Monday, 23 July 2012

Legends, horses, jockeys, and a goat!

Finally, I get round to writing my next blog.  The major gap since February is testament to the unbelievably busy year that I’ve had.  In the current climate though, I shan’t be complaining for a second and am undeniably privileged to be doing the work I do.

So here’s a quick summary….

On John Smith’s Grand National Day we held the Aintree Legends Charity Race in aid of The Bob Champion Cancer Trust for the second year running – with a new line up including Mick Kinane, Adrian Maguire and Richard Pitman.  Mick, looking as fit as he did when he was sat on the great Sea the Stars for the last time, won in fine style on the Paul Nicholls trained American Trilogy.

All smiles as Mick romps home on American Trilogy
But the winner in heroism would have to go to Richard Pitman. 

Pitters looking stylish coming round the outside!
With only one eye and one kidney and at the age of 69, he still looked pretty damn stylish. His participation did mean the stewards called the jockeys in BEFORE the race though – and they were all given a talking to about fair play!

Always an amazing event to be part of, but involving a few sleepless nights in the organisation process, one of the funniest moments was due to the fact that one of horses taking part, Just Lille, has to travel with a goat.  With Aintree stretched to the max for stabling during the Grand National meeting and us not liking to ask for too much, we had to request permission for the goat to be stabled along with the horse.  A few days later we had to additionally inform Aintree that this horse needed to run in cheek pieces.  We received the response: “Will the goat run in them too?” 

As soon as we’d gathered breath from Aintree, we were straight on to ‘An Evening with Sir Henry Cecil’ on 3rd May at the Bedford Lodge hotel in Newmarket, in association with Juddmonte and again in aid of The Bob Champion Cancer Trust.

Two incredible people

Brough Scott and Mike Cattermole hosted a memorable evening, with many of Henry’s key owners and friends attending.  As well as a video collage of Henry’s incredible training career, Henry candidly answered questions about his life and talked about some of his best horses, not forgetting the mighty Frankel.   One of Frankel’s racing plates was the star item in the auction raising £16,000. 

My bid for this wasn't enough!
The morning after the dinner I was also lucky enough to ride out at Henry’s again as well as to see Frankel, the world’s best racehorse, putting the final touches to preparation for his seasonal comeback.

Newmarket gallops watching Frankel with Brough, Jilly and Jane Cecil
From Newmarket, I headed to Newbury on May 19th which was not only Frankel’s seasonal debut on JLT Lockinge Day, but also the launch of the Racing Post’s Richard Hughes autobiography, A Weight off My Mind, written with the help of one of our star journalists, Lee Mottershead.

Hughsie relaxing at home!
For launch, as well as a multitude of media interviews, we held various social and signing events, and the book is selling brilliantly.  It opens with Hughsie in the toilets at Ascot having drunk a bottle and a half of champagne and taken 14 pee pills:
“Never in my whole life had I been so desperate to pee… After peeing for at least 30 seconds, the agony was over.  And then I passed out.”
Brutally honest, funny, serious and un-put-down-able, I recommend everyone reads it.

As the flat racing season galloped towards the Investec Epsom Derby, we galloped on to the launch of another major title and our own tribute to the Queen in her jubilee year.  Julian Muscat’s Her Majesty’s Pleasure: How Horseracing Enthrals the Queen was launched with a photo exhibition in conjunction with Racing For Change at Sandown and then on to Derby Day itself.

Her Majesty doing what she loves best!
We have also recently launched an excellent biography of Clive Brittain by the brilliant Robin Oakley, another must for anyone interested in the art of training and understanding horses.

There won’t be any let up for the rest of the year either as we have a stellar line up of autumn titles including Brough’s biography of Sir Henry Cecil, tributes to Kauto Star and Frankel, an anthology of Racing Post writer, David Ashforth’s genius work, and a ‘Secrets of Pricewise’ book.

My work for the Injured Jockeys Fund has also been fascinating with the competition we’ve been running with Channel 4 racing to create an IJF amateur photographer’s racing calendar for 2013 – results will be announced in September and I’ll post some of the winners pictures up then.  We are also now starting to focus on 2014 which will celebrate 50 years of the Injured Jockeys Fund.

2012 so far has proved to be the white knuckle ride I knew it was going to be.  In spite of the immense pressure of juggling everything that needs to be done, when your job is also your passion, I get far fewer ‘Monday morning’ moments than I ever did in doing previous jobs that were always ‘work’ and never ‘play’.
Combining work and social! 
I also find that the most switched off I ever am is when I’m actually riding the racehorses themselves rather than just them being at the heart of what I do. So my Saturday morning trips to Alan King’s remain the highlight of my week.