22 January 2009
I AM SURE you will all have read about the poor unfortunate jockey who fell off his hoss in the run up to the lollipop and cost a couple of punters nearly half a million quid.
This event of course had a number of my friends and acquaintances quizzing me about my own not dissimilar circumstances when I was warned off the turf.
I should stress immediately of course that there is no similarity between my own criminal misdeeds and that of the unfortunate jockey who parted company with his mount. In my case, as I have fessed up in these pages more than once, I was desperate for money with no home and our first baby on the way, I agreed to throw a race for money.
I had had weight problems and had launched myself on a career of riding over the sticks. A hoss called Admiral's Cup was a very hot favourite to win a steeplechase at a course in the West Country and I had been booked for the ride.
A couple of days before the race I was approached in the car park of Kempton Park by two bookies who offered me two grand to throw the race. Two grand in those days bought a nice little cosy two bed terrace house in Newmarket with a bit left over for a crib and a pram and some nappies so I agreed to do something I have regretted every day of my life since.
The plan was for me to jump off the hoss at the last fence. The racecourse in question had a steep uphill finish to the line but the last fence was in a hollow, with the take off to the fence being out of sight of the stewards of the racecourse. This was in the days before TV cameras and there would be no evidence to say I had deliberately unseated myself. That was the plan.
The day of the race was one of typical west country relentless rain. It rained and it rained and it rained some more. We jumped off in the steeplechase and my mount ran and jumped like a dream. My dream turned into a nightmare when on the first circuit I realised that the stewards had dolled off what would be the last fence where I planned to part company with the jolly.
They had decided that the fence being in a very low part of the course was unsafe ground and was to be omitted. So we approached the last part of the race with my hoss barely breaking sweat and going like the Flying Scotsman and with me with nowhere to hide. As we ran round the last fence and began the run to the line I jumped ship in full view of the stewards and that is how I came to be warned off the turf for life.
That is why I can never join my loyal Racing Club members in the owners lounge or the winner's enclosure. I am warned off and shall remain warned off all my life. But that is only The Shadow, and it is why I am The Shadow. Come racing with the Club and I shall be there, sharing the good times and the bad, sharing the tears and the champagne in equal measure. The Jockey Club just will not know which one is me.
Another story which I must be careful not to overstep the mark is the one about the hopefully temporary closure of Great Leighs racecourse.
As you all must know already the British Horseracing Authority have withdrawn the licence of the Essex track following the appointment of administrators in the affairs of the track operators.
I have a connection with the track going back many years and acted as one of the advisors of one of the original businessmen who conceived the notion of the new racecourse. The man I advised was one of the cleverest and toughest operators I have ever met so I have no doubt whatsoever that the course will reopen and succeed.
My weekend bets are a double at Cheltenham and are both hosses I have singled out before but which have not run as planned. I go for Imperial Commander in the 14.05 and Exotic Dancer in the Letherby and Christopher Chase at 14.35. If they run neither will be much of a price but they will win.
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