Wednesday, 16 November 2011

On The Road!

From October to December every year, my car becomes my caravan and I spend most weekends travelling to the next race meeting where I juggle signings and interviews for the Racing Post authors, and try to catch a few races in between.
We are particularly thrilled with how Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse is doing, already having gone to reprint once and looking like we still may need more to cover the busy Christmas period. When you have seen a little book like this one grow from an initial idea from Brough Scott at the Runnymede Hotel in May to it fast becoming a publishing sensation and selling over 10,000 copies in its first month and with press coverage to die for, it makes all the hours put in over the summer to get it to print on time, completely worthwhile.
We are all looking forward to our trip to the Isle of Wight on 30th November, where Warrior was born and died, to do an evening there with Waterstones in Newport.  There are still people on the island who remember Warrior, one lady telling a tale the other day how as a girl she was allowed to go and visit him at home as a special treat. The horse was, and remains, a local legend. And if the book continues to do well, one of the plans is to set up a Warrior Trust and memorial barn in the field where he ran as a yearling so people can follow in his island hoofprints...
Brook Beach on the West Wight where Warrior learned to swim - much the same now as it was then!
The Racing Post Annual 2012 and Edward Whitaker’s masterpiece, Beyond the Frame, are both also doing well and we hope to sell loads more copies in the next six weeks. The Annual has some fabulous new content with the inside stories on Frankel, Long Run, Monet’s Garden and plenty more, as well as some great quirky stuff and awards. My favourite is the ‘Ryan Moore Award for Extensive Media Debriefing after a race’ which goes to Tom Queally when Vita Nova was beaten at Haydock after the saddle had slipped.
‘Tommo’ (chasing Queally across the parade ring after the race): “What happened?”
Queally: “A blind man could see the saddle had slipped.”

In autumn 2012 Racing Post Books will be publishing one of our most exciting titles ever, a biography of Sir Henry Cecil, and preparation for this again took me to Warren Place
a few weeks ago to see Henry.  The atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed now that Frankel’s season is over and I had the most amazing time with Henry, whizzing about in his new car Dukes of Hazzard style, seeing Midday’s full sister work and looking around the house and garden with Henry telling me some of his fascinating tales. Sometimes I can’t quite believe what I do for a living and to spend some time with this legend is a special privilege I shall never forget.

Whilst in Newmarket, I also popped in to the Injured Jockeys Fund and Lisa Hancock gave me a quick tour of the warehouse, which is the nerve centre for all the Christmas sales. It’s amazing the business they do (and the business they need to do) at this time of year and I’d encourage all of those who haven’t already done so to take a look at and buy some of Francome Goes Crackers (with the jokes censored!), Choc’s Choc, a Lady Oaksey Rose, Monet’s Garden jigsaw, or some of their amazing other gifts which all make brilliant presents as well as serving a vital cause at the heart of our industry. 

Another very worthy cause is the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and they hosted a fabulous charity race day at Lingfield last week with a special guest in Hayley Moore, who did her first jumps race commentary. She’ll be giving those boys a run for their money soon!  This week we have a Fish n Chips evening at the Bluebird in the Kings Road on Thursday and are in the process of planning a few very exciting events for next year.  Again, if you haven’t already, please support the charity by buying some of their Christmas cards which are really stunning this year

Sam Thomas and I attended his sponsor Markel’s charity boxing match a few weeks ago and were thrilled to be able to have a chat with two absolute legends in Joe Calzaghe and Chris Eubank.  Sam is really starting to get the hang of the C4 presenting lark too and is getting noticeably more relaxed in front of the camera.  His ‘Dark Horses’ pieces have now taken in the yards of Venetia Williams, Tom Symonds, Oliver Sherwood, Charlie Mann, Kim Bailey, Charlie Longsdon, Ferdy Murphy and Alan Swinbank and hopefully they’ll be more to come over the winter months.

Sam with legends of the ring!
 I also managed to squeeze in a quick visit across the channel to Paris to see how Richard Dunwoody is getting on with his photo journalism course, and he seems to be doing brilliantly so far. I think he has a natural talent for photography and hope to see his pictures in the newspapers at some stage in the future. I think he won’t be giving Ed Whitaker a run for his money though and will have his sights set on subjects further afield – travel, war zones, girls in bikinis…?!!
Paris in autumn - one of Richard's early pictures. Even with just a small amount of training, he already has an eye!
In spite of the madness of the autumn schedule, every Saturday morning I make sure I fit in a slight detour to Barbury Castle to get my fix of riding a few of Alan King’s horses and to hang out with the great staff he has.  It sometimes means having to change for racing in five minutes flat at a motorway service station, but it’s definitely worth it to be part of a top jumps yard in full autumn swing.  A few of my ‘rides’ have been running really well – Balzacchio winning two, Secret Edge winning one and coming third at Cheltenham and the legend that is Kings Troop continuing to pull my arms out every Saturday but starting now to get the hang of the hurdling game (with a great ride from Charlie Huxley at Sandown a few weeks ago).  I’ve been riding a lovely little unraced filly too, called Tickety Bleue, who has a really genuine attitude.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy going there and I find it both the most relaxing and exciting thing I do.  It also means that every day I follow the Barbury runners on and when the ones I ride, or ride with, are running, scare my dog by shouting at the TV!  Happy autumn days indeed.
Washing Habbie Simpson down after a work morning at Barbury!