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Brian Finch

Brian Finch

BRIAN FINCH is passionate about every aspect of his life. He is a highly successful business man. He is a wonderful husband, father and he takes his passion into owning horses and assisting in making racing a wonderful sport for all. There is no one who will begrudge him his good fortune in owning  a horse with the ability and potential of KING OF PAIN who contests this week’s R1 million Cape Guineas. Brian is well supported by his wife, Kathy, and together they brighten the racing scene with their obvious pleasure in all that takes place in racing.

What is your name and age?  Brian Finch and I recently celebrated a milestone 50th birthday with many racing friends.

What is your star sign and birthdate?  Libra, born October 18th. I like to believe that I live up to my star sign in being fairly well balanced.

Where were you born?  Harare, Zimbabwe.

Where do you live?  The suburb of Constantia in Cape Town.

Tell us about your family?  I am the eldest of six children, my dad is late and my mum, Mary, still lives in Harare. I am married to Kathy with 4 kids of our own, Lyndsay, Dionne, Troy and Briannah. The elder three are grown up and live in Luxembourg, Zimbabwe and Canada respectively so it’s only Briannah who remains at home with us… trust me, she certainly keeps us on our toes. We also have a beautiful granddaughter named Isabella.

Do you have a ‘nickname’?  Not really although Joey Ramsden calls me Finchie…..and it’s sticking!

Favourite food?  I love a good steak, medium rare with a glass of cabernet sauvignon. I also love good biltong…..I probably eat too much as it is!

Favourite drink?  I am pretty versatile, depends on the mood. Usual preference is a glass of wine.

Favourite music?  Ahh…now you’re talking. I am a big R&B fan and believe that Earth, Wind & Fire are the best band in the world….and no one will convince me otherwise. They were fantastic when they played at the Cape Town Jazz Festival last year, I’d go and watch them perform any day..

Favourite book?  Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom. It’s a must read book.

What are you reading at the moment?  I’ve got two books on the go at the moment, Half Time by Bob Burford and Frankel, The Wonder Horse. Both are very good reads though Frankel is getting more airtime at the moment. What a phenomenal racehorse!

What is the characteristic you like least about yourself?  My time management…….it’s a flaw that I work on but seem to spectacularly fail at. Definitely room for improvement!!

Favourite sport?  Horse racing, soccer and golf in that order…..though racing wins by a mile!

Which is your favourite soccer team?  I am a long suffering Liverpool fan longing for the glory days to return. I had the privilege of watching Liverpool win 1-0 at Stamford Bridge way back in 1986, the goalscorer being ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish who was then player/manager, to clinch the league title on the last day of the season. Standing behind the goal and listening to thousands of fanatical Scousers singing his praise made me a fan for life. The following week Liverpool beat Everton at Wembley to win the FA Cup and thus do the double. It was a memorable week that sealed my relationship with the team from Anfield. You’ll Never Walk Alone!

Favourite holiday destination?  I am fairly relaxed about holiday’s and make the most of whichever destination my wife decides on, like a good husband, I follow instructions!! We tend to visit the US for our vacations, it’s an easy place to get around and there is more than enough to do to keep a 10 year old busy. 

What tertiary qualifications did you achieve?  I went straight into working life post matric and have never regretted doing so. By the grace of God life has worked out pretty well and for that I am thankful. In today’s corporate world though, a good degree is a minimum requirement for employment consideration so if I were to live my life over again (which thankfully won’t happen!), I would follow the university path.

You are with the British American Tobacco company. What position do you hold in the company?  I am Chief Executive of the South African operation of British American Tobacco, the world’s second largest tobacco company based in London but also listed on the JSE. The South African operation is one of the Group’s key businesses so my team and I do everything we can to meet shareholder and stakeholder expectations.

Which other countries in the world have you worked and owned horses in? I started my careeer in Zimbabwe and have worked and lived in Nigeria, DRC, UK, Switzerland, Kenya and South Africa. I have raced horses with friends, in Zimbabwe, the UK, Kenya, Singapore and South Africa.

Can you single out any particular country you have worked in that made a real impression on you? Switzerland was a fantastic place to live because everything works so incredibly well. If you travel a lot as I did, you couldn’t ask for an easier place to get around. But every country that we have lived in, has it’s own special memory, the energy of Nigeria is hard to beat.

Do your family enjoy moving to the different countries your work takes you to?  I have an incredibly supportive wife and daughter which has made moving countries so much easier. Kathy and Briannah are incredibly adaptable and seem to settle in a new country and new lifestyle pretty easily. They are both fantastic!

How did you become involved in horse racing?  My late dad was a keen punter and as kids we often accompanied him to Borrowdale racecourse in Harare. The fascination with these beautiful animals took hold then and many years later when financial circumstances allowed, I bought into my first racehorse, a filly called Debutante Dancer.

When did you get your owners colours?  In 1996.

Your wife, Kathy, also takes a great interest in racing. Was she interested in racing before she met you or did she get her involvement through you?  Kathy always had a social interest in racing going to Borrowdale Park with her mum and brother. Racing was always a good day out. Her interest has certainly got bigger given that quite a few horses race in her and Belinda Kieswetter’s partnership colours.

Who was your first trainer?  Tony Riley bought and trained Debutante Dancer. When Tony left Zimbabwe, Paul Matchett took over training duties. We still have horses with Paul who is based in Johannesburg.

Which was the first horse you ever owned and did it win for you?  A filly called Debutante Dancer. She only raced twice and won both her starts which of course meant that I was hooked for life! She became my first broodmare and I have raced all of her progeny, the last of which is Soul Singer who recently won for Clinton Binda.

Which was the best horse you owned in your early years as an owner?  It’s been a labour of love more than success… Maidens and novice plates I do well. The best I guess is the 4 time winner Vandross (a son of Debutante Dancer) trained by Joey Ramsden and Gold Blast trained by Paul Matchett, who also won 4 races.

Right now you own the highly talented King Of Pain in partnership with Dharmesh and Mel Naik, your wife Kathy, Wayne and Belinda Kieswetter and Joey Ramsden.  How did this partnership come about?  Joey put the partnership together and we feel very privileged to be involved with the galloping grey. Outside of being involved with a good horse, it’s the sharing of joy with good friends that has made this experience so much more enjoyable.

In the recent Selangor Cup King Of Pain just held on to beat Capetown Noir. What did you make of that run and do you think he will be effective over the J&B trip of 2000m?  We were very happy with his run and ecstatic that he won the race. It was a brave effort because he took it up earlier than expected and had to keep going when Capetown Noir came at him. Joey believes he will appreciate the extra trip so 2000m should be well within his grasp.

This weekend King Of Pain will again meet Capetown Noir in the Cape Guineas. What are you expecting in this race?  I just hope that he runs his race and comes back safely.

In the Selangor Cup, King Of Pain was up with the leaders early on in the straight and had to be ridden out to hold off Capetown Noir. Do you feel he will be better if held up for his run?   He showed in the Matchem Stakes that he has a good turn of foot running on strongly to finish 2nd whilst in the Selangor he showed his courage to hold off the challengers. However the race pans out, we know that he will give of his best. He is a talented, courageous fellow and we’re all very proud of him.

How has he fared since his last run?  King of Pain took the run well and Joey says that his prep is going to plan.

Is he the best horse you own right now and do you think he is probably the best horse you have ever owned?  Yes and Yes!!

How many horses do you have running in your colours at the moment?  I think about five in my colours. Most of the others run in Kathy and Belinda’s partnership colours.

How many Grade 1 winners have you had in your career?  None. I live in hope and am still trying!!

Who bred King Of Pain and is there a story attached to his breeding?  King Of Pain was bred at Arc-en-Ciel Stud in Wellington where his dam Viva La Belle resides. She is owned in partnership by the stud represented by Craig Carey, and Joey Ramsden who acquired the mare in lieu of a debt owed by a mutual client. She was barren at the time and, post a rather festive dinner, Craig and Joey agreed to send the mare to Grey’s Inn and the rest as they say is history. The mare has subsequently delivered a striking grey Dynasty filly who is soon to go into training and this season foaled a beautiful, and also grey, full sister to King Of Pain. The mare has been covered by Var which is a stallion that Joey is very fond of for obvious reasons!

Is it true that he was going to be named Diego Rivera but trainer Ramsden had a hand in naming him King Of Pain instead?  King Of Pain was named Diego Rivera and was offered as a yearling at the last Vintage sale in 2010.  Joey is quite a music aficionado and being a fan of the Police always had in mind to name a horse King Of Pain being a song on their 1983 album, Synchronicity. It seems quite apt really for as Joey reminds us, racehorses provide the most amazing highs that make you feel like a King and equally they can be the cause of the most acute pain!!

Was there anything about his breeding that you particularly liked and which made you determined to have a share in him?  I like to follow pedigrees and do hope that Grey’s Inn will make up into a decent sire. He certainly seems to be on his way given the quality runners he is throwing. But there is no science in our involvement with King Of Pain. We watched him have a grass gallop where he worked impressively and Joey very kindly invited Wayne and Belinda Kieswetter and Kathy and I into the horse. As you know, he won his first start so we were more than happy to join in and we now race together with Dharmesh and Melissa Naik who are Mauritius based, as well as Joey and Fee Ramsden. Add Amanda and Craig Carey as breeders and what you have is a very happy group who are enjoying the ride and who celebrate well together!!!

What was the purchase price of King Of Pain?  From memory, I think he sold for R80,000 which looks to be a real steal now!

You must rate Capetown Noir as a big danger. Have you pinpointed any other runners as those to watch out for?  The whole field is a danger!! I’d  much prefer that it was a one horse race, as sometimes happens in the UK, and even then I would worry that something would go wrong! Capetown Noir ran a cracking race in the Selangor Cup and is a top class horse who will be a big runner as is The Hangman, who already has a Gr1 under his belt and won so impressively last time out. I also think that Paterfamilias who ran on strongly in  the Selangor from the back of the field will be a runner to watch. And then there’s Black Toga. I could go on and on about the other runners which once again shows that the Guineas has all the makings of a top class race as it always is. The evidence aptly provided last year when Variety Club won so impressively enroute to being named Horse Of The Year.

If King Of Pain wins the Guineas have you thought about his future or will you leave it to Joey Ramsden?  Let’s just get over the Guineas!! Joey and his team have done all the hard work with King Of Pain and they will continue to do what’s right for him.

What other horses that race in your colours do you think the public should know about and follow?  King Of Pain races in the colours of Dharmesh and Mel Naik. My wife Kathy and Belinda Kieswetter race a few horses in their partnership colours of purple and orange the best of which is Silver Haven who ran 6th in the Guineas last year. He was injured and is on the comeback trail so with luck, he should be back on the racetrack in March or thereabouts. They also have a nice group of 2 year olds, mostly fillies, so we await their racing debuts with anticipation and lots of hope as is always the case with unraced babies.  Kathy and I also race a few in our own right or with friends.  The one to keep an eye out for is Aspen Emperor trained by Brett Crawford who has ability and a personal favourite of mine called Sangster who’ll probably end up being the most well-loved maiden!

Is your wife, Kathy, just as passionate about racing as you are?  Kathy is thankfully incredibly supportive of my hobby and does get into the race day experience a lot, She enjoys the social side and is not averse to spending a few Rand following her fancies. She doesn’t do the farm and stable visits though, which is very much the domain of my youngest daughter Briannah and I and our son Troy when he visits from Canada. Kathy and Briannah do take an active interest in the naming of the foals that we breed which sadly makes it very hard to put them on sale!

Which major feature races have you won?  Thanks to King Of Pain, the Gr3 Langerman and the Gr2 Selangor Cup this year. As I said, it has been a labour of love.

How many graded winners have you had?  Just King Of Pain…which is why I am enjoying it so much.

Which major feature races have you had horses running in?  We had Silver Haven running in the Gr1 CTS Guineas last year where he finished 6th beaten by Variety Club, Silver Flyer, Princess Victoria, Gimmethegreenlight and Liancourt Rock, it was a top class field. Silver Haven also ran in the Investec Derby where he was unplaced as did Lucky Moon the year before.

What would you say has been your most memorable day in racing?  It would have to be the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebration this year at the Investec Derby in the UK which I was privileged to attend as a guest of Bernard Kantor. It was a memorable day for the significance of the event and of course, to see Camelot win so impressively. He is a top class horse and will show that next year.

As a long standing owner you will have been associated with many jockeys. Who would you say were the jockeys who impressed you the most?  Glen Hatt is an integral part of the set up at Joey’s yard and is a wonderfully nice man to boot, as is Andrew Fortune whose return to the saddle is an incredible racing story. Bernard Fayd’herbe is world class and I believe that Karis Teetan has what it takes to make it to the top. For a young man, he shows an amazing maturity.

Have you had any long standing relationships with any jockey that you will always remember? As a kid in Zimbabwe, Jimmy Anderson was my hero, he was a very talented jockey. Internationally of course, it was Lester.

When it comes to buying yearlings, or older horses, do you leave it to trainer Joey Ramsden or do you have your say as to which you would like to buy?  The buying is very much left in Joey’s hands. He puts together a short list, Wayne and I look through it with him, decide, and then we leave matters to him.

How interested in the breeding side of racing are you?  Breeding is my real interest, I love trying to understand nicks and I can spend hours reading through catalogues and pedigree pages. I am a hobby breeder with a few mares hoping to breed a top class horse but I have learnt just how difficult it is to get a horse to the track let alone getting them to win a race. It’s the realisation of this difficulty that has made me even more determined to rise to the challenge…..we’ll keep trying.

Which of the current stallions really impress you?  I am a huge Trippi fan. He is an unbelievably impressive looker and his stock have serious ability. Var is well on his way to being a top stallion and Silvano gets ‘A’ runners all the time. You just can’t fault Captain Al. I hope for Graeme Koster, that Grey’s Inn will get the support he deserves so, hopefully, King Of Pain will keep his name in the headlines for a while to come. Of the new boys on the block, I think that Seventh Rock, Gimmethegreenlight and Elusive Fort have every chance of making into top class stallions.

Apart from owning horses you are also involved in the administrative side of racing. How much do you enjoy that side of racing?  I am happy to help where I can if my input can contribute in a small way to improving the sport. There is an incredible desire from all I have met to want to improve the lot of the sport. And improve it will.

Do you think that racing is keeping up with the times insofar as attracting new supporters of the game both from a punting side and from an attendance side?  No and thankfully this is recognised. Racing must create an experience for the participant, punter or viewer that can compete with other sports and we seem to get it right on some days and less on others. It is a work in progress for the industry and for the sponsors who are associated with our big racedays. By way of example, I thought that Pippa Mickelburgh and her team put together a spectacularly successful Avontuur Fillies Guineas, it was better than the year before and I have no doubt that next year’s event will be even better. Sponsors who are treated well will be committed to building their brand and business for the long term and they will see great opportunity in  developing their raceday experience which will boost crowd attendance. Racing needs to do more of this.

Racing, all over the world is facing opposition from casino’s etc. Have you any ideas as to how get more people to the racecourses?  The raceday experience has to improve and it must be sufficiently differentiated from the experience one would get at a casino. Once done and defined, the raceday experience must be marketed to the wider public. I feel that far too often, racing talks to racing people instead of spreading the net wider to entice new participants. Racing has so much more to offer than gambling, yes betting is an integral part of the sport because it funds the activity, but first and foremost, this sport is about sleek thoroughbred racehorses ridden at speed by highly skilled athletes, racing against each other. We mustn’t forget this.

You are very involved in racing and have watched racing all over the world. In your honest opinion how ‘straight’ do you think racing is?  Whenever there is betting and money involved, someone will try to break the rules to gain unfair advantage, it’s the nature of the human being. I do think that the NHRA do an excellent job of policing the sport to keep it straight and I compliment them for their effort.

The old saying is, ”Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman.” Does this apply to Brian Finch?  Without a doubt. There is a lid for every pot and Kathy is my lid as I hope I am for her. She is an amazing wife, mother, friend and racing partner that I am blessed to share my life with.

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