They are not children ...

Two runners at Chelmsford tomorrow

Friday, 31 March 2017

"Life’s problems wouldn’t be called “hurdles” if there wasn’t a way to get over them."


Saint Anthony legged up and ready to go

It started off warm and bright, but as we write this at 10.15, it has started to drizzle, only slight and I don’t think it will be very much. A reasonable weekend ahead is expected, especially in the east. We have had a good morning once again with plenty of exercise for the horses, who are eating really well and starting to look pictures. Their winter coat is flying out and the summer one is coming through quickly. We still need a couple of good riders and let’s hope they arrive in the not too distant future.

Walking out to the canter

We have two runners tomorrow night, both at Chelmsford. Our regular, Hold Firm, is out again. He will be having a rest soon, or at least more than a fortnight without a run, as there is very little for him in the programme book. This trip and grade is certainly ideal for him, but I can’t say much about the draw as once again he is completely on the outside. I may try totally different tactics altogether.

Our other runner is Topalova in the two miler. She looks a picture, will be more at home at this trip, and I am expecting her to run with credit once again. Gabriele Malune rides, he gets 7lbs in both races and they should be there or there about. We are also taking with us Indian Red to do his stalls test for hopefully a run next week at Wolverhampton. He has been very good of late and I shouldn’t tempt fate, so let’s just hope he passes with flying colours.

Astrosecret on the Hamilton Hill

It is the start of the flat turf season this weekend with the Lincoln at Doncaster. It always brings back memories of our two winners, Babodana and Smokey Oakey. You need a Group horse nowadays to win this race and one that certainly handles soft ground. The draw has a big part to play and the Spring Mile will give you a great help as to which side is quickest. Of the high numbers I wouldn’t be surprised to see Richard Hannon’s Emell and of the low ones, Hannon again with Oh This Is Us.

Foals enjoying the sun

I see Kieron Fallon is going to write a book. It will make great reading as he has had a controversial career. One of our very best jockeys, he was tactical, astute, very strong in the saddle and when he was on song, there was no better jockey. His book will make interesting reading and should be a compulsive buy. The other book I must mention here is Declan Murphy’s which will be published, I think, towards the end of April. He was on Radio 4 midweek this week and if you Google Declan Murphy Radio 4, you can listen to it. His book is completely unique and not only will it tell the story of a little boy who loved horses, but wanted to be a lawyer, not a jockey, it will also be fascinating about his injury and how he recovered and what his feelings were throughout. He was a most brilliant jockey whose career was cut short by the accident and his book is another that everybody should read.

Gabor sweeping the yards

Phil on Friday

On the eve of the traditional flat racing curtain-raiser, The Lincoln, we could reminisce for hours about the feats of Babodana and our other winner Smokey Oakey, but this is the story of a filly who was beaten in the Lincoln, yet went on to win FOUR Classics in the same season …

Sceptre was her name, and her owner was one of the most outrageous characters ever to set foot on the Turf – Bob Sievier. He began his eventful life by being born in a hansom cab, and in his late teens and early twenties became in quick succession a soldier in the Kaffir War, an actor in Bombay, a bookmaker in Australia and a gambler of extreme proportions.

After he acquired Sceptre he put her in the hands of a trainer who nearly ruined her. She had been entered in The Lincoln of 1902 but Sievier almost withdrew her when he saw her condition. He fed her by hand, backed her, and just missed out - due, it was said at the time, to the inexperience of her apprentice rider. The debacle cost Sievier £30,000 in bets, a staggering sum in the days when a labourer’s wages averaged barely £1 a week.

The next engagement for this astonishing filly, now trained by Sievier himself, was the 2,000 Guineas, which she won. She was brought out again for the 1,000 Guineas and set a record time despite being badly away and running in three shoes.

Next came the Derby for which, after an interrupted preparation, she started evens favourite. She could finish only fourth, but easily won the Oaks.

After a fruitless trip to Paris she suffered defeat in the Coronation Stakes at Ascot but the very next day won the St. James Palace Stakes. At Goodwood she was beaten in the Sussex Stakes but easily won the Nassau a couple of days later. It was obvious Sceptre thrived on work, and more work.

On the Sunday before the St. Leger she was galloped over the full mile and three-quarters. She did it again the next day. On the Tuesday she went six furlongs and on Wednesday, the day of the race, did a mile gallop in the morning. She won by three lengths, in heavy ground.

After all that Sievier topped the owners’ table with prize money totalling £23,686, but he was almost broke and had to sell his beloved filly for £25,000.

The next year Sievier ‘laid out’ a horse called Happy Slave for the Duke of York Handicap and backed him to win £10,000. He was told that Sceptre, entered in the same race, was lame, and his advice was sought. He knew she was the only threat to Happy Slave – he also knew Sceptre better than anyone and still held her in great affection. Her injury was only minor and he advised her new owner to run. She beat Happy Slave by a short head.

Later in his career this remarkable character tried his hand at publishing and was involved in several court cases – one after printing the photograph of a Jockey Club notable between pictures of two murderers! When he died in 1939 it was said he made three fortunes of £200,000, and lost every penny. He will always be remembered, though, for Sceptre.

Hyacinths growing in the yard

We would all like to wish Richard Marriott a very happy birthday for Sunday. I am sure he will have a good day and let’s hope he can win all the prizes at the two flower shows he will be competing at over the weekend. He is as keen on growing flowers as he is on his horses.