A new law of racing seems to have emerged: the smarter the investor off the racetrack, the worse his luck on the turf. Certainly Lord White, chairman of Hanson Industries, must be feeling pretty dunned. Despite clocking up annual business profits of £1 billion plus with the same regularity that Steve Cauthen shows in winning races, he has lost the company some £7.7 million on the nags.
The same could not be said of Lord Weinstock, that other great Lord of the Turf. GEC's fortunes remain at low ebb (pre-tax profits have just fallen 6% to £818 million), but Lord Weinstock retains his uncanny knack for spotting the Pegasus of the track. Last year his 38 high-steppers raked in over £250,000 in prize money, though this was as nothing to past equine triumphs: it was he who spotted Troy, winner of the 1979 Derby.
The form of other business tycoons seems to confirm the Management Today hypothesis. Sir Ernest Harrison, Racal chairman, has jockeyed brilliantly for a share of the mobile phone market, but shown rather less skill at Newmarket; his extensive racing interests have yet to produce a major Classic winner. Much the same is true of Colonel Whitbread, the former chairman of the brewer which is bucking the recessionary trend. He too runs a large stable, but alas, though his best horse, Barona, won the Scottish Grand National, it could only manage fourth place in the famous Aintree race of 1976.
Contrast this with the fortunes of Victor Matthews, former boss of Express Newspapers. On losing a bitter takeover battle to United's Lord Stevens, Lord Matthews retired to Jersey in the mid-1980s and has since proved hugely successful in racing, with over 40 winners to his credit. Though pipped at the post in matters of the media, he is clearly a genius equus.