Finding a horse capable of performing on the biggest stages is the dream of every owner – and John Romans hopes Elegant Escape can become his own special one in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday.
Having watched on as other owners based with trainer Colin Tizzard have celebrated big-race glory, the 59-year-old is keeping his fingers crossed that after biding his time patiently his time to enjoy a moment centre stage will materialise in the historic handicap.
With Romans’ pride and joy at the head of the market for the three-and-a-quarter-mile prize following his game success on his return in a Listed chase at Sandown, the chances of celebrating the big-race victory he has long craved look solid.
Romans said: “Elegant Escape is without doubt the best horse I’ve had since I got into racing.
“I was at the Punchestown Festival with Joe (Tizzard) and Colin and we were looking at these horses at the sale and he stood out.
“The three of us thought there was something about him and we have never looked back. I think that ‘something’ about him is his spirit.
“He was excellent at Sandown when he won the Future Stars Intermediate Chase, and that is what he is. He is such a confident horse.
“I think it is the right race for him. He won on Ladbrokes Trophy day last year, so we know he likes the course. I have to say he likes the soft ground, so we better do a rain dance for him.
“I own Ultragold with Garth and Anne Broom and Terry Warner and I’ve had some good fun with him, as he has won the Topham on two occasions, but there is nothing like having a horse on your own.”
Many ideas that originate from discussions involving a pint down the pub begin and end there, but for Romans it was one such interaction that saw him take the step from turning his passion into something much greater.
He said: “It started about 10 years ago for me. I was in my local pub and there were one or two who suggested about coming into a syndicate.
“I had always enjoyed racing and went to my local courses like Wincanton. The first syndicate horse was with Seamus Mullins. I wasn’t really involved and I was just the new boy on the block.
“With the second horse, the syndicate had decided to go to Colin Tizzard and from there I really got the bug and from it I then had my own horses with Colin.
“I have had good horses before ,but we’ve not always had the good times. We purchased a horse for quite big money called Kilmurry.
“He had won at Cheltenham earlier in the season and he was being aimed at the Arkle. In the trial at Warwick (Kingmaker) in February before the Festival, he suffered a fatal injury just before the last fence.
“In this game there are ups and down and you have got to make the most of the good times.”
Deciding which trainer to place horses with can be tricky, but for Romans, who owns eight park home sites across the south west of England, there was no other team he wanted to see horses carrying his black and yellow silks.
He said: “We get on very well and this is where Colin, Joe and the Tizzard team succeed, as they are the most social yard in the country.
“All of us owners get on well and we are like one big, happy family and are all delighted for each other if one of us have a winner.
“The Tizzard family are a pleasure to deal with and what I find about the yard is that there is never any panic.
“Everyone enjoys their job and from the head girl downwards they all work hard and play hard and that sums up the Tizzard team ethos.”
As the countdown to the big day gets ever nearer for Romans, the nerves are starting to intensify ahead of what he hopes will be a day to savour for the rest of his life.
He said: “I’m always nervous when they run, as I am such an animal lover. I stay on my own watching the races normally, as I like the silence of that.
“It is nerve-racking, especially like this when he is being hyped up. In your own mind you hope the horse will do well, but you never know as it is a horse race at the end of the day.
“I’m a quiet person when watching it, but I get quite excited when I have success. I’m more of a pessimist than an optimist and if I stay that way you are more delighted when you succeed.
“It really would be the best day I’ve ever had racing in my life if he does win and it’s exciting to think about it.”