Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another good man gone

November has a mild month, but it's been a very wet one.  Far and away its worst aspect, though, has been the fact that it has been a sad one for our little community, it having seen the death of two of Newmarket's good racing lads.  Firstly we bade farewell to Stuart Williams' long-term employee Nelson Fernandes, who died of a terminal illness; more recently, and more shockingly, we lost Jason Wellings, who out of the blue suffered a fatal heart attack while cantering one of James Fanshawe's horses up Long Hill at around 7 am yesterday.

I suppose that that would be a good way to go, if one went that way at one's appointed time.  For Jason, though, his passing came way, way too soon.  His freckled, usually smiling, little face was always a hard one to put an age to, but I made a guess that he'd have been a small amount years younger than me and guessed that he was 45.  As it turns out, though, he was even younger than that, aged just 44.  I first knew him when he worked for Neville Callaghan in the '90s, and then remember him working for John Gosden before John moved away to train at Manton.  And my friend Liam Casey tells me that he worked with Jason in Michael Stoute's stable (which I'd forgotten) and that Jason used to look after a horse whom Liam often rode, Hammerstein, a son of Kris and the 1,000 Guineas winner Musical Bliss who won the ladies' race on 'King George' day at Ascot before following up at Goodwood the following week.

Jason then disappeared off the map for a long time, but it transpired that he'd gone to work in Dubai.  Unless one is in contact with them, people might as well have dropped off the face of the earth when they go to Dubai.  But Jason's name must have come up in conversation at some point, because I knew that he was working in Dubai, and that he valetted for the jockeys in the changing room on racedays.  Anyway, he reappeared in the spring of this year, having been absent for at least a decade, and I was really, really pleased the first morning I saw him back on the Heath, in James Fanshawe's string.

Jason is not the first person to suffer a fatal heart attack while riding a horse on the Heath.  Ron Brown senior (father of Ron Brown junior who currently works as a yardman for William Haggas, and of Ray Brown who currently works as a yardman for Hugo Palmer) who appeared in a walk-down-memory-lane page of photographs in the Newmarket Journal earlier this year, when Alison Hayes published a feature which was published at the outset of Clive Brittain's training career, suffered the same fate in the '70s when he would have been no older than Jason was yesterday.  Jason won't be the last person to do so, either.  However, that doesn't lessen the tragedy.  It's a tragedy when anyone dies young, and especially when that someone is as likeable, popular and integral part of the community as Jason was.  I offer my sincere condolences to his family.  I know that there is nothing which anyone can do to lessen their loss, but if it helps I can assure them that he was liked and respected by the many, many racing people whose paths he crossed.  He will be much missed by many, and won't be forgotten.

1 comment:

D Armour said...

Hi john, I am Jasons sister, I wanted to thankyou for the beautiful post about my brother, such a fitting tribute, I hope you don't mind but i have shared this link onto In memory of Jason Wellings facebook page.