Sunday, May 16, 2010

Special occasions

One treat which I had recently and which is worth recording was a visit to Slip Anchor, the oldest living Derby winner. He's aged 28, having won the Derby in 1985, and has long been a particular favourite of mine, initially for being the winner of the first Derby which I attended. More recently he has cemented his place in my affections by being the sire of Brief Goodbye, while his place in our hearts is further guaranteed by the fact that his existence and career were overseen by our much-missed friend Leslie Harrison, who was stud manager to Slip Anchor's late owner/breeder Lord Howard de Walden. Slip Anchor has spent pretty much his whole life around here, having been born at and then having stood at Plantation Stud (where he now still lives in retirement) and having been trained at Warren Place. He lives at Plantation as a guest of the stud's current owner Dermot O'Rourke, and a couple of weeks ago the stud manager Adrian O'Brien was kind enough to welcome Emma and I there to visit the old horse - Emma to photograph him for Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder, and I to hang along and hero-worship. He looks a very old horse nowadays, which is fair enough as he is a very old horse, but he clearly still enjoys life. He is treated like royalty, which is just what he deserves, and clearly enjoys his life of commuting between his magnificent stable and his paddock, which is adjacent to the paddock occupied by the stud's current stallion Araafa (who is visible in the background of the second photograph). Emma has taken some lovely photographs while mine weren't very good, but I reproduce a couple of them here as a memento of a very special occasion.

Another special occasion recently was the engagement party for Harry Fowler (the successful amateur rider) and Racing UK presenter (and former amateur rider) Lorna Bradburne, which took the form of a cocktail party in Tattersalls two weeks ago today, after the 1,000 Guineas Day racing at Newmarket. This was kindly hosted by Harry's godfather, and we were lucky enough to be on the guest list. It was very enjoyable and it had for me the added bonus of allowing me to smooth over a faux pas. I am reliably informed by umpteen sheilas that Luca Cumani's son Matt is the best looking man in Newmarket, which makes my blunder in having recently held a conversation with him as if he were Luca's other assistant Ed Walker rather an odd error. They look nothing like each other, but I'd managed to muddle them up somehow. Anyway, I was glad to take the opportunity of apologising to Matt and of explaining that the confusion was understandable (in my mind, anyway) as he and Ed always wear the same clothes when riding out (which they, along with Luca's entire staff, have to do because there is a stable uniform). Anyway, Matt, being as charming as he is, took it well, kindly refraining from calling me a bloody idiot. But what made me feel even better was the subsequent discovery that I appear not to be the only person capable of mistaking him. I took a photograph of him at the party with one of the Angels (Gemma - and please excuse the poor quality of the picture, the result I'm sure of my excitement in photographing two such famously beautiful people) but was rather surprised the following day to hear Gemma tell me that she too had taken a photograph of Matt (with me) on my camera. I duly checked the camera, only to find only one photograph on it taken by Gemma - and my companion in the picture doesn't look much like Matt at all! So, if my inability to differentiate Matt from Ed Walker was weird, surely a failure to tell him apart from Andrew Hickman is even odder!

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