From Newcastle to No One versus Northern

7 min read
Australian-born owner Michael Tabart's ambitious JRA syndication group New World Racing scored what could prove a pivotal first stakes win on Sunday when No One dead-heated in a key G2 prelude to the Thousand Guineas. Next she takes on the might of Northern Farm in the time-honoured G1 Oka Sho.

There might not be any such thing as a former Novocastrian – you can take the boy out of Newcastle and all of that – but Michael Tabart left the seaside coal town nearly 20 years ago and hasn't looked back.

Tabart left Australia as a teenager fascinated with Japanese culture, but also blessed with a freakish gift for language and imbued with a love of racing courtesy of regular trips to Broadmeadow Racecourse.

That passion for the turf led to Tabart – who works in finance –in being one of the few foreigners to gain a Japan Racing Association (JRA) owner permit, with which he raced Hana's Goal (Jpn) (Orewa Matteruze {Jpn}), a dual-stakeswinner in Japan and winner of the 2014 G1 All-Aged Stakes at Randwick.

In 2017 Tabart turned his passion play into a serious project, creating New World Racing – buying 14 horses and basing his business around accessibility, transparency, communication and entertainment for owners. Now a filly from an obscure background has him ready to take on the empire that is Northern Farm in one of Japan's most prestigious races.

Michael Tabart (right) with Hana's Goal

From No One to G1

The name of New World Racing's first stakes winner – No One (Jpn) (Hearts Cry {Jpn}), a filly from that first crop of 14 – seems fitting. It is reflective of the Tabart's rise from interested onlooker, but ultimately outsider to the notoriously closed ranks of Japanese racing, to progressive and successful syndicator.

"This result is huge for us," Tabart told TDN AusNZ from his home base in Osaka. "She had already given us our first winner when she won her maiden, and now to give us a G2 winner and to have a runner in the Thousand Guineas from our first group of horses is amazing."

"This result is huge for us." - Michael Tabart

No One was rated a 45-1 outsider in the G2 Hochi Hai Fillies' Revue at Hanshin, but barged her way through to dead-heat with Shadai-bred Pourville (Jpn) (Le Havre {Ire}).

"I was hopeful leading into the race, the form around her looked strong, but she was 45-1 so you can't be too hopeful," Tabart said.

No One winning the G2 Hochi Hais Fillies' Revue

The other Australian link with No One is 21-year-old jockey Ryusei Sakai, who rode 16 winners at a healthy strike rate while on a 12-month stint Down Under, spending time with Troy Corstens at Flemington and Ryan Balfour in Adelaide.

Sakai impressed many with his work ethic and gutsy attitude in Australia and showed plenty of grit to record his third stakes win and seventh race win overall this season.

"That was a great ride, he really pushed his way through and obviously, with the fact it was a dead-heat, there wasn't much room for error," Tabart said.

Next step for No One

Next for No One is the G1 Oka Sho, the Japanese Thousand Guineas, at Hanshin on April 7, a race won in the last ten years by standouts like Buena Vista (Jpn) (Special Week {Jpn}), Gentildonna (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), Harp Star (Jpn) (Deep Impact) and, last year, Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}).

Those four greats were all bred at Northern Farm, and for No One – a horse sourced off little known Tobino Farm in Hokkaido and then syndicated to ten owners for ¥2,000,000 ($25,500) per 10% share, the Oka Sho shapes as another step into the deep end.

Jockey Ryusei Sakai with Corey Brown and Ben Hayes during his time in Australia

"The Oka Sho is perhaps even more influential than the Oaks, you only have to look at the horses that have won it to see that," Tabart said. "The great fillies win this race, and Northern Farm basically run 1-2-3 in this race every year, so the odds are against us."

"The Oka Sho is perhaps even more influential than the Oaks, you only have to look at the horses that have won it to see that." - Michael Tabart

"This year looks no different as far as strength is concerned and there are three or four really good Northern horses that have been put away from last year and they will either come through different trial races or they will head straight into the race. So it is another step up for sure."

One of those fillies will be Danon Fantasy (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), winner of last year's G1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies and crowned 2018 JRA best 2-year-old filly.

"Of course we are up against it but our filly did what she needed to do and I think she will come on for that, so I think we have a sneaky chance," Tabart said of his potential giant killer.

"The owners have already doubled their money. It's the first time any of them have bought a group race winner, and the last owner that got involved, it's his first horse and she is a group winner at 3. It's a group of young and really fun owners. They love racing, they have got together because they love racing. And you can have a good night out with them that is for sure."

New World, new style

Tabart believes transparency is key to racing's future and has made scopes, X-rays and vet reports available on the New World Racing website for potential buyers, plus he provides regular video updates of the training process for established owners.

The entrepreneur has also built a world-class restaurant and clubhouse, featuring an intimate downstairs eatery called Urakawa (named after the region from which Tabart has sourced many of his horses, including No One), plus karaoke and bar upstairs, in the ultra-chic Tokyo neighbourhood of Ebisu.

Urakawa Restaurant

"On Sunday night after the races, we opened a bottle of champagne there and had some owners back," Tabart said. "The general idea is to provide a place for people to come together, have some fun and eat some nice food. It's actually open to the public too, with English-speaking wait staff and great for racing people visiting."

"The general idea is to provide a place for people to come together, have some fun and eat some nice food." - Michael Tabart

Aside from No One, the future looks bright for New World Racing, with the 3-year-old crop boasting a colt and filly by Frankel (GB) who are yet to hit the track.

New World Racing's 23 2-year-olds for 2019 include a filly by Speightstown (USA) (Gone West {USA}) out of Pressurizing (USA) (Henrythenavigator {USA}), a half-sister to champion mare Zenyatta (USA) (Street Cry {Ire}).

As syndicator, Tabart will retain breeding rights to No One when she is retired, giving him another bluechip breeding prospect to go with Hana's Goal, and if she can measure up in the big races, she could follow in Hana's Goal's hoof-steps and head overseas as well.

"Obviously we won't go anywhere this year but will sit down after the classics and see where we are at," Tabart said. "Let's see how she goes against the top class horses. It was wet on Sunday and she handled that, in fact she hasn't found a track that she hasn't handled yet, so that is a good sign if we were to travel. The owners are thrilled and would be happy to do whatever we suggest if it makes sense. But having a G2 winner from Japan certainly opens up some options overseas."