The end of the Tote monopoly ...

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                     Four Fifty Three wins at                      Chelmsford


A well deserved victory

Monday, 04 June 2018

"Hold a true friend with both your hands."

Nigerian proverb.


Reporting back to the Guv'nor

It's an overcast morning once again but mild. We have plenty of staff in this morning which means we can really get on and have a good week. I've been using the Rubbing House polytrack for a good seven and a half furlong canter with the majority of the horses. All has gone well so far.


Astrosparkle going for a washdown


Astromerry back after a canter

Our runner at Fakenham yesterday, Topalova, jumped well and had a very good introduction to hurdling. She will improve considerably next time especially over a bit further. We shall be having one or two jump runners this summer and we plan to have a good schooling morning with some of the others next week.

Another Derby winner for Newmarket with Godolphin's homebreds bringing home a one two for the family. It was a well deserved victory as there has never been an investment in racing as big as the Maktoums', and they have been unbelievably kind and generous with their donations to racing's charitable organisations.

I've always been a big fan of New Approach and in Masar he has a great flag bearer. He is such a lovely looking sire and his own race record certainly stands up to scrutiny. New Approach's pedigree is absolutely brilliant and it was only a matter of time before he sired a proper horse.


Phil Tuck and his wife Maria visiting Mark at the stud


It was great to see Phil Tuck and his wife last week. Phil was a top class jump jockey and is now involved with all the stewarding in Saudi Arabia. Phil and I started off in racing together and we have been firm friends ever since. Horse racing in Saudi Arabia is on the up and they are planning to put on international race days. It is a marvellous track there, and it's amazing how throughout the world so many countries love to get involved in our fantasic sport.


We will have one runner on Sunday

Friday, 01 June 2018

"It is sad when two people turn from the paths they’re traveling, and their paths go on to cross without them."

Robert Brault.

A misty start to the day

It’s been overcast again and there was a faint drizzle in the air as we drove in before first lot. The low lying mist has hung about for a few hours, but it is just starting to clear now. It has been a very good morning so far with plenty of people in. We have had two lots of gallopers, schooled a couple, along with all the normal cantering. The Peat Moss gallop was like a carpet once again and everything strode out well when doing fast work.

Pageant Master, Quanah and Garrison Law working this morning

We have one runner at the weekend. Topalova will make her debut over hurdles at Fakenham on Sunday. She has been schooled several times and is ready to run. She may need this first outing and it could be a bit on the sharp side for her, but I am sure she will enjoy the experience and will improve greatly for it.

Walking home ...

... back to the yard

It is the Oaks and Derby this weekend with the Oaks today along with the Coronation Cup. Aidan has five runners in the Oaks with only four home grown runners. You would think his team might be able to conjure up another winner although it would be great to see one of our contingents fly the flag. Tomorrow's Derby has a few more home grown runners but Aidan, again, has five and his battalion will be setting the pace of the race to suit their champion. I hope we don’t get any more heavy downpours which will alter the ground and let’s hope it is a level playing field for them all.

I see there are going to be armed police at Epsom with a lot of plain clothed officers and sniffer dogs out in force. There is usually a bit of fighting on the hill, mostly arranged by the travelling community who have their own bare fist fighting laws, but I would hope we don’t see any of the Goodwood scenes as we want to knock this bad publicity on the head.

Astrosparkle and Astroblaze on Hamilton Hill

It is interesting to see that Germany has outlawed tongue ties in all their racing. These are a very common aid in all other countries as it stops the tongue from going back in the mouth and the horse choking. They don’t inconvenience the horse at all and they never seem to worry about them. This has evidently been done for animal welfare concerns and we will have to watch to see if it comes over the channel. Our authorities say there are no plans to do the same here, but it is one of those rules that creep in. My advocate to have one set of worldwide racing rules, as they do in every sport, seems a long way off.

Garrel Glen and Astromerry

Phil on Friday

They once put up a plaque in a Newmarket hotel to commemorate a special moment in the life of one Patrick Flavin, not the most successful of racehorse owners but among the most popular and generous.

An American-born entrepreneur, he had horses in training at Newmarket with Bernard van Cutsem and Mick Ryan. His greatest British success in many years of ownership came in the Edinburgh Gold Cup. He didn’t exactly set  racing alight here, but he built a huge reputation in HQ for his late-night partying, his eccentricity, wild sense of humour and, above all, generosity.

He was well remembered, at least temporarily, for one extended session at the Moat House in Newmarket (now the Heath Court Hotel) where he was a regular. After an all-night sitting which would have rivalled anything Jeffrey Bernard (about whom I have written with admiration several times in the past) could offer, Pat suffered an alcohol-induced collapse on his way back from the bar to his room in the early morning. According to a Telegraph report, guests had to tread carefully around his prostrate and inert form on their way to breakfast.

Eventually he revived and his generosity immediately shone through – he ordered steak and champagne for everyone in the hotel. So popular was he that a plaque was affixed to the wall at the point where he fell and passed out. It read: ‘Patrick Flavin slept here’. He could take a joke.

His kind-heartedness had already been shown at home in the States where he bought and distributed 2,500 teddy bears to youngsters each Christmas. He also set up scholarships for the children of his employees who otherwise could not have afforded them.

Pat died in 2013, aged 74. Sadly the hotel plaque is no longer in place. Perhaps it ought to be, commemorating this extraordinary man’s flamboyance, kindness and, up to a point, his capacity. 

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