Thursday, April 07, 2011

Grand National Buzz

Well, I really enjoyed the first day of Aintree, courtesy of the BBC and Racing UK. The racing was tremendous, most obviously Big Buck's' latest confirmation that he is in a league of his own; but also the wonderful Baby Turk coming home in front in the Fox Hunters under an excellent ride from Willy Twiston-Davies which belied the 16-year-old rider's youth. Another highlight, though, was the interview with Chris Pitt, who has recently written a book detailing the Aintree experiences of the Grand National also-rans. (Or, I suppose, I should say the 'also-rodes', as he tells the jockeys' tales). I really enjoyed the Ray Goldstein excerpt in Tuesday's Racing Post and I would suggest that the book will be very good. I intend to find out soon. Chris' tales of the enthusiasm displayed by the beaten riders reminds me of an interview which I read was conducted by the Sydney press corps with Ian Watkinson (pictured here in the High Street a couple of years ago with Bill O'Gorman and Anthony Berry). After Ian was forced to give up race-riding in the late '70s, he spent some time training at Cootamundra in New South Wales. During this period he, apparently, trained a double at Randwick. After the second victory (so the story goes, as told, I recall, in 'Pacemaker' at the time) the press descended on him and sought confirmation that this would surely have been his greatest thrill in racing. Ian, predictably, denied this, confounding the Aussies by saying that that had come in the Grand National. When they asked him when he had won the Grand National, he stunned the journos by saying, "Oh no, I never won it - in fact, I never got round"! I always think that that story perfectly sums up both jump jockeys and the Grand National.

Almost as exciting as the Grand National meeting, though, is the fact that Buzz Lightyear's fame continues to spread. It has got as far as the front page of the Newmarket Weekly News, which suggests that the announcement that Simon is to run the London Marathon impersonating Buzz Lightyear may rank as the most important item of news to have taken place in Newmarket over the past week. Which seems fair enough. Anyway, the story seems to be captivating the paper's readership - including Anthony, seen here voraciously devouring the details. What has further amused me, though, is the thought that the paper will now have this photo of Simon in its archives. So when in a few years' time Simon becomes chairman of the British Equine Veterinary Association, or is awarded the OBE for services to equine welfare, or makes the headlines for something similarly august ('Senior vet speaks out over equine fatalities' ...) , the story will find itself illustrated by Simon in his Buzz Lightyear outfit, which will hardly give the impression of gravitas which the article's content ought to suggest.


Nathan said...

Maybe young Anthony should proof read your blog John :-)

I too enjoyed Willy Twiston-Davies winning on the wonderful Baby Run.

John Berry said...

Aaagh - and I'd no doubt have had Peter Scudamore riding Grands Crus against Big Buck's - Baby Run, of course, being a son of Baby Turk.

Stephen Hailey said...

I really enjoy your blog John. I've only recently discovered it.

I think you dispell the media/public view of what a racehorse trainer is.

I'm someone who frequents racecourses, betting shops, the betfair forum and the real world (:() and your blog is a breath of fresh air.

John Berry said...

Thank you very much, Stephen.