In this week’s SHARPE MIND blog, where sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE aims to bring you a rundown of Sensational, Hard to believe, Amusing, Remarkable, Pertinent & Entertaining events which have happened over the years in the worlds of racing and betting during each specific week of the year, he digs out some of the golden moments from the week between 3 May and 9 May.
▫️ LOSING STREAK… ON MAY 8, 1995 racegoer Stephen Brighton, a barman, ran on to the course at Fontwell entirely naked, only to be knocked flying by a horse called Boxing Match – this after he’d been walloped by Richard Dunwoody’s whip as he went past on Laughing Gas. Brighton was arrested and, according to eye witnesses, driven to, er, Littlehampton Police Station for questioning…
▫️ ONE IN A MILLION BUT EVEN MONEY… Joe Mercer rode Henry Cecil-trained One In A Million in the 1000 Guineas on May 3, 1979 as the Even money filly became the first horse running under the name of company ownership to win an English Classic, doing so in the colours of textile firm Helena Spingfield Ltd.
▫️ WRONGED RON LEFT FUMING… Trainer Ron Sheather, who died aged 76 on May 3, 2009, won the 1951 Ayr Gold Cup on Fair Seller as an apprentice, only for his guv’nor Ernie Davey to refuse to hand over the 50gn bonus he’d been promised, instead he gave him a cigarette and walked away. Sheather lit up, only for Davey’s wife to tell him ‘Smoking isn’t allowed in this house, neither are apprentices. Get out.’
▫️ GRINDING OUT THE WINS… When Grindstone won the Kentucky Derby under Jerry Bailey by a nose on May 4, 1996, it was amazingly the sixth straight win in a Triple Crown race for trainer D Wayne Lukas. May 4, 1780 saw the first Derby take place, run over a mile and won by Sir Charles Bunbury’s Diomed – some consolation for the owner who had lost to Lord Derby in a coin toss to decide the name of the new race.
▫️ BROOD ON THAT, CARRIE… 8/1 shot Forest Gunner finished a highly respectable 5th in the 2005 Grand National ridden by Carrie Ford, born on May 4, 1971 – however, Red Rum’s trainer, Ginger McCain was unimpressed – ‘Carrie is a grand lass, but she’s a brood mare now, and having kids does not get you fit to ride in the National.’
▫️ GREAT HORSE, RUBBISH FILM… 6/4 favourite Secretariat won the 99th Kentucky Derby, run on May 5, 1973 in a record time of three fifths of a second under two minutes, and went on to win the Triple Crown. And then they made a dreadful, boring movie (imo) about him – not a patch on the great one about Seabiscuit!
▫️ DID YOU COME UP AND SEE IT, STEVE?… Cockney Rebel, whose name was cleared by racing fan, punter and rock star Steve Harley, made connections smile, as he was the 25/1 winner of the 2000 Guineas on May 5, 2007, following up with victory in the Irish equivalent. Harley, a keen punter, once told me that he was so depressed by his equine hero Shergar’s defeat in the St Leger that he completely forgot he’d also backed the 28/1 winner of the race.
▫️ FRANKS A LOT FOR STOKING US UP… Trainer Barry Hills landed his 150th Chester winner as 7/1 Daraahem won the Chester Cup on May 6, 2009. Hills then regaled Channel 4 viewers with the story of backing Frankincense, trained by John Oxley, to win the 1968, winning £50,000, thus enabling him to set up as a trainer…..also on May 6, 2009, struggling Premiership side, Hull City FC had sponsored a race at Chester and boss Phil Brown wanted his squad to attend as a morale-boosting exercise after a string of defeats. They preferred extra training to concentrate on their vital next game, a home match against Stoke……..which they promptly lost 2-1.
▫️ SUNDAY BEST… Newmarket and Salisbury racecourses staged the first Sunday race meetings with off-course betting as the majority of betting shops opened for the first time on a Sunday on May 7, 1995.
▫️ BUSINESS AS USUAL… 1000 Guineas Day at Newmarket on May 8, 1945, coincided with VE – Victory in Europe -Day. but, noted a contemporary report, ‘The stewards did not exchange hats, nor did the bookmakers pay out any bonuses’. So, business as usual as Lord Derby’s 5/2 Sun Stream won the big race.
▫️ TOP OF THE CHARTS… Hit Parade won a Taunton selling hurdle under Len Lungo on May 9, 1975 – to give rookie trainer Martin Pipe his first winner. Exactly thirty one years later on May 9, 2006 Martin’s son David Pipe sent out his first winner with a full licence, Standin (correct spelling) Obligation, in a Kelso novice chase.
▫️ ALBERT WAS A NON RUNNER… Cancelling his scheduled theatre performance by buying all the tickets himself, star actor Albert Finney, born on May 9, 1936, was thus able to take the day off to attend the races to see one of his horses run – only to discover on the day that it was a non runner….
▫️ AND FINALLY… Jockey Terry Smith managed NOT to win a walkover on May 7, 1990. his mount Rossa Prince was the only declared runner for a Tweseldown point to point race. Smith only needed to canter the horse over the finishing line and past the judge, but the horse bolted and couldn’t be caught in time. Oh, and Smith was also fined £25 for declaring the wrong colours.