SHARPE MIND: For Pete’s Sake

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 29 November and 5 December.


NOV 29, 2008……………………HAIR WE GO………..Vets, Jack Murphy and Sean Arkins of the University of Limerick announced research today in 2008 which they said showed that ‘the hair on a horse’s head curls can tell you whether it is right- or left-hoofed, which in turn can help determine the direction a horse favours to race.’

NOV 29, 1997………….FOR PETE’S SAKE…….Legendary commentator, writer, punter and, as I discovered at the cost of a legendary hangover, legendary imbiber, Sir Peter O’Sullevan called it a day as a BBC commentator today in 1997, after calling home 9/4 favourite Suny Bay in Newbury’s Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. Later in the afternoon his own horse, Sounds Fyne, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald was a 12/1 winner on the same card.

NOV 30, 1929……………………..COOL CATH CASHED IN……………..Liverpool lady, Catherine Unsworth was the only person to stake a 2/- (10p) tote bet on Coole at Haydock today in 1929. The outsider won, and Catherine was paid out at record odds of 3410/1.

NOV 30, 1968………..NO FLUKE FOR FULKE……..Willie Robinson booted home 20/1 shot Man of the West to win the 1968 Hennessy Gold Cup today, giving trainer Fulke Walywn the fifth of what would ultimately be seven victories in the race.

DEC 1, 1989……………………….AND GREAVES SCORES FIRST………………….Alex Greaves rode her first winner today in 1989, 9/1 Andrew’s First, at Southwell, and also on this date, but in 1993, she rode Sharp Sensation, her future husband, ‘Dandy’ Nicholls’ first runner as a trainer, at Southwell, into 4th place, only to receive a £400 fine for allegedly not giving the horse every opportunity to win.

DEC 1, 2004…………………….GOODE QUESTION……..Frequently controversial racing writer Paul Haigh targeted tv commentator Grahem Goode today in 2004, asking bizarrely,: ‘And why does Graham Goode always sound as though he thinks every race he commentates on could be of interest only to intellectual pygmies?’

DEC 2, 1993…………………….TAYLOR’S TURKEY PIPS NON-NATIONAL………….. The 1993 Grand National, which ended up as a no-race, finished second today in 1993 in a contest to award a ‘Turkey of the Year’ title to ‘the most ridiculous person or event of the last 12 months’, sponsored by the British Turkey Federation. Winner of the award was England football manager, Graham Taylor.

DEC 2,1992………WINNING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN……African Chimes won for the 8th time in the Flat season today in 1992 – giving trainer Bill O’Gorman the honour of training the season’s most prolific winner for a 4th time, having previously done so with Abdu – 9 wins in 1978; Provideo, 16 in ’83, and Timeless Times, 16 in ’90.

DECEMBER 3, 1791……………IRISH RACEGOERS SEE THE LIGHT……………..’Lights were erected at 6 o’clock at each corner of the course, to direct the riders’ it was reported by the Irish Racing Calendar, of perhaps the first flodlit meeting, run at Baltinglass on this date in 1791.

DECEMBER 3, 1988………TON UP WINNER…….Owner-trainer Robert Waley-Cohen’s wife, Felicity, was probably the only punter at Sandown who fancied their The Dragon Master to win the novice chase on December 3, 1988. Her reported £100 bet at 100/1, on the half-length winner, saw her collect ten grand in winnings.

DECEMBER 4, 1956………………….CAUGHT NAPPING?………..…Born today in 1956, jockey Hywel Davies, who won the 1985 Grand National on Last Suspect, answered ‘Sleeping’, when asked his favourite recreation.

DEC 4, 1991……………..RAN RIVALS GROGGY…………With 83 jump winners already to her name, Lorna Vincent rode her first on the flat today in 1991, when Mick Channon-trained Grog, backed from 25/1 to 6/1, romped home at Southwell on the all-weather.

DECEMBER 5………………..HOLLIE NOT CLOWNING ABOUT………………..Hollie Doyle rode her 107th winner of the calendar year, Class Clown, at Southwell, today in 2019, setting a new record for the number of winners in a year by a female jockey, held by Josephine Gordon. The day before she’d been beaten into 2nd by boyfriend, Tom Marquand – and told interviewer Matt Chapman – ‘he won’t be coming home tonight’. He tweeted in response: ‘Never have I made a bigger mistake when riding a winner.’…….

DEC 5, 1838…………………..INVENTING A GRAND NEW TERM……‘The first brick of the Grand Stand at Ascot was laid on December 5, 1838’ noted a contemporary report, believed by the Oxford English Dictionary to be the first time the term ‘Grand Stand’ had been recorded in a British publication.

AND FINALLY……….WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT?……..‘Little fish are sweet’ was the motto of prolific trainer William Arthur (better known as W.A. or Arthur) Stephenson, who died aged 72, on December 3, 1992, after spending his whole training career at Crawleas Farm, Bishop Auckland. Having held his first licence in 1959, he won the 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup, delayed by heavy snow for 81 minutes, with The Thinker, 13/2, ridden by Ridley Lamb. But Stephenson wasn’t even there to see it, having preferred to attend the meeting at Hexham! In 1969-70 he had become the first NH trainer to saddle 100 winners in a season. His Stephen’s Society also won the legendarily tough Czech Pardubice race in 1973, ridden by the horse’s owner, Chris Collins. Arthur was no slouch on the flat, either – his Rapid River won the 1992 Gimcrack, and Tudenham the Middle Park.

GRAHAM SHARPE


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