Plenty of ghosts for company

June 16th, 2022 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

‘I wasted time and now doth time waste me’.

Well, it’s not quite true, as any flaneur will tell you. Sitting in the main bar at Brighton and pondering a weak card at Salisbury  –  a racecourse he passed all of three hours ago  –  is hardly a waste of time. Briefly leaving the A36 and passing through Harnham he thinks back to the day Lady Harnham won at 20/1 at her local course. If he could find out where she was trained  –  it can’t be far away, surely?  –  he will have the makings of a column. No, that’s not quite true. He will have something which fits in somewhere. A snippet, yes. That’s it, a snippet!

At 73, he wonders if anyone else thinks along these lines. Also, many things are longer ago that he supposed. Westerlands Priestess, for example. What a name that is! He’s always been a soft touch for Friars, Abbots and Abbesses, even named his house after Abbotsbury Abbot and didn’t Talgo Abbess finish third in a Champion Hurdle, but a Priestess! There was a Westerlands Stud near Petworth and maybe that was the connection. Funny thing, he has a hunch the filly won at Salisbury, as well. Why does he think she was trained by Florence Nagle? Anyway, it was ages ago, before the Weatherbys computer could handle just eighteen characters; there are twenty-one in Westerlands Priestess including the space. He thinks she was 33/1, always a magical price in those far-off days. Neasham Belle, Patient Constable, Karkeh Rud, all ‘double carpet’ as John McCririck used to say. Gone now, of course, lots of people gone, especially lately.

The cash machine at Brighton has disappeared so the flaneur negotiates with the Tote man before the first and uses his card to back Arzaak at 8/1. Arzaak is in front passing him but goes down by a short head. Later on at Salisbury Bluenose Belle leads everywhere except the line and goes down by the same margin. He could have saved himself six hours’ driving and had two short-head defeats the other way round but he’s never looked at life that way. It’s just the way it is.

The betting office at Brighton is in exactly the same place and he looks across, thinking back to fifty years or so ago and the callow youth marking prices up on the white board and hearing the drumming hoofbeats coming ever closer in races he couldn’t see. Fifty years ago, his dad recently departed, all the Lester interviews still to come and the memory of Tintagel II’s Ebor victory fresh in his mind. Still fresh now, come to think of it.

He took his first girlfriend to Brighton, as well. Hethersett, Park Top  –  the best two horses ever to run there  –  Fetiche and Albert Neaves’s All Promise, the latter a decent sprint handicapper who won at 20/1. Old Albert was better known for his jumpers, especially the grand staying chaser Certain Justice, who had a race named after him at Fontwell.

The flaneur, who makes the day pay when the strangely-named Sly Madam wins the last at 8/1, cannot quite name the years in question, which disappoints him. How much would he have on Hethersett being 1962? It’s a game he plays on long car journeys or in the wee small hours but he knows it’s not 1961 because Hethersett fell in Larkspur’s Epsom Derby and the ’61 winner was Psidium at 66/1, Hampshire winning the county championship and the Berlin Wall going up.

Then he chuckles and people give him a strange look, funny old geezer talking to himself, nice suit though, don’t see many at Brighton races. Of course it’s 1962, because Hethersett turned things around with Larkspur in the St Leger, and not only that but after the Leger the flaneur saw The Boys at Woolston cinema in Southampton and it’s going to be on Talking Pictures or Film4 in a day or two. There was the date in brackets, 1962. Robert Morley defending the boys on a murder charge, looking much the same as he did at Windsor races, where he and Wilfrid Hyde-White could often be found on Monday evenings.

Dudley Sutton, gone now, played one of the boys facing the charge. Splendid actor, more recently seen in Lovejoy. Fond of stories, old-fashioned beret, liked a drop. Just the sort of person you’d like to spend a long afternoon with in the pub, talking about old times.

That’s the trouble with life; you start running out of people like that. So the flaneur thinks, anyway.


A note from Rebecca: If you enjoyed reading this journal I highly recommend Ian’s latest book which we published. It makes for wonderful reading for any horse racing fan. An ideal book to dip in and out of when time allows. Read more here.