Ownership not just a rich man's game
- 07 February 2018
For those who enjoy dabbling in a weekly pint and punt with their mates at the local, they find that it’s not often the venue to talk a lot of sense.
But for Carl Officer of the Four Legs Syndicate it would be his weekly beer at the Te Rapa Tavern that would lead to him realising a dream as a harness racing owner.
The Four Legs Syndicate is made up of eight members. Longtime friends Carl Officer, Shane Cappie, Stu Cappie, Kane Williamson, Warrock Tong, Michael Barrett, Dave Giles and James Purchase are all first time owners who have remarkably landed themselves in the ownership of six win pacer, Northview Hustler.
Officer had been around the sport for about twenty years and grew up watching harness racing with his parents. But it wasn’t until an idea over a cold beverage sparked his interest in the concept of owning a horse.
“We were sitting there having a bet one day, and I said to the guys that for the money you bet on the horses, and for about $20 a week, you could get into a horse of your own,” explained Officer. “They said if I could organize it they would be in.”
From there Officer was on the search for a suitable option for the friends.
“We started out with a horse with Mike Berger, who I must say is a fantastic man, he gave us a chance to lease a horse with him. We had some bad luck there. So we ended up saving some money to buy into a horse of our own,” he said. “Mike didn’t have anything for us to buy into at the time unfortunately, and I’d known John Street from Lincoln Farms through following racing, so we approached him.”
“John has an office at Alexandra Park and along with his syndicate manager Ian and trainer Ray Green they got us into ten percent of Northview Hustler.”
Officer said he felt the set up really suited his syndicate.
“They have great communication for owners. They keep us updated with regular emails and we can ring them or text them any time if we have questions. There’s always a cold beer in the fridge if we want to go and see them.”
When Northview Hustler made his debut at Alexandra Park in December 2016 as a three-year-old, Officer and Shane Cappie were the only two from their syndicate present oncourse.
The colt was a $1.80 favourite that evening and the nerves kicked in.
“I remember standing in the owners bar with a beer in my hand, and looking over to our own horse, then turning to Shane and asking if we can do this. He said ‘no worries, we got this’.
But then as Hustler turns for home in front he nearly gallops! He then pulled away and all people see is a couple of grown men hugging each other and screaming. We ran down to get our photo and our phones were going crazy with texts and phone calls from friends and family.”
It was to be the beginning of the Hustler fan club, with family and friends constantly wanting updates as to when and where the showy black would start next.
The highlights with the horse for Officer have been numerous, including finishing fifth in the Auckland Cup this season.
“It was an unreal feeling,” he said. “His only real work started in November 2016, and then within 13 months we had won the three-year-old Northern Graduate at his fifth start, a fifth in the Northern Derby, he then won the Winter Cup, before going on to break the national standing start record for 2200 metres in October 2017.”
The syndicate has a ritual of visiting the horse and Ray in the stables before the race.
“We always take plenty of selfies,” jokes Officer. “But I’ll never forget Ray Green saying at home he (Northview Hustler) shows nothing. Then you get him to the Park and the light goes on and boom. He knows why he is there.”
The syndicate members come from all types of backgrounds.
“Most of our syndicate is from Levin originally. But six now live in Hamilton, one is in Tauranga and the other is still in Levin,” said Officer. “We’ve all got a wide range of jobs, from teachers to floor layers. It must be said we are all great friends, but this experience has brought us and our wives and partners, and also kids, closer together.”
“And while we enjoy the thrill, two of the lovely wives, Vanessa Cappie and Natalie Barrett, do the hard work with the business side of the syndicate.”
The syndicate have also now bought into a two-year-old with Lincoln Farms in Trojan Banner. And Officer cannot recommend becoming an owner to others strongly enough.
“The memories we have made have been amazing. From nights out with the boys and our wives watching him race, or just hearing a pub full of people screaming, ‘Go Hustler!’
Whether we own ten percent or one hundred percent it really doesn’t matter.
I have to thank John and Lynne Street so much for making this happen, and you never know if all goes to plan on the second Tuesday in November we may see Hustler in the New Zealand Cup.
I just want the younger owners out there to know you don’t have to spend much to be involved. It’s not just a rich man’s game.”