When I was eight, we had a share in a race horse. Stay with me, it was about 1/18th and the poor wee horse was quite slow and was nick-named Dippy because he had a back like a camel.
He wasn’t very fast but we all adored him and loved going to see him in his stables. He was chestnut brown, had a glossy mane and was very gentle.
The only race he ever won had 16 horses, in which four pulled up, four fell, another three started chasing each other in the wrong direction and that left five in the race.
The last few furlongs saw another horse deciding to not bother finishing and just do his own thing, so Dippy came in the first three (which we took as a win). It was hilarious to watch and I remember watching it back on videotape over and over and over again.
I also remember around this time wanting to be a jockey. However, I noticed that, at eight, I was about two stone heavier than the jockeys.
They used to stay with us before race day at Musselburgh, skipping breakfast whilst my dad’s friend Paul Blockley (a trainer) would tease them with a huge fry-up. On seeing this I decided not to pursue a career as a jockey.
From a young age, I’d been up and down the country at race meetings with my parents. My dad, who’s a retired bookmaker, took us all to Goodwood, Ayr, Carlisle, and Perth races, which are all amongst my favourites. However, Musselburgh holds a very special place in my heart because this is where we’d go when the jockeys and Paul were up from Hull.
It was exciting and I have many fond memories of these times. I missed Ladies Day last weekend but I am excited to be heading to the Edinburgh Gin Sprint Cup tomorrow with Mr Hayley, who’s been known for having trouble picking his nose, never mind picking a winner. So, last night my dad picked out a few favourites.
He used to have his own wee shop in the 90s up in Edinburgh’s West Port, so he’s my most trusted source for picking a 20/1 winner. Don’t hold me to this, and not that I’m encouraging anyone to gamble ... but my dad reckons in the 2.30, the Paul Midgely-trained Line of Reason should not be missed and that Knight in Armour has a great chance of winning the 3.45. Angel Gabriel should go close in the 4.20 because he’ll be ‘staying on’ over the extended one mile seven furlongs when the rest have cried “Enough!” (This is all trainer/bookie speak but I think you get the gist).
Musselburgh really does hold fond memories me. A few years ago I got to interview Vernon Kaye whilst on a job with STV2 and also got to film behind the scenes, giving me a great insight into the race day preparations.
I bet you didn’t know but there is someone who walks all the way round the race course hand checking the ground with a special stick. The ground (going) is to be fast (meaning firm) tomorrow so look out for horses who like firm ground and spare a thought for the amazingly talented seven-and-a-half stone jockeys who go round on saddles which I don’t even think my son would fit on and he’s six years old with a very small bottom!
Have a great day if you’re there and if you see me hugging and kissing the horses on the mouth (I have a thing), then you know it’s been a good day.