Beauty's Go-To Girl
The family business that gives clients a taste of the world’s most premier horse racing events.
By Nikki Stefanoff. Photography by Marija Ivkovic.
For a man so passionate about all things equine it’s a surprise to hear that World Racing Tours’ Tony Perry doesn’t ride. “Nope,” he laughs when asked. “My wife Kate [O’Sullivan] does, but not me, and our daughter is more into soccer!” This lack of riding skills hasn’t stopped him from launching a successful travel business based on a love of horses and, more specifically, watching them race.
Perry hasn’t always been involved in horse racing or, indeed, the travel industry. In fact, his expertise has long been rooted in hospitality; however, a love of travel became pronounced when, in the wake of selling his share in a number of successful Melbourne-based hotels and pubs, he spent two years living on the island of Penang with O’Sullivan and their then nine-year old daughter Georgia.
“After selling the business we decided to spend some time overseas as we wanted Georgia to experience something a little bit different,” he explains. “The move back to Victoria came when Georgia was ready to start high school. It just so happened to coincide with Kate being offered a role on the board of Moonee Valley Racing Club. Perfect timing, really.”
A love of horses and all they represent runs deeply in O’Sullivan’s family, with both her father and brother involved in the racing industry. It was her passion, and knowledge, combined with Perry’s love of travel and hospitality that inspired the couple to launch World Racing Tours, a company taking groups to horse races around the world.
“We launched in 2011 with a trip to the Penang Sprint Trophy, which was nerve-racking to say the least,” Perry says. “We were confident in our knowledge as far as the racing industry went; however, the hardest thing for us was learning the travel business. We worked hard for the 12 months before launch attending every race we wanted to host and making those all-important overseas contacts.”
Building lasting relationships has been an integral part of the businesses success as every aspect of a World Racing Tours trip is centred on providing a unique experience for guests. This means luxury accommodation, fine dining experiences, corporate hosting at all events and curated day trips when there’s no racing to attend.
“Other than the racing experience, our number one objective is to ensure that we’re always providing the very best for our guests,” Perry says. “Kate, in particular, worked really hard at forging relationships with hotels, restaurants and airlines, which has been fantastic. We’ve always had good relationships with racing clubs around the world, as they’re traditionally very welcoming, so the combination has meant that we can offer something truly unique.”
With trips to Royal Ascot and the Kentucky Derby on its books, World Racing Tours is helping to turn the bucket list dreams of the racing fraternity into reality. However, as travelling with a companion can be an intimate experience at the best of times, how harmonious do they find travelling with a group of strangers with only one thing in common? “It’s true to say that the group dynamics are integral to the success of a trip,” Perry says. “We’ve been so lucky to have always attracted likeminded people who are passionate about racing and who have gelled together really well.”