EERC (Emirates Entertainment Racing Club), one of the oldest, most successful and prosperous syndicates in UAE is the brainchild of Justin and Rebecca Byrne. Breaking the myth that owning a thoroughbred horse is just for a select few, they liberated the world of thoroughbred racing in the UAE by introducing the concept of race-horse syndication.
Every year EERC comes into the UAE season with a string of powerful, well-trained horses, aimed at winning every start. This year is no different. Last weekend, Doug Watson celebrated a double, after landing the 1900m dirt handicap, with EERC-owned Grand Argentier. The lightly-raced son of Palace Episode, in a surge of speed towards the end, claimed the race beating veteran UAE trainer Seemar duo of Above Normal and Saltarin Dubai.
Preparing for the Dubai World Cup is a very busy time. However, Justin Byrne agreed to spend some time with us, to talk about Grand Argentier’s win and his plans for EERC:
Q: Tell us more about Grand Argentier’s exciting recent win.
A: We are obviously delighted because nothing seemed to go right throughout the race. He missed the break and had to be ridden to get into contention and then looked short of room, but he has really stuck his head down in the final stages and we have to credit Brett for a great ride.
Q: So what is in store for EERC this year?
A: We would like to change our model a little this year and will be considering other parts of the world to stable horses in. Currently, our main base is the UAE with the odd one or two horses in the UK so it is time to contemplate expansion. At the moment we have partnership horses with Fawzi Nass and we would like to increase our number of partnership horses in the future.
Q: Who are your top 2 new and returning stable stars?
A: He missed all of last season but Los Barbados is the one we are really looking forward to getting back on to the track. He beat Prince Of Arran then lost by a nose the next time up to the same horse. Prince Of Arran is a good benchmark in the stayers division so getting Los Barbados back will be excellent. Shamaal Nibras is clearly the stable star but he has just turned 11 so I would say that Grand Argentier is one to keep an eye on.
Q: What sales have you been to this year? Have you bought any special horses we will be seeing soon?
A: This year we have purchased Quiet Endeavor (trained by Doug Watson) Newmarket July sale, but I see him as more of a next season horse. Cenatoph purchased at the Newmarket October sale (trained by Erwan Charpy) is a carnival rated sprinter whom we are looking forward to seeing on the track. Dragon’s Tail (purchased privately in partnership with Fawzi Nass and Garey Goss) and ex-Godolphin sprinter Laieth from the Racing in Dubai sale (in partnership with Fawzi Nass) are both trained by Fawzi Nass. From these new horses, Laieth could be the one for this season.
Q: I believe the idea for EERC germinated at a little restaurant called Jebel Ali Club? What do you remember about the days when you started EERC? How have things changed?
A: The idea came about when Sir Edwin Landseer won in the carnival. Our good friend Jason Ford, Rebecca and I would often catch up at the Jebel Ali Club and this is where the concept grew. We don’t often go to the club anymore but that is more to do with the expansion of Dubai. The EERC has changed many times from the early days but the main ethos is still the same; to offer people a chance to own a small share (or large share) in a racehorse and to try to get more people involved in the sport which both Rebecca and I love.
Q: When did you and your wife move to Dubai and what is your first and most memorable memory of the Dubai World Cup race or race day?
A: Rebecca was born in Dubai. I moved here in 2001 for a three-month break from Spain where I was living at the time. I think that my earliest memory was the year that Electrocutionist won in 2006. I had been to a few World Cup meetings before then but that was the first year we booked hospitality and it took the meeting to a whole new level. The most memorable was the year that Curlin won and we had a marquee in the middle of the old Nad Al Sheba track for the syndicate and friends. That was a very special day.
Q: What race are you going to aim for, going into the 25th Anniversary of the Dubai World Cup?
A: The two horses most likely to get an invitation are Los Barbados and Cheik Roque. However, Laieth and Grand Argentier both have a small chance of an invitation if they have very good seasons.
Q: This last decade has been full of surprises. 2020 is the start of the new decade, what are your aspirations for EERC in this coming decade?
A: The main two objectives for the next decade are to expand the syndicate into new domains. It would be good to have horses in many different countries and then secondly to develop the hospitality side. We started to host a box at Meydan and this is now very popular with not only syndicate members but also other owners and racing fans. Last year we took a box for Royal Ascot and we had a phenomenal day. It is events like this which we would like to add to the EERC portfolio.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your family? How did you get into racing?
A: We are a small family, just Rebecca, our daughter Brooke and myself. Rebecca was a nurse before Brooke was born and I was a DJ / Entertainer and have run my own bars and nightclubs before I opened my own company in Dubai. It seems that Brooke takes after me with the entertainment side of things and she now goes to full time performing arts school. Both Rebecca and I were introduced to racing via our grandparents. My love of racing started watching racing on TV with my Nan and has grown from there. Rebecca used to go racing at Fakenham with her grandparents when she visited the UK and fell in love with the sport then.