An Interview with Top Owner John Hales
John Hales had his first runner on a racetrack, trained by the late Gordon Richards, in March 1996 and it was not a fairy tale finish. Yet, Mr Hales kept his faith in racing and was rewarded by his ownership of the amazing One Man, who won twenty races including the 1998 Champion Chase under Brian Harding, a King George in 1995 and 1996, Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 1994, and Peterborough Chase and two Charlie Hall Chases . Azertyuipop won another Champion Chase in 2004, plus a Haldon Gold Cup in the same year, and Politilogue won a Champion Chase in 2020. Aux Ptits Soins won the 2015 Coral Cup on his first start in the UK and Al Ferof won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2011, as well as a Paddy Power Gold Cup the following year and a Peterborough Chase in 2015.
Another of Mr Hale’s famous greys was Neptune Collonges, who battled to be victorious in the photo finish of the 2012 Grand National to win by a nose. He was the first grey to win the Aintree spectacular since 1961, and only the third grey to ever win. Even without a Grand National win, Neptune Collonges still held his own in a time when there many great steeplechasers. His wins include two Punchestown Gold Cups in 2007 and 2008, a Hennessy Gold Cup in 2009 in Leopardstown and was third and fourth in two Cheltenham Gold Cups. In a final act of selflessness, Mr Hales retired Neptune Collonges after his Grand National triumph; he has paraded there every year since and visited Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to raise funds for their Imagine appeal. Since retirement, the much loved grey has been under the care of Mr Hales’ daughter Lisa, has won at dressage, parades and even was involved in the Olympic Torch relay in 2012.
Mr Hales’ is the co-founder of Golden Bear Toys, which began in 1979 and has produced many products and merchandise from the Teletubbies, Charlie And Lola, Basil Brush, Thomas the Tank Engine, Noddy and In The Night Garden. In 2008, the company launched a website, so toys could be purchased directly from Golden Bear Online. The company proudly produced mascots for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics, and in the same year, lunched a range of Minis that could be driven by pre-school children.
How did you get into racehorse ownership?
We went on holiday to Barbados and met John Moreton, whose horse Rhyme And Reason had won the Grand National, and he had a very good horse at that time, “Twin Oaks”. John persuaded me to spend some money on two horses and get involved with National Hunt Racing.
What is the best advice you were give?
Photo Credit: Grossick
What was the inspiration behind the design of your colours?
My wife wanted colours that would stand out eventing and easy to see going into and out of woods when my daughter Lisa started eventing as a teenager. I liked red so we added the red star.
What was the first racehorse you owned?
The Toyman who was tragically killed when he jumped the first fence at Bangor-on-Dee.
Please list the racehorses you own for this season:
Protektorat trained by Dan Skelton and also owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, Ged Mason, and Lisa Hales.
Eclair D’Ainay trained by Dan Skelton owned by J. Hales.
Aux Petit Soins trained by Dan Skelton and owned by J. Hales.
Grandads Cottage trained by Oliver Murphy owned by J. Hales.
Politologue trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by J. Hales and Lisa Hales.
Fidelio Vallis trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by J. Hales and Lisa Hales.
Flash Collonges trained by Paul Nicholls and owned by the GiGi Partnership.
What have been your favourite horses?
My favourite horse? I would have to pick two horses. Neptune Collonges, who won the Grand National and One Man, who was a great Chaser.
Neptune Collonges in retirement.
What is your favourite meeting?
Which race would you most like to win that has so far evaded you?
The Cheltenham Gold Cup.
What is your most memorable day’s racing?
Neptune Collonges winning the Grand National and One Man winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase, plus him winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.
What, generally, does racing excel at?
There are always very good relationships amongst owners.
Where aspects within racing could be improved?
Racing is already run to a very high standard but if I were being super critical, I would say that owners’ facilities could still be improved plus an increase in prize money.
Which racecourse looks after owners the best and why?
The best I have experienced is Ayr at the Scottish Grand National meeting. The lunch they provide is outstanding. Also, Cheltenham’s standards, as you would expect, are very high in all facilities.
What do you admire about racing?
The sportsmanship shown by all those taking part.
What has been your saddest day’s racing?
The saddest day was when we lost One Man at Aintree, on his first race after winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
What other equestrian disciplines are you involved in?
I have a number of Showjumpers and we were very pleased to represent our country at the Athens and Beijing Olympics Games. We currently represent Ireland as we have an Irish jockey.
What is your most favourite holidays destination?
Photo Credit: Grossick