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A Racing Great

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley has not set their biography yet
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on Friday, 14 June 2013
It’s a strange thing, being a racing fan. One of the things I do, in my Scottish fastness, when I am not writing a book or gazing at the sheep or riding my mare or doing my HorseBack work, is study the form and sneak off to watch the 3.30 from Haydock and have ridiculous accumulator bets. This is one of the legacies left to me by my father, who was a racing man to his boots, and who loved nothing more than trying to win thousands from a one pound stake. I really think it may be genetic.

Because racing is so unpredictable, and a thing of high emotion, and because it involves the beautiful and mysterious creature that is the thoroughbred, and the almost equally mysterious people who understand and love that breed, it touches the heart in a way that I think other sports don’t, quite.

Or, at least, it touches mine. I mourn disasters and celebrate triumphs as if they were my own. There is a real love for the characters in the game, both equine and human, who start to feel like old familiars, almost personal friends, even if one has only ever glimpsed them across the paddock at Ascot.

One of those great characters, Sir Henry Cecil, died this week. He was such an enduring figure of the turf, so brilliant, so unlike anyone else, with such an unparalleled record and such a feel for horses, that for racing fans it felt almost like a death in the family. He had been sending out winners since the seventies. He won the Oaks an absurd eight times. His last, greatest swansong was the mighty Frankel, who was officially rated the best horse in the world, never to be forgotten by anyone who ever saw that soaring colt in action.

At once, the whole of racing bowed its head. It wasn’t just that greatness had passed, it was that everyone knew they would never see his like again. There was eccentricity and an idiosyncratic panache in his brilliance, and great kindness too.

The moment the news broke, everyone, from the humblest punter to the richest owner, expressed their sorrow. My Twitter timeline was awash with tributes and memories. The racing world, slightly unexpectedly, has taken Twitter to its heart, and it was here that the internet did a rather marvellous thing. It made a place where an instant memorial could be constructed. All the metaphorical hats were doffed. The recollections of the dancing horses who had passed through the master’s hands were shared; the people lucky enough to be there when Frankel destroyed a top-class field in the Queen Anne could revive the glory of that shining day.

AP McCoy, pretty legendary himself, tweeted: ‘Sir Henry was a hero to everyone in flat and jump racing. Loved his horses, we loved him. True genius.’ Other famous trainers and jockeys expressed similar sentiments. A real gentleman, without whom Newmarket would not be the same, seemed to be the enduring theme. For most of the day, the name Henry Cecil was the top-trending Twitter subject. It’s a small thing, but it gave me a profound satisfaction. It had a rightness to it. There was something curiously consoling in the thought that a man who had given so much pleasure to so many people could be remembered so instantly, so variously and so well.

All aflutter

Posted by Young Ladies About Town
Young Ladies About Town
Fiona Hicks has not set their biography yet
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on Thursday, 29 November 2012
To Newmarket, the cradle of British horseracing, for a tour of the Jockey Club Rooms, the October yearling sales and lunch at Tattersalls – enough to set any racing enthusiast’s heart aflutter.

I am here courtesy of Weatherbys Hamilton, a new private-client insurance venture based on personal service and generations of expertise. Roger Weatherby – of the eponymous family business that runs the Stud Book, offers bloodstock insurance and provides many of racing’s administrative services – has joined forces with high-value insurance expert Charles Hamilton, to offer a wider bespoke service covering household and country property as well as racehorses.

juanita WEATHERBYS HAMILTON

After coffee in the Morning Room, Senior Rooms Steward Alan Medlock takes us on a tour of the Jockey Club’s impressive art collection, including portraits of racing legends Gimcrack and Eclipse, as well as several paintings by Stubbs.  We also visit the notorious Steward’s Room, where offending jockeys used to stand trial for their misdemeanours on a square of carpet – hence the expression “on the mat”.

Later, during Mr Hamilton’s presentation I learn that a top racing stallion can earn hundreds of millions by standing at stud in his retirement. The yearlings going under the hammer today are the progeny of such elite athletes – the equine equivalent, as he put it, of Jessica Ennis having a baby with Usain Bolt. No wonder some owners choose to insure them from the very moment of purchase.

Down the road to Tattersalls then, with some trepidation, for the high-profile auction – among the consigners today are Lord Lloyd-Webber and various Sultans and Sheikhs. What if I have a must-buy moment? Or if I twitch and accidentally place a bid? With prices starting at 80,000 guineas and rising into six figures and even millions, it is an alarming prospect. (At £1.05 to a guinea, even worse than it looks.)

juanita -Jockey-Club-Rooms
Leggy colts and fillies walk the ring like supermodels, all glossy manes and nonchalant looks. Their glittering pedigrees entice with the promise of sporting success (the catalogue is peppered with household names like Sea the Stars and Galileo). This is fantasy shopping at its finest, and not unlike admiring the couture shows: a license to dream and ignore the too-many noughts.
Lunch is a lavish affair overlooking the pre-parade ring, and as the wine flows freely, Mr Weatherby and his colleagues entertain us with racing anecdotes. While they wave casually at famous trainers and owners across the room, I admit to being more than a little star-struck.

When my prince comes and I get a stately and a stable full of racehorses, I know where I’ll go for insurance. In the meantime, Cinderella trots home with a smile, after a cracking winner of a day out.

For more information visit www.weatherbyshamilton.co.uk and www.jockeyclubrooms.co.uk

Words by Juanita Coulson.


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