Sunday, February 28, 2010

Electrical banana

I've been looking at that photograph of the festival-goers in the previous chapter and, while it's hard to lip-read from a photograph, I'd hazard a guess that Simon was singing 'Mellow Yellow' when the shot was taken. I've been getting quite good at lip-reading recently because I've been studying the film of the National Hunt identities singing 'Cheltnum'. As far as I can tell, pretty much everyone is singing along, rather than miming, apart from, embarrassingly, Newmarket's only representative in the cast, Andrew Hickman (pictured). I've studied the film closely several times and it really does look as if Andrew is miming. But at least he's there - and at least, unlike the other backing singers, he looks the part: while the others are attired as if heading out for a jolly Sunday lunch at The Partridge (the pub in Charlie Brooks' novel 'Citizen'), Andrew's dressed to gangsta-rap, complete with baggy nylon tracksuit, Jerry Seinfeldesque trainers, medallion, dark glasses and backwards-facing baseball cap. So that's good - as is the song, notwithstanding the fact that, in selecting the song, the organisers clearly overlooked the fact that the credibility of 'Downtown' was irretrievably shattered by George Costanza several years ago.

It's a shame that Andrew - or 'Knickers' as Jamie Trotter tends rather irreverently to address him - was Newmarket's only representative in the ensemble. We do, of course, have the multiple Champion Hurdle-winning jockeys Steve Smith-Eccles, Paddy Broderick and Jimmy Uttley living here, as well as the Grand National-winning rider Bob Champion, the Hennessy-winning hoop Ian Watkinson, plus various other notables. Hard though it is to believe, I think that both Lester Piggott and Bill O'Gorman have ridden into the (old) Cheltenham winner's enclosure, while Jamie Spencer of course has ridden into the new one, albeit after a race without jumps. And it would be wrong to forget the National Hunt riding careers of such as Declan Murphy, Jeff Pearce, Eric Campbell, Paul Holley, Andrew Stringer, John Ryan, Ray Cochrane, Peter Ryan, Terry Kent and Robert Stevens (former conditional jockey with Philip Hobbs and now one of William Haggas' assistants - so if I can't work a photograph of Robert's colleague Kevin Peckham into this chapter, the next best thing is to include a picture of Robert, riding on the Heath last summer on the stable's grey hack, the former Grand National contender Sailor Jim). And we should even mention former Jersey Champion Hurdle-winning rider Vince Smith, who was resident here until heading down to London a couple of weeks ago to take up the position of assistant trainer to Andrew Reid, and who will surely return at some point in the future. Vince, of course, is perhaps the most successful Maltese jockey of all time and will be forever remembered, by me at least, for being the first jockey to win a race in my colours, courtesy of his outriding his friend Richard Dunwoody in a selling hurdle at Fontwell, Vince riding my 50/1 shot and Richard riding a hot favourite for Martin Pipe. Vince hasn't forgotten that tremendous day either - and I'm sure that Richard won't be allowed to forget it while his acquaintanceship with Vince survives!

On the subject of Newmarket-based riders, I was sorry to discover recently that our fellow Exeter Road resident Eoin "Sully" Sullivan (pictured last month eating the standard jockey's diet of a bag of crisps) is out of action because of a broken bone in his leg. Sully had been absent from Des Donovan's string for a couple of weeks before I found out about his injury, but I hope that it won't be too long now before he's back in harness and ready, I hope, to make an impression in amateur races during the forthcoming season. He's a very good rider who I would say would present himself on the racecourse fit to do himself and his mounts justice, and he's certainly the right size and shape to race-ride, so I hope that he can enjoy some success during the next few months. He deserves to do so. Another local rider whom I'd like to see do well is Ashley Hamblett, a decent apprentice who seemed to have given the game away but who, I have been pleased to notice, appears to have regained his appetite for the job and who rode a winner last week. This must have been his first for quite some time because I don't know if he even race-rode at all last year. So that's good to see Ashley (son of the former jockey Paul and elder brother of the apprentice Jamie) back because it would have been a shame had he let his talent go to waste. He's pictured here last month in Ed Dunlop's string, riding behind another good but sometimes under-achieving jockey, Adrian McCarthy. Adrian has joined Ed's stable this winter after a few years working mainly for Peter Chapple-Hyam. I'm pleased to note that he's had a couple of winners on the all-weather already this year, so let us hope that 2010 is a good year for him too. If it isn't, it certainly won't be for lack of talent on his part - but then, as we know, it's a very competitive sport, and there's a lot more to being successful, as either jockey or trainer, than merely being able to do the job well.
Friday, February 26, 2010


With the BHA conference having taken place this week, we are inevitably hearing a lot at present from the Racing For Change crew. The team's whackier ideas seem to include some sort of team racing, which is strange enough because I thought that the Shergar Cup had made things plain that team racing is not allowed to exist. However, exist it might now do, if this slightly-hard-to-envisage celebrity-led show comes to fruition. I'd be tempted to describe it as 'farce' rather than 'show' were I sure what form it is going to take; but as I don't know the details (nor can even guess at what the details could possibly be, truth be told) I feel that I should give it the benefit of the doubt. I'll also give it the benefit of the doubt because of the fact that it is being promoted by Rod Street, who is a sound, sensible man: if he can see merit in the idea, I'm certainly not going to dismiss it until such time as I've had a proper opportunity to make my own mind up.

Another RFC theme is media coaching for racing professionals. Again I am not sure that I'm convinced that the money being spent on this idea will prove to be money well spent, but I've been invited to attend one of these sessions next month to receive some tuition from Lesley Graham, so I feel that I probably ought to take up the invitation, to show willing even if for no other reason. My one reservation on this topic, over and above questioning its cost-effectiveness, is that I have generally found that, when one watches a really unsuccessful interview of a racing professional, the fault generally lies with the interviewer rather than interviewee. While we are lucky enough to enjoy the broadcasting of some first-rate presenters - and I had the pleasure of working with one of those, Robert Cooper, on ATR on Tuesday - we also have to endure the efforts of some very moderate ones too. The weak links, surprisingly, are as likely to be found on terrestrial television as on the lesser-funded satellite channels, and I'd have thought that, if the aim truly was to improve the standard of on-screen interviews, then trying to bring the handful of inept interviewers, rather than the hundreds of their potential subjects, up to scratch would be a more sensible way of going about things.

Funnily enough, I'm currently reading Clive James' fifth and most recent volume of memoirs, 'The Blaze of Obscurity - The TV Years'. This is very good, as one would expect from such a gifted writer. One paragraph which I read three days ago has proved very topical because it has brought to mind the tactics of a few of racing's less talented interviewers. In looking back on the parts of his career which involved interviewing people on television (an art of which he is a true master), Clive James reflected thus on an instance when an interview went badly wrong: "So, as one tends to do in a crisis, I reverted to a bad habit, and started giving the answer along with the question. 'And now that you're established as a star of the big screen I suppose the offers are coming in and you have to choose between them and that must be difficult because some of them are challenging roles but they wouldn't be a commercial success while others wouldn't really extend your range but they could be useful in consolidating your career as star of the big screen who ...' Nightmare." Ring any bells? James' "bad habit", one might say, is pretty much the stock in trade of all too many racing interviewers. Nightmare indeed!

From one slightly odd subject to another, our trip to Uttoxeter on Saturday with Douchkette (pictured) yielded an unexpected bonus when I stumbled upon an ad in the racebook for the Acoustic Festival of Britain, which is due to be held at Uttoxeter racecourse on May 21, 22 and 23. I doubt that I'll be there myself, but I suspect that we might find ourselves angel-less here that weekend: Gemma and her fiance Simon Waterhouse are inveterate festival-goers, and I suspect that they might be able to persuade Aisling and her husband Charlie to come along for the craic too, which would lead to scenes of merriment similar to this one here. The four of them could share a yurt, perhaps - because the festival will have yurts, along with soccer coaching (which will be a boon for Simon, who I suspect has not had much soccer coaching for a while) and "Posh Loos!!", which will be right up Gemma's street (even if I suspect that Simon, like his doppelganger and hero Bear Grylls, might be just as happy to squat behind the open ditch in true survivalist style). The big names playing at the festival include Donovan and Barbara Dickson, which is rather good as it must be almost exactly 25 years since Barbara Dickson was at the top of the charts, along with Elaine Paige, with the song from Chess, 'I know him so well'. The other singers include Darren Poyzer, Ed Tudorpole and Amy Wadge, with whom I'm less familiar - but no doubt we shall have a report from the angels after the event. More of that anon - but, in the interim, if you happen to hear Simon singing 'Mellow Yellow' to himself as he goes about his vetting, then you'll know that the tickets have been booked.

Anyway, summer will be here by the time that that festival takes place, which is quite a thought as just now it remains hard even to see spring on the horizon. Just when we thought that we were getting out of the woods we had another day of snow (Monday). This was truly horrible because it fell solidly all through the morning (as Ex Con's rear view of She Is A Cracker on Side Hill all-weather suggests) and, although it was far from the coldest day of the winter, the days this week have featured some cold winds, which was something we were spared when the temperatures were really low. Still, next Monday is the first of March - so surely things will get better shortly. Won't they?
Sunday, February 21, 2010

The old ones are still the best

We didn't have much to shout about at Uttoxeter yesterday (and many congratulations, by the way, to Charlie Moore and his team for putting the meeting on, because without a great deal of hard work on their part it would have fallen victim to the elements) but happily I still found cause for joy because while I was there I watched the Grade One Ascot Chase on the television - which, of course, was won by the splendid Monet's Garden (pictured). It's been a source of joy to catch regularly glimpses of him at exercise on the Heath over the past six weeks, and also to pay him the odd visit in his stable in Abington Place, so I was more than delighted to see him cap his stay in town with this splendid victory. It was just so good: he was like Desert Orchid re-born, and praise doesn't come any higher than that. So congratulations to the horse, to his trainer and to all involved with his success, particularly Joey Richards. And, of course, what a lovely piece of symmetry is it that two Ascot Gr1 winners at completely different ends of the spectrum have now come out of the same visitors' stable - and here's the photograph to prove it: same door, different head (King's Stand Stakes winner Takeover Target). The icing on the cake, of course, yesterday would have been if another of my favourite horses, Our Vic, could have made it a 12-year-olds' double by defying top-weight in the big race at Haydock Park, the Blue Square Gold Cup Chase (which I'm sure must be what we'd still think of as the Greenall Whitley), but he had to settle for a highly honourable second place, giving 12lb to the winner (and 12lb on bottomless ground over three and a half miles is a massive weight differential). Even so, yesterday was truly a day for the true equine heroes.

No racing today, of course, with all three meetings in the UK and Eire falling victim to snow (including the AW Flat fixture at Southwell, where the track was usable but inaccessible). Even so, today's Racing Post is still very good, and not just for its reports and results of yesterday's action: as usual, the Sunday Racing Post has some good reading in it, with today's highlights being Willie Mullins' very moving tribute to Ronan Lawlor and Steve Dennis' homage to Dick Francis. Both are very much worth reading. Dick Francis' books played as big a part in my schooling as they did in Steve's and I'd say that we were reading, loving and being inspired by the same novels at the same age. I've read all of his books bar the most recent, and I trust that I will put that omission right soon enough. I'm currently on the most recent novel of another of my favourite authors, Wilbur Smith ('Assegai') and it's very good. If anyone hasn't had their lives enriched by the work of Wilbur Smith, the best tip I can give you would be to read 'When the lion feeds'; if you do, I suspect that you will then do what I did after I'd read it, which was to read the subsequent Courtney novels straight through, one after the other. Great stuff!

Mention of Takeover Target, of course, turns the mind to thinking about which Aussie horses might come over for Royal Ascot this year. It seems that Starspangledbanner, winner yesterday of the Oakleigh Plate, is Europe-bound, but that he will be doing his Royal Ascot training at Ballydoyle rather than in Newmarket. Other than that, it's hard to know who will make the trip. I suppose that things will become clearer after the Newmarket Handicap in a couple of weeks' time. It's hard to believe that there have already been four Group One weight-for-age races in Melbourne at 1400m or less this year: such a glut, I suppose, inevitably could be said to provide too many clues (particularly as this year three of the four have been won in photo-finishes, two of which were three-way photo-finishes) and so it is rather hard to identify the best of the best with any certainty. I had heard the suggestion that Lightning Stakes winner Nicconi might be coming, but I don't know what's happening there, and it could be the case that it would decided that there would be more to be gained than lost by having a crack with Wanted, narrow runner-up in two Group One sprints already this year, before he retires to Widden Stud later this year. I'll have to try to marshall my thoughts on the subject because I ought to be able to say something constructive come Tuesday, when I'll be on the ATR international review show. I'm looking forward to that and am very pleased to have been given the call-up. It'll also be nice to review yesterday's other Group One race, the Blue Diamond, not least because it brings back happy memories of our holiday in Australia in January of last year: when we visited Arrowfield, two stallions were paraded for our inspection (the massive chestnut Starcraft and the even bulkier bay Redoute's Choice) and so I was very pleased to see them come up with the Blue Diamond trifecta between them. That was a nice reward for Arrowfield's sponsorship of the race, and for their hospitality.
Friday, February 19, 2010


I tend to let my hair grow long during the winter because it's warmer that way. Earlier this week we had a slightly less winterish day than normal so, buoyed by hope that spring might be around the corner, I was bold enough to cut four months' growth off my head. That, of course, proved to be a premature move (which wasn't really surprising bearing in mind that the previous day had started with a temperature of minus 6) because the following morning it was minus 4. And foggy. So if anyone from balmier climes is wondering what freezing fog looks like, this photograph, taken as I rode Ex Con away from Bury Hill just behind Luca Cumani's string at around 7.30 yesterday morning, provides the answer. The fog and ice soon disappeared, of course, because the sun started to peak through the murk by the middle of the morning - as this second photograph shows; by the end of the morning the temperature had soared to plus 2, which wasn't an improvement at all because it started to rain. And then carried on raining all afternoon, evening and night, until sometime in the early hours the temperature dipped below zero again and the rain turned to snow. So this morning we were back to where we were two months ago, with the Heath covered in snow. And, as first lot this morning it was still snowing, visibility wasn't any better than it had been 24 hours previously, as this third photograph, looking from the side of the Heath towards the Long Hill canter (and if you look very carefully you'll even be able to see two or three little black dots, which are in fact horses going up the canter), shows. But now the sun has come out, the snow has melted, we've found out that today's race-meetings have all passed their inspections and it's really rather nice. It'll freeze tonight again but - but even so perhaps we might be heading in the right direction after all. That would be nice for us, but even nicer for the horses as conditions at all the racecourses now are as testing as you'd ever find: don't pay too much attention to whether the ground is listed as 'heavy' or 'soft, heavy in places' or even 'good to soft': it's just plain heavy everywhere, as the invariably long race times and the frequency of hurdles or fences being omitted testify. But all will be well in the end.

I'm sure that we will find some extremely heavy ground at Uttoxeter tomorrow when (if - the track will have to pass an 8 a.m. inspection for racing to take place) we go there with Douchkette. Whether she will handle the ground remains to be seen (her run on heavy ground at Kempton was inconclusive because she travelled well for a long way, which gives us hope, before getting very tired, which perhaps takes that hope away again) but she's in good form. It will be a much, much weaker race than the one she contested at Kempton (it's a seller tomorrow, whereas previously she was in normal novice company on a Saturday at a Grade One metropolitan track) so, fingers crossed, she'll have some sort of chance. I certainly couldn't ask for her to be in better form, as this recent photograph of her swaggering home after a gallop under Adam suggests.

By and large things seem to be running reasonably smoothly here - the inclement conditions notwithstanding - which is nice. The good thing about this time of year is that a majority of the horses tend to be working towards the forthcoming turf Flat season, which means that with them we are travelling hopefully, which is always pleasing. (Of course, travelling hopefully is said usually to be better than arriving, but let's hope that that does not apply in these cases). The two-year-old fillies are going along nicely, as this photograph taken yesterday of the Tobougg and the Bertolini cantering on Long Hill in the freezing fog shows. I treated myself to a lot on foot/bicycle to watch them yesterday and I did so again today, so I took advantage of the opportunity to annoy various strings by snapping away, as well as observing our own horses. Doubtless some more of the photographs taken will appear on this blog anon - and not just of Kevin Peckham, for whom my photographic floodgates seem well and truly to have broken open. Having gone weeks and weeks trying in vain to take a photograph of him, I now find myself photographing himself seemingly every day now. As this morning's shot of him sheltering from the sleet in the lee of the wall of Sir Mark Prescott's indoor ride shows!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comings and goings

One thing which I should do before I go any farther is to salute one of our favourite trainers, James Eustace, on the outstanding win in the Al Shindagha Sprint at Meydan last Thursday of War Artist, who is clearly thriving out in Dubai under the care of Chloe Madgin. It was tremendous, and a well-deserved advertisement for James' skills. His victory was the highlight of an interesting evening of racing there last Thursday, even if it is harder to appreciate the UAE racing now that we seem to be denied the punditing skills of James Willoughby on Racing UK. (And when one sees shots of the empty stands there). James' wit and wisdom were formerly easily the highlight of the UAE coverage, but we haven't heard him at all this year so far. He was also missing from the station's coverage of last autumn's Breeders' Cup, which was also poorer for his absence. I can only presume that he has been too busy finessing the facts, the figures and the form to appear on TV (and to do much writing). (And, by the way, I'm not going to waste any time in agonising over whether or not there should be a second 'e' in finessing/finesseing: if one starts using finesse as a verb, one is already on such stony ground linguistically that one's crimes against the language can be neither compounded nor diminished however one spells the word).

The funny thing is that we haven't laid eyes on James Eustace's string for weeks now, which is odd as we usually see plenty of them. We must just have our times such that we and they do not coincide. Another string which appears on the Severals from his direction, though, of which we do see plenty is that of Jeff Pearce, who is enjoying a superb winter. Jeff has sent out stacks of winners, several of them ridden by the under-patronized Saleem Golam, which is very nice to see. Another string, though, which also used to appear on the Severals from the Heath was Gerard Butler's, and we don't see that any longer as he has moved across town to share Egerton House with David Elsworth. That's good news for Gerard, but less good for us as I always enjoyed seeing him and his string - and it always was a case of not seeing one without the other, because he is never far away when his horses are around, being an extremely conscientious trainer. Even in the pre-Christmas snow, as shown here. Speaking of David Elsworth, he is to be congratulated for snaring a win last weekend in one of the weakest Listed races ever run. I don't know why the all-weather racing is going backwards so much: it really is considerably less good than it was a couple of years ago. I can only presume that this is because the prize money has been cut back so much and that the majority of people with a nice horses (at any level) now prefer to take the chance of saving the horse for the turf, rather than tackling the much softer, but considerably less well-endowed, winter option It was formerly the case that winter racing was increasing in quality and prestige, but that scenario applies no longer and, on the evidence of this winter, it has peaked and is already declining. That's a shame - but the courses and the authorities know what to do about it if they would like to reverse the trend.
Having spoken in brief about the late Fred Rickaby in the past two chapters, I should also salute another two heroes who have died recently. I never met Terry Mills but I admired what he achieved in his life and I admired his passion for racing and the competitive manner in which he raced his horses. He was a true asset to the sport, which is the poorer for his passing. I was delighted to see the stable, now presided over by his son Robert, have a winner soon after his death, and I hope that they have plenty more. I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in that stable, Loretta Lodge, during the holidays of my final year at school, when the yard was owned by the late Brian Swift, from whose executors Terry was subsequently to buy it. Brian Swift's head lad Wally Carter, from whom I learned a lot, was Terry Mills' first trainer there, and I have enjoyed seeing winners come out of the yard from those days to these.
Even more of a hero was Dick Francis, who died a couple of days ago. There is nothing which I can say about this great man that hasn't already been said, other than to remark that I am one of many, many thousands of people for whom his writings have been a solid and valued thread through life. One of life's gentleman, he invariably conducted himself with modesty and honour and he did an awful lot of good for the sport of racing, as well as bringing pleasure to a vast amount of people. He was truly one of racing's towering figures of the twentieth century.
And finally I should salute Ronan Lawlor, the Irish apprentice who was killed today in a fall during morning exercise with Pat Fahy's string this morning. I previously knew nothing about Ronan, but he was clearly an admirable young lad who has lost his life in tragic circumstances. There but for the grace of God go any of us, and I can only offer my sympathies to his family and to his many friends.
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter's last throes?

Winter's still rumbling on and we have a covering of snow once again. Mind you we'd be saying that we have more than a covering were we in Kent, as I gather that Folkestone racecourse (for whose Tuesday meeting we have two entries) is currently under six inches of snow. Our snow fell yesterday morning and, while there wasn't that much of it, it is still with us as the temperature has been hovering at or below zero since then. But at least the sun has been shining some of the time, as this photograph taken at quarter to nine yesterday morning shows. The snow had actually only just fallen because there hadn't been any at the start of the day, but I'd found myself in mini-blizzard conditions while cantering Ex Con around Bury Hill as it began to get light. All in all, with the mixtures of cloud and sun and of snow and grass, it has made for some spectacular views across the Heath, as we found when we took the next lot out. Sunny one minute, snowing the next, but then we've become very accustomed to our now permanent 'four seasons in one day' climate. Or rather three seasons, summer generally not being represented.

What was rather nice yesterday was seeing the first snowdrops of the year, of which I happened to catch sight, appropriately, poking their heads through the snow on the bit of grass alongside the Catholic church at the end of this road. That's always a heartening sight, allowing one to believe that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of winter. It still seemed very wintery over at Bury crematorium this afternoon when we bade farewell to Fred Rickaby in a very moving service conducted by the racing vicar, Graham Locking. Graham is very good at funerals, invariably giving a religious meaning to the service in a way which, I believe, is accessible also to those of a non-religious persuasion. Fred would have appreciated the service, and also the reception afterwards given by his niece Melanie in her house in Risby. He was a great man and I count myself very fortunate to have enjoyed his friendship in his later years.
Saturday, February 06, 2010

Farewell to Fred, one of life's greats

This is rather bad because I've gone nine days between chapters, which isn't very impressive. Emma and I were away for three days, but three days off pretty much becomes nine days off blogging: if one takes a weekend off, one pays for it when one gets home. But I'm feeling less disorganised now that I've caught up on much of what I've needed to do this week, so I'll just throw a few thoughts together just so that it doesn't look as if I've deserted my post altogether.

We went to France, where once again we were lucky enough to enjoy Alix Choppin's outstanding hospitality in Normandy. Alix now lives in Honfleur, a beautiful town near Deauville, and from it the three of us spent Saturday and Sunday touring various stud farms (well, on the Saturday the four of us did the tour because Alix's very nice father came too) during the area's open weekend. For Emma this was work because, in her new role as bloodstock editor for 'Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder', she was reporting on the weekend; for Alix it was work-related too as she has a public relations role with Arqana, the French sales company. And I just went along for the ride, which was great. We visited seven studs, including Haras de la Cauviniere, home of my mare Minnie's Mystery (seen at the top of this chapter) and her yearling colt by Gold Away (seen here). It is now also home of last year's Prix du Jockey-Club hero Le Havre, a lovely horse (pictured below) who is the stud's first stallion. I hope that he will be a big success there, which would be great as the proprietors Sylvain and Elisabeth Vidal are hard-working and conscientious professionals who deserve to do well. As the photograph of the mare shows, there was some snow around, which was rather nice. It snowed during the three nights we were there, but it wasn't unpleasantly cold - unlike England, which was hit by another very hard frost while we were away. Having driven through quite a lot of snow in the Normandy countryside on the way home on Monday morning, it was rather a shock to find that very hard frosts had been the issue here, and even more of a shock on Wednesday to find, after the frost had completely disappeared on Tuesday, that it was back for one day, and one day only, on Wednesday when we had planned to run both Kadouchski and Douchkette at Leicester. Both horses looked to have decent chances - Kadouchski was Spotlight's selection in the Racing Post, while Douchkette had been put in around the 6/1 mark - but the second inspection at 10.45 am saw the track still frost-bound, and therefore racing was called off. C'est la vie.

I am sure that I will bore you with more details from the studs and about the horses which we saw anon; suffice to say that we saw some wonderful animals at properties such as Haras du Quesnay, Haras d'Etreham, Haras de Bonneval and Haras du Mezeray, with the line-up of wonderful sires being headed by two winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (the magnificent 13-year-old Sinndar, whose photograph appears below, and 26-years-young Trempolino, whose looks really do bely his advancing years, as this adjacent photograph of him shows) and, of course, the great Gold Away, sire of the Minnie's Mystery's yearling. But that can wait, as can my belly-aching about going down with food-poisoning on the final evening (which had nothing whatsoever to do with Alix's cooking, and which forced me to miss out on a lovely dinner which she was cooking for us). But what can't wait is a very short tribute to dear old Fred Rickaby, who died while we were away. Fred had a great life and a long one too, being a month short of his 94th birthday when it ended. A very good rider on the Flat and over jumps and a great trainer, he was the horseman par excellence, but was much more than that too: he was just an all-round great character and great man. It was my privilege to have known him in the latter stages of his life and, while he was already slowing down by the time I made his acquaintance (with his deafness sadly further assisting the aging process) I count him as one of the finest men I have ever been lucky enough to meet. His death marks the end of an era because they don't make men like Fred any more. More is the pity.