23 December, 2021

AUTHOR: James Dowen

SHARPE MIND: Xmas Birthdays…

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 20 December and 26 December.

DECEMBER 20, 2019……….WET ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?………..As the area suffered a drenching, Radio 5 Live reported in their sports bulletin today in 2019 that ‘There’s an inspection taking place right now at Ascot Raincourse.’ Racing did, though, finally go ahead.

DECEMBER 20, 1971…………MAJOR TRIUMPH……….At the final fence in Plumpton’s Keymer Chase today in 1971, leader Major Share, trained by David Barrons literally had only to jump it to win – as the other five runners had fallen – as, then, did Major Share, only to remount – as was then permitted – and take the obstacle cleanly to win.

DECEMBER 21…….TREEMENDOUS TRAINER……Trainer Jeremy – real first name, Andrew – Tree, was born on this date in 1925. His colts, Only For Life – in 1963 – and Known Fact in 1980 – both won the 2000 Guineas, while Juliette Marny in 1975 and Scintillate landed the Oaks. He also branched out by winning the Arc in 1985 with Rainbow Quest. He died in March, 1993.

DECEMBER 21……THIRTIES’ BOYS……..Winning Arc rider, on Mill Reef, Welshman, Geoff Lewis was born on this date in 1935, one of 13 children. Before becoming a jockey he was a hotel pageboy, while precisely four years later – and to become famous for his imitation of a barking dog, and of occasionally signalling with his right or left arm which way he was about to direct his mount during a race – Greville Starkey was born. He rode 1978 Derby winner Shirley Heights and 1986 runner-up Dancing Brave, and also won the 1975 Arc on the somewhat unfancied 110/1 shot, Star Appeal.

DECEMBER 22, 1964…………..WILLIE’S HEADING FOR FOUR…..…Born today in 1964, Derby-winning jockey Willie Ryan (Benny The Dip) was scathingly honest about why he was quitting in 2004 –‘I feel I’ve had my best days as a jockey and the right thing to do is to be honest with myself and the people I ride for.’ He pocketed the 1997 Derby on John Gosden-trained Benny The Dip, and on his birthday in 1992, celebrated by taking his season’s total of winners to 100 as he booted home a 236/1 four-timer at Lingfield – all of whom, amazingly enough, won by a short-head.

DECEMBER, 22, 1900…….BREAD FOR RACING……..Owner of dual Scottish National winner, Barona – Colonel Bill Whitbread was born on this date in 1900. In 1957 he inaugurated the WhItbread Gold Cup, the first major commercially sponsored race, which his brewing company backed from 1957-2001. He also rode in two Grand Nationals, coming to grief on faller Ben Cruchan in 1925, but getting back on the horse, which he owned, the next year to get round and finish 13th.

DECEMBER 23, 2019……WHAT A GREYT IDEA…………The Times carried a photograph today in 2019 of a dozen grey racehorses ridden by a dozen jockeys wearing Christmas jumpers, with an explanatory line: ‘The Jockey Club celebrated ‘the 12 greys of Christmas’ by inviting a dozen racehorses to pose at Newmarket.’ The horses were: Uncle O; Hi Ho Silver; Winter Snowdrop; Temple Lord; Moveonup; Eclair de Guye; Arabescato; The Third Man; Grey D’Ars; Split Down South; Defoe; Glenn Coco.

DECEMBER 23, 2007…………………..BIG BAIRD……After becoming aware he’d grown too big to be a jockey, Dale Baird decided instead to opt for training – and the American went on to send out a record 9445 winners before he was tragically killed in a car crash on this date in 2007 at the age of 72. He never trained a Graded-stakes winner but was renowned at his home track, Mountaineer Park where he operated for 35 years, winning his first race in 1961. He was the nation’s most prolific winning trainer 15 times between 1971 and 99.

DECEMBER 24, 1986……………………STUDENTS STUFFED……..Widnes 6th Form College students were blamed for a bizarre incident, today in 1986 after the stuffed remains of great racehorse Brown Jack, which stood at the Stable Grill restaurant in the town, were found damaged and minus an ear, laying on the ground. The horse, who also had a locomotive named after him in 1935, won the second running of the Champion Hurdle in 1928 but became a national icon by winning the longest race in the flat calendar, the Queen Alexandra Stakes over 2m 54 143yds, in six straight years from 1929-34.

DECEMBER 24, 1973……..HORSE PIPPED IN PHOTO FINISH BY F1 DRIVER…….World Formula 1 champion driver, Jackie Stewart got the photo finish verdict over triple-crown winning racehorse Secretariat to be awarded the coveted US Sports Illustrated magazine annual 1973 title of Sportsman of the Year. The mag admitted that Secretariat’s ‘triumphs focused a degree of public attention on horseracing that it had not received in a quarter century.’

DECEMBER 25, 1934……..FIRST OF MANY………Las Palmas won the first race of the day today in 1934, the 7f California Bred Handicap, as the inaugural meeting took place at, ahem SANTA Anita, California.

DECEMBER 25………XMAS BIRTHDAYS……Racing figures born on Christmas Day include UAE Champion trainer Satish Seemar, the first UAE-based trainer to win a race in Europe – when Dayflower won the 1993 Middleton Stakes at York. During Diamond Jubilee Year, 2012, The Queen awarded a select few equine extraordinaires around the world for their lifetime efforts to eliminate violence in the training of horses, among them Satish. Also born on Dec 25 – Noel Whitcomb, owner of 14 times winner Even Up and founder of the Daily Mirror Punters’ Club (1922) and dual purpose Hambleton trainer Jack Calvert, who won 17 races with Dieppe and 14 with Mannion. (1917).

DECEMBER 26, 1987………FIRST OF HIS FIVE…….25/1 shot Nupsala, trained by Francois Doumen, became the first French chaser to win in Britain for a quarter of a century as he landed the 1987 King George VI Chase at Kempton. The same trainer sent out The Fellow to win the same race on two occasions, in 1991 and 1992, followed by Algan in 1994 and First Gold in 2000.

DECEMBER 26, 1992…………..DANCED AWAY…….The first horse ever to be disqualified as winner of the Kentucky Derby, Dancer’s Image, in 1968, died on this date in 1992. He passed the post a length and a half clear, only to be thrown out after the discovery in his system, almost three days later, of the then forbidden substance Butazolidin. He was placed last.

AND FINALLY……….DECEMBER 25, 1753……….GO, GO GODOLPHIN………Born probably in 1724 in Yemen, the Godolphin Arabian, one of three horses from which all of today’s thoroughbreds are originally descended, died on this date in 1753 and was buried at Gog Magog, Cambridgeshire. The other two founders of the breed were the Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk. To this day, as I have seen for myself, a stone marks the grave under the archway of the stable block of Wandlebury House.