
This year those special guests were numerous in numbers, but also big on quality. Our journey appropriately started in Newmarket, staying at the very English Bedford Lodge Resort & Spa. So much of our great sports history is rooted in this beautiful town. During our Newmarket stay we got to spend some time with two amazing trainers.
Firstly it was Sir Mark Prescott at his historic Heath House Stables. Sir Mark is the oldest serving trainer in Newmarket, but don't let that tag fool you. He is still full of vim and vigor, and is one of the finest raconteur's I've come across.
At the other end of the age scale is dynamo young trainer Marco Botti. A product of rich Italian racing heritage like Luca Cumani and Frankie Dettori. Marco is one of the new generation of trainers and we got an insight into his training style and philosophies at his modern training complex.
Front and centre of our Newmarket stay are private personal tours of the very best breeding operations in Dalham Hall, Cheveley Park and Banstead Manor. This enabled us to spend some time with some top class stallions including our own Brazen Beau. Of course the highlight for most was meeting the great Frankel.
Rounding off our Newmarket leg was a very special dinner at the majestic Jockey Club Rooms (circa 1668). Joining us were trainers Sir Mark Prescott and Marco Botti. Our own Gold Coast training duo of Toby and Trent Edmonds and Singapore's Stephen Gray also enjoyed the company of our guests at this wonderful dinner.
With a wonderful overview of English racing and breeding set for our guests, it was time to move camps to our London base at the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane in the swanky Mayfair district.
The group was well catered for on Royal Ascot Day 1 (Tuesday) with a fabulous lunch in the modern and spacious 'Carriages Restaurant'.
Next on the Royal Ascot agenda was Day 3 (Thursday) for Ascot Gold Cup. We were based in the 'Old Paddock Restaurant' which gave the group good access to the pre-parade ring whilst enjoying another lovely lunch.
Friday was the day for the gents to get final fittings for morning suits at Savoy Tailors Guild. The ladies enjoyed a visit to the Royal Cavalry Museum. With top hats tucked away, the full group then ventured to the classy Goring Hotel for a memorable High Tea.
The crescendo of the tour is Royal Ascot Day 5 (Saturday). Saving the very best to last, we were based in the Royal Enclosure in the 'Trackside Restaurant'.
Rounding the tour off on the final night was a beautiful dinner in Aqua Shard, perched overlooking London in the iconic Shard building.