I phoned Yarmi yesterday and said “let’s put a few through the stalls today if at all possible” and although it was frosty, we took three down there to start the process and it was a very successful morning. Two are perfect and ready to run and the other one just wants another time or two through before he is as well. Yarmi is an unbelievable character and as Barry said, he is a mad as a box of frogs, but the horses love him and he loves them.
The Jockey Club’s Kempton Park sale and plan to invest money in the future seems to be still causing people alarm. I think the piece in the Racing Post today, with headlines on the front and big articles once again inside, is a bit like the Brexit remainers, they are trying to come up with all the things that are against the plan, rather than the huge benefits that will be gained. What people don’t seem to understand or to have any imagination or foresight about is that racing is changing, and has been changing for the last decade. It has become a very expensive sport to run. The owners have been hammered with all sorts of disadvantages, prize money being the major one, plus the cost of their Weatherbys accounts which keeps on escalating. Not being able to get any sort of reasonable bet on is another and the price of a normal horse has increased for no apparent reason. I think the influx of bloodstock agents has certainly not helped in this matter. It’s a bit like the footballers of today where you have to pay £5m for a player in the lower league. It’s madness.
The facts about Kempton are that it is a one day a year racecourse. On Boxing Day the King George is packed out, but on every other day the crowd is abysmal and this week there were only 18 paying customers on one of its days. The National Trainers’ Federation’s Chief Executive, Rupert Arnold, now says the opinion of whether it should go ahead is 80-20 and I am not sure where he gets that figure from. As the Newcastle all-weather track has shown, if you build it, they will come. A Newmarket all-weather track will be a huge success and a huge cost saver for everybody. There is so much to work out yet and there are so many plans, but like our Prime Minister at the moment, they don’t all need to be disclosed for a while yet.
It is very disappointing to see that Ed McMahon is packing up his training business. He took over from his father Brian who built it up very successfully, but with the new high speed train line going through the property, it will be impossible for him to keep going. This is another example of how things evolve in our industry and I can only see it getting more centralised, both training and racing. Our traditions will remain; Ascot, York, Goodwood, Cheltenham etc. and the rest will survive or fall on their abilities to run a business correctly.
Phil on Friday
There can be no doubting the brilliance of Thistlecrack – for him to be odds on for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup after only four chases is remarkable in itself. He is being spoken of in the same breath as Best Mate, even Arkle.
Thistlecrack in a nine-year-old though, so it’s unlikely he will be able to match the feats of Golden Miller, who won five Gold Cups and a Grand National.
‘The Miller’ was owned by one of the most extraordinary characters in the history of the turf, Miss Dorothy Paget. She inherited a fortune in her early twenties and used it to indulge her love of racing on a colossal scale.
She rode side-saddle in point-to-points before an obsession with eating took her weight up to 20 stone and ended her career as a jockey. She apparently thought nothing of devouring an entire chicken for tea. Subsequently, as an owner, she achieved remarkable success. In addition to Golden Miller her horses won the Champion Hurdle four times, she won a wartime Derby, and owned Mont Tremblant who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a novice.
She changed her trainers like most people change their socks and developed a hatred of human company, particularly that of men. When Golden Miller won one of his Gold Cups she kissed him in the unsaddling enclosure, prompting the comment from one wag that it was almost certainly the first time she had kissed a member of the opposite sex – and he was a gelding!
Dorothy Paget had strange habits, for the most part living her life in an upside down sort of way – breakfast in the evening and dinner at dawn for example. Those few who knew her were genuinely fond of her and instead of finding sixpences in their Christmas puddings would come across cheques in their mince pies. Her integrity was never challenged. Bookmakers would take her bets in the evening, which was of course her morning, even though the winners were known, and could be sure she would never have struck the wager if she had been aware of the results.
She was no mug punter either, and some of her bets were huge. She once staked £160,000 on a horse – many fortunes in today’s terms of course – and it won. There is no record of what time of day she placed that particular wager but I suspect that, in this instance, it was before the off!
Dorothy Paget died in 1960, aged 54.