Wednesday, August 07, 2013


Where to start?  Well, we're as well going back to the weekend when Sunday saw a lovely result.  Jack Gilligan, 16-year-old son of Patrick and Vickie who train at the bottom of Warren Hill, has been riding out on the Heath for three or four years, during which time it has become apparent that he's been shaping up into a very handy rider indeed.  He's supplemented the plentiful experience which he's had in his own family's stable by riding several gallops for Sir Mark Prescott and also riding out here on the odd occasion.  He turned 16 in the spring, had his first ride in June and then had his second on Sunday.  And, happily, his second ride became his first winner when the 33/1 shot Shahzarad, trained by his father, won the amateurs' race at Newbury by a short head.  That was terrific and a real pleasure to see because he's a lovely lad who goes about everything the right way.  His parents (pictured in this recent photo of the family string, with Patrick on the ground in front, Vickie riding the first horse and Jack riding the one behind her) are entitled to be very, very proud - and I'm sure that he'll give them numerous further reasons for pride in the future.

After that highlight we moved on to another one: Squeak's wedding.  Longtime friends of this stable will be very aware of Squeak, but he hasn't featured much, if at all, in this blog as his time here and the internet's time here did not coincide.  Anyway, Squeak (aka Darren Williamson) probably arrived here about 15 years ago, having started out in Sir Mark Prescott's stable.  He was here for a few years, had a few rides and rode a few place-getters, went away for a while and eventually, once he'd become too old to be an apprentice, headed over to Sweden - where, confounding the many who said that he had no race-riding future, he's still a jockey, aged 34.  And you can see, from the bottom picture of him standing next to some of the Swedish contingent at the reception, that he's been blessed with the size and shape for such a career, not to mention courage, industry and innate sympathetic horsemanship.

And now he's a married jockey, having married a lovely Swedish girl called Maria Persson (well, obviously called Maria Williamson now) yesterday in Raynham Methodist Church (Raynham being a town adjacent to Squeak's hometown Purfleet, in Essex just upriver of the Dartford Bridge, and where some of his relatives still live).  Squeak was kind enough to ask me to be his best man, and I felt honoured and delighted to perform this duty.  And a real pleasure it was too.  I know that this brief explanation of Squeak and how he fits into this picture sounds very prosaic, but the river runs much, much deeper than that.  Squeak - whose bad points include being unable to keep quiet and whose good points include having a generous nature and kind heart - isn't everyone's cup of tea, but he started off as my employee and developed into a very valued friend, which he will always be.  I have been so pleased that he's made such a go of his life over in Sweden, and now am particularly pleased that he's married a lovely girl with whom I believe that he will share a happy life.  It was a lovely wedding, and a real pleasure to be part of it.

So that was good - as was Dream Walker completing his hat-trick by winning easily again at Newcastle this afternoon.  That was a real pleasure to watch.  And I'll be able to give the good news to his yearling half-sister So Much Water when she arrives here from France tomorrow morning so that her adult life can begin.  That'll be a highlight to start the day with - and let's hope that we have another highlight later in the day as Ethics Girl will head down to Brighton to try to repeat her victory in last year's Brighton Cup.  It'll be tough with an extra 4lb on her back, and one can never take anything for granted at Brighton, but she ought to give a good account of herself yet again.  She rarely, if ever, lets us down.

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