A GROUP of 20 Middlesbrough fans are dreaming of a £38,500 Royal Ascot payday thanks to their bargain wonderhorse.
Riverside Racing Syndicate will take on the big boys on Friday with the amazing Lady Ayresome, named after the club's old ground.
Bought for just over £4,000 – a snip in racing terms – the two-year-old superstar has won two races in a row and is currently 20-1 to win the Albany Stakes at 2.30pm.
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There, jockey Tom Eaves and trainer Kevin Ryan will take on the likes of legends Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore, not to mention trainers such as Aidan O'Brien, backed by billionaire John Magnier.
Already it has been quite some ride for the small syndicate, which is run by Graham Frankland.
And even more remarkable is that the whole thing came about from a Boro fan messageboard.
Graham, 60, a Middlesbrough businessman, had been involved in racing before.
So he was the logical choice when someone online suggested they should start up a new syndicate.
Little did they know it would lead to Royal Ascot and rubbing shoulders with royalty just three races later, not to mention more than £16,000 in winnings.
Graham, who along with 19 others pays only £100 a month for the horse, told SunSport: "This syndicate came about from football rather than racing. We are all Boro supporters and all went on the messageboard for supporters.
"Someone suggested I should run it without even asking!
"We had a couple of earlier horses – Lady Erimus and Infant Hercules – which allowed us to get Lady Ayresome.
"I bought her in a flash sale in an online auction.
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"There were about 20 horses. I looked at every one and the pedigree and ended up paying €5000 for Lady Ayresome, which in racing terms is absolutely peanuts.
"She’s proven to us that, for little money, you can get a diamond. We are absolutely revelling it in now.
"She’s typical of Teesside people. She goes to work, enjoys it, works hard and gets success out of it.
"Kevin Ryan says she just does her job. He says she’s a delight to train and every time she races she puts in 100 per cent. We’re absolutely loving it."
And it turns out, with Boro finishing tenth in the Championship last season, that Lady Ayresome's success has even converted some in the syndicate who previously had no interest in racing.
Graham said: "One of the lads in our syndicate, Steve, who is like the accountant for the group, we really had to cajole him into joining.
"He didn’t like racing and said, 'What's the point?' – he didn’t want to join.
"Now he can't believe how much he enjoys it and would rather watch racing than football! He absolutely loves it."
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How fitting would it be then if we were to see a giant killing at Ascot?
The Boro fans taking on the former Manchester United shareholder Magnier and football superagent Kia Joorabchian, whose Amo Racing team have Hello You.
As Graham says: "I try to relate it to the football team – we’re working on a tight budget against superstars and the money people.
"But we’re going there to compete with a horse who tries as hard as she tries, so who knows what might happen?"
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