Donn's Articles » Simon Munir

Simon Munir

It was in Raffles Hotel in Singapore in the early summer of 2012 that Simon Munir was catching up with his dear friend Isaac Souede.  Une Artiste had won the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the previous March and had followed up by winning the listed mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham’s April meeting.  Raya Star had won the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr two days later.  Their meeting was not about horses but, inevitably, the subject came up.

Simon’s wife had warned him: not everybody is interested in talking about racing.  It can be too much for some.  Conscious of his wife’s sage advice, Simon deliberately steered the conversation away from horses, away from racing yet, somehow, inexorably, the talk would wheel around again and re-visit the subject.  Isaac Souede’s interest in and enthusiasm for racing was unmistakeable.  And so, one of the most potent partnerships in racing was born, and they resolved that, every homebred horse would carry the Raffles prefix or suffix.

Raffles Sun, Fusil Raffles, Raffles Face, Raffles Sainte.

Simon Munir’s racing roots run deep.  As a child, he was fascinated by horses as animals, and his late grandfather and mother used to bring him racing.  He learned to ride when he was seven and, at Harrow, where, numbered among his classmates was William Haggas – more of whom anon – he was the school bookmaker.

“I was at the height of my bookmaking career in 1981,” he recalls.  “Shergar won the Derby that year, and I didn’t lay a penny on him!”

That astute business acumen has stood the test of time, it allowed Simon Munir gather the means that allowed him to have horses in training in his own name, in his own colours.  Double green?  Green has always been his favourite colour, his lucky colour, since his childhood days.  Double Green, racing, twice as lucky.

You need the luck, of course, but you also need the judgement and the wherewithal to benefit when the luck goes your way.  A relationship with bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley proved fruitful from the outset and, fuelled by positive results from early, that relationship grew and developed to become one of the cornerstones of the success of the Double Green operation as it exists today.

Soldatino was one of the early success stories.  Sourced in France by Bromley after he had won a four-year-olds’ hurdle at Pau, and sent to Nicky Henderson, the Graveron gelding won the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in 2010 on his first run in Britain, and he followed up by landing the Triumph Hurdle at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival.

Grandouet won the Champion Four-Year-Olds’ Hurdle at Punchestown the following year, and went on to win the International Hurdle at Cheltenham the following November.  Molotof won the Kennel Gate Hurdle at Ascot six days later.  Une Artiste won the Fred Winter Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival that season.  All trained by Nicky Henderson.  

Raya Star was trained by Alan King to win the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot that December, the day after Molotof had won the Kennel Gate Hurdle, and Raya Star went on to win Scottish Champion Hurdle the following April.  Then, that meeting with Isaac Souede in Raffles Hotel.

“We are all the while trying to develop,” says Simon Munir thoughtfully.  “We are always trying to do something new, to break new ground.  Our model is based on results, it’s driven by statistics.  Ireland was part of our evolution.”

The first horse they had in Ireland was Gitane Du Berlais, who was trained by Willie Mullins to win a listed mares’ hurdle at Aintree in December 2013 on just her second run for the trainer, before going back to Fairyhouse the following month and landing the Grade 3 Solerina Hurdle.  She won her beginners’ chase on her first run over fences, her first run the following season, at Limerick’s 2014 Christmas Festival, then went to Sandown the following month and landed the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase.  

That was a third Grade 1 win for the new partnership, a third Grade 1 win in the space of just over a month, following on from Bristol De Mai’s win in the Finale Hurdle at Chepstow and L’Ami Serge’s win in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

“Since I’ve been in racing, I’ve always been a value buyer.  Isaac and I have a great team, Anthony, Daryl (Jacob), Benoît (Gicquel) in France.  Daryl is our jockey, but he is also an integral part of our team.  And our trainers.  We have our academy with Stuart Crawford.  Some horses will stay with Stuart, some will be reallocated, some we sell on.  They are judgement calls, whatever we feel is the best thing for each horse in the circumstances.  And we try to supplement our team by buying strategically.”

It is a strategy that has yielded significant success in recent years.

“Anthony will propose a horse and we will discuss it.  What will that horse add to the team?  I enjoy that part of the business, I take pleasure in discussing options with Isaac and Anthony and reaching a decision.  We like to over-allocate to areas where we have had success, and cut losses in areas that aren’t working.” 

2023 has been a phenomenal year for the Double Green, with El Fabiolo and Impaire Et Passe bagging five Grade 1 wins between them, including an Arkle (El Fabiolo) and a Ballymore Hurdle (Impaire Et Passe) at the Cheltenham Festival.

“When we bought El Fabiolo and sent him to Willie,” says Simon, “the first thing he did was give him a year off!  We’re lucky in that we have the luxury of being able to give our horses time if they need it, but we always loved El Fabiolo.  He was very good over hurdles, but we bought him to be a chaser.  It was a great day when he won the Arkle.”

The following day was another great day, when Impaire Et Passe won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

“We bought Impaire Et Passe on-line after he won his bumper in France.  He’s a lovely horse, he won his four hurdle races last season, and he is only five, which is why we decided to stay over hurdles this season.  He is obviously a really exciting horse.”

He is one of many.  Zarak The Brave won the Galway Hurdle, the first four-year-old to win the race in 23 years.  Nusret won the Adonis Hurdle, Fun Fun Fun and Lily Du Berlais finished first and second in the Grade 2 mares’ bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival.  And then there was Relief Rally, a departure, a two-year-old filly, a flat horse, second in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot and winner of the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury and winner of the Lowther Stakes at York.

“I have always had flat horses and, as I was at school with William Haggas, it was nice to have a two-year-old with him.  Our flat horses are usually embryo National Hunt horses though, potential juvenile hurdles, like Nusret, who was rated in the 90s on the flat before he went over hurdles and won the Adonis Hurdle.”

With the winter kicking in now though, the talk is of National Hunt horses.  And wherever the conversation goes, you know that it will somehow, inexorably, wheel back around to racing.

© Racing Certainty, 2024