From meal deal to real deal: Altrincham racehorse owner Mike who bought first horse with Tesco Clubcard points pens book on incredible journey

Mike Madden has written an amazing book detailing his experiences as a race horse owner, which began by him collecting tesco clubcard vouchers
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Mike initially got into racing back in the 70s when he waited for his old man outside ‘The Turf Accountant’ in Ashton-on-Mersey while he put his bets on.

After a lifetime of following the horses, he always harboured aspirations to have his own.

Like most of us, he collected points on his Tesco Club Card, which is where his journey to owning a prized racehorse began.

As you collect points, you can redeem a range of gifts, but one particular scheme caught Mike’s eye.

Speaking to I Love MCR, he said: “I’ve always collected Clubcard points – but back then they didn’t have too many partners.

“One of the groups I came across was ‘Own a Racehorse’ where you could use all your points to own a stake in a racehorse.

“It worked out at about £150 a share in the end.

“When you collect points you think, maybe I’ll get some food or some drink, but instead I got some shares in two horses.”

The first two horses Mike owned shares in: Friendship Bay and Tenjack King didn’t amount to much and the scheme unfortunately fell away.

But having opened up his eyes to this world, he decided to give things another whirl.

In 2016, Mike and his wife Sally, splashed out on another horse called Elements Legacy through ‘Ontoawinner’,  after the ‘modest’ returns of the previous two owned through the Tesco scheme.

Mike, who originally worked at Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport and N. Brown in Manchester for ten years set out on his own business journey in 2012 landing successful contracts with Google, taking him as far afield as Kyiv and Brazil.

And as his business flourished, there was only one place he was going to re-invest his profits.

Armed with a wad of cash Mike and his wife Sally went to the 2021 Tattersalls horse auction in Newmarket in a bid to find that elusive winner.

Luckily for Mike, he was friends with Luke Lillingston, an internationally renowned bloodstock agent who is an expert in finding some of the best young horses across the country.

It wasn’t all plane sailing though, as Mike explains.

“Well we went in with high hopes and with about £20,000.

“The first horse that circled in the auction went for £80,000 and we all thought, oh god here we go – we’re never going to get anything.

“Nothing really prepared me for the kind of money that was changing hands.”

After day one of the two day auction, the family had picked up nothing, and were scratching their heads a bit overnight thinking maybe they had bitten off more than they could chew.

“It got down to the last horses on our shortlist on day two when we finally got a winner.”

The Maddens had a bid accepted for a filly Star of Lady M, for 15,000 guineas, or £15,750.

Star of Lady M

Because horse owners tend to buy colts, young male horses, there is a bonus attached for fillies called the Great British Bonus.

It means that owners, breeders and connections of winning GBB-registered fillies can win up to £20,000 in bonuses per eligible race.

And that would come in very handy down the line for the family.

Almost as an after thought, they picked up 3/4’s of another racehorse, Emerald Duchess right at the end of the sale, in a partnership with Tim Easterby and Richard Kent.

“We went from thinking, oh dear, we’re going to end up with nothing to having one and 3/4s of a racehorse.

“It was crazy. But even then, it’s always a gamble. You never know quite what you’re buying…”

After a few celebratory drinks in the bar that evening,  little did they know this was just the beginning of an amazing journey of success.

Traditionally horses are named after a mixture of their parents – so Star of Lady M takes her name from her mother’s name – Abraj Dubai, as “Abraj” means “constellation” in Arabic, and Sally’s occasional name given to her by her friends of “Lady M”.

Star of Lady M was then sent off for training at David O’Meara in York.

On debut, Star of Lady M won on the 4th of April at Redcar, beating the odds on favourite to scoop a brilliant victory in her first outing.

Because of the filly’s Great British Bonus, they won £24,000, instantly justifying the £15,750 outlay on the horse in just her first race.

A kiss for goodluck

Star of Lady M Really started getting attention however, when she won Beverley’s big Hilary Needler trophy race worth £21,000 in May.

“It was an unbelievable thrill. We had taken a bit of a gamble on the horse but my word it was paying off already.

“I was in the Nou Camp for the Champions League final in 1999… nothing compared to the feeling of winning with your own racehorse.

“We just couldn’t believe it.

“She was second with a furlong to go and we thought maybe she’d had it – but she put on an incredible turn of pace and came in first.

“It was a huge result.”

Following this race, there was of course, talk of Royal Ascot.

One of the highlights of the race calendar year, and with a couple of superb victories in their back pocket star of Lady M could head to Royal Ascot with high hopes.

They signed her up for the Windsor Castle race, the 6th race of the Wednesday of the Royal meeting.

And they had to arrive in style, because, why not? The family flew in by helicopter to celebrate.

Arriving in style – Mike, his sister Fiona and daughter Gabriella

“It’s such a big event, and a huge day for all of us we hired two helicopters to get the family down from Manchester.

“Last summer, I’m sure you remember how hot it was all summer and the heat and the nerves were just sending me haywire. I didn’t know what to do, I was just a huge bag of nervous energy.

“I remember being in the owners enclosure and just being all over the shop.”

Unfortunately, Star of Lady M finished way down the field in a race that included Little Big Bear, recently crowned European two year old champion.

Following Ascot, the horse won at Musselburgh in a race where horses were handicapped by making them carry weights to ensure a fairer race.

Despite Star of Lady M carrying the heaviest weights, she came out on top.

In her next race at Goodwood, she finished third in a stellar field that included The Platinum Queen, who has recently been purchased for an eye watering £1.2m.

Sally Madden and Danny Tudhope

So she was now competing with some of the most coveted horses on the racing circuit, a long way from humble beginnings.

One of the highlights of Star of Lady M’s season was finishing 3rd in what’s called a class one race at Ripon. Class one races showcase the best horseracing talent in the UK and beyond.

“It meant a lot to be placed in a class one race, it meant we really can now compete at the top level. It also meant now she was a top class runner, she would be listed in black type on her pedigree page.

“So what is a black type race? Well, put simply it is a race of high standard, or Class 1, and if a horse finishes in the first three its name will be printed in black type on their pedigree. If the horse actually wins the entry will be capitalized black type which really jumps off the page.

“This means buyers and stud owners can more easily identify ‘better’ horses when bidding for them at auction.”

Now the horse was a bold black type, it’s highly likely if bred well, will create a lot of money for the foal in an auction.

However it wasn’t all smooth sailing, as she was injured during the Ripon race. It appeared that she was struck into by one of the other runners, levaing a large gas at the back of one of her legs. It looked serious, but David O’Meara explained that it was just a flesh wound and had not affected the tendon. However, it was still a blow when he declared that she was out for the season and would miss all of the autumn races, which often have lucrative prize money.

Just before Ascot, Luke Lillingston, Mike’s friend and man in the know told them it was now a great time to sell Star of Lady M, as with the entry for Royal Ascot, she could now fetch up to six figures at auction.

But Mike couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“After the absolute rollercoaster we’d been through in the first year, from the wins and being at Ascot, there’s no way we could get rid of her.

“We can’t wait to see what next season now brings.

“Usually third year of a horse is their prime racing year, so we’ve got a lot to look forward to next year once she’s all recovered.

“But what I will say – it’s been an incredible journey, and all from picking up tesco clubcard vouchers eh?”

You can pick up a copy of Mike’s book by clicking here.

You can watch his story here

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