Saturday, April 26, 2014

RIP Julian Wilson, a true gentleman

I must not let this week end (and it does end today, irrespective of the misinformation put out by those who contend that Monday is the first day of the week) without remarking on the sadness triggered by the death of Julian Wilson.  I grew up with Julian as the face of BBC racing - which at the time meant all the best racing.  Times change, and eventually Julian was deemed insufficiently light-hearted for a modern audience; but that is much more an indictment of modern society (and modern TV executives) than it is of Julian.  And it doesn't alter the fact that there remains more than a whole generation of Britons who owe in part their love of racing to his presentation of it.

I got to know Julian slightly over the past decade or two.  I wasn't lucky enough to know him well, but I knew him well enough to say that the Julian whom we saw on the TV was the Julian whom one saw off-camera: very intelligent, unfailingly courteous, absolutely devoted to the sport of horse-racing, a man of steadfast principals and unflinchingly high standards.  One thing sticks in my mind.  Andi Brown and Linsay Knocker (pictured here in Rayes Lane earlier this spring) have the equine swimming pool in Hamilton Road and have had a breaking and pre-training business for years.  (As of this year, Andi now has a trainer's license; and has already trained a winner, which is great).  For many years they would pre-train horses which Julian managed before those horses went into training, with Lady Herries, David Elsworth, or whomever.  There has been the odd time when they have needed a mate for a galloper, and I remember a few years ago galloping with a horse under their care, owned by a syndicate which Julian oversaw.  After that day, I didn't see Julian for quite a few weeks - but when I did eventually next see him, straightaway he thanked me for providing a workmate for his horse. That was courtesy and thoughtfulness which went well beyond the call of duty; and that was Julian: a true professional and a true gentleman.

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