In her latest column, North Yorkshire trainer Ann Duffield sounds the alarm about the importance of finding the right syndicate.

THERE was once a horse named “Beware of Agents” - named, I imagine, because connections at the time had suffered personal financial loss thanks to unscrupulous practice.

The same may be said about some racing clubs or syndicates and certainly it appears there are some people willing to take money from would-be, enthusiastic racehorse owners without fulfilling their own obligations.

Sadly, it is all too easy to take advantage of them if they don’t know the good from the bad.

The BHA (British Horseracing Authority) are keen to ensure the public are not being conned, and after having some issues myself recently with a racing club, it appears the BHA’s desire to put some “best practice” house rules in place, is much needed. As things stand, those racing fans who would love to be involved in a horse currently know little about who they should approach or who they need to steer clear of.

In my case, the man at the helm seemed genuine. He initially leased a winning two-year-old filly, the daughter of one of our winners. Then he “bought” a stake in another filly.

Soon after the syndicate began “selling” the remaining shares, as well as collecting training fees for the two-year-old filly it had leased.

One owner I know of paid £3,500 for his fees up front for the season, while plenty of other people have paid for shares too. The problem is, the syndicate has collected a lot of money in from their ‘clients’ but, after months of excuses and bounced cheques, are yet to pay for the horses or the subsequent training fees.

I spoke to several trainers who have also had the same problems. It appears the syndicate uses trainers’ names in order to make their clients believe it is a credible organisation.

Last week, I had talks with both the Chairman of the BHA “Steve Harman” and the Chief Executive “Nick Rust” regarding this and similar situations and it seems the BHA are already hard at work putting procedures in place to ensure the public are protected against racehorse ownership scams. Initially the BHA are introducing a “syndicates code of conduct” and as Nick explained: “On syndicates, firstly, the syndicates’ code of conduct would set out how we would expect syndicate managers to run their syndicates (‘transparency’ being the key word so that consumers can make an informed choice).

"Secondly, when a syndicate registers with us, the syndicate manager becomes the registered person (rather than any two of the syndicate members as is currently the case). If we find that person is not complying with the code of conduct, we may not allow them to register any syndicates. On racing clubs, the new definition of a racing club will be that club members don’t own any horses (they simply enjoy the benefits of club membership). Those that join a racing club should, therefore, be aware what they are getting for their money.”

In our case, we are now working with the well-run and totally transparent syndicate Grange Park.

The message is clear: if you want to join a syndicate please beware.

Ideally contact a trainer for advice and do your homework. Many trainers have their own successful syndicates and clubs you can join in too.

In the meantime, we have alerted to the police to our concerns.

LAST week was busy with Breeze-up sales and we were delighted to add two new additions to the team with a lovely filly by “Excelebration” and an exciting son of “Oasis Dream”.

The colt was bought for our main owner, Newcastle-based John Dance, whose company Vertem Asset management are well-known sponsors in the North East.

ON the track, our team are starting to get into gear with decent reappearances from a couple of horses owned by local North-East owners. My Amigo who won well first time out last year at Newcastle, ran a blinder to finish third in the feature race on Friday’s card, while stable star George Dryden was beaten only a neck off top weight in Saturdays feature race at Ripon, having met trouble in running. He looks capable landing a big race this year.