When I was a kid , I used to send my Mum into Mecca bookmakers in Eltham High Street to place bets for me with the money I got from my paper round . She was always a bit embarrassed because it was full of cigarette smoke and leery blokes , but , love her, she always did it. When I grew up and became a cigarette smoking leery young bloke, I used to go in on my own and I vowed if I ever made any money , I would own a racehorse.
Years later , when I sold my business , I bought a racehorse to be trained by Terry Mills at Epsom ( a very lovely man). The first horse I named Athletic Sam after my football team and my son . It ran twice and after winning on its second outing , it broke its leg on the gallops at Epsom. We were distraught and as a consolation , Terry offered me a leg ( 25%) in a horse called Where or When. Well that horse proved to be an absolute world beater , running in the Derby, the Guineas , The Dante and eventually winning the Group 1 QE2 stakes at Ascot. I was unbelievably lucky and the winnings from Where or When funded my hobby for quite a while.
In 2003 , I bought a horse in Ireland and I named him Charlton. As a 2 year old horse- that’s teenage in human terms – he had Dennis Rommedahl like blistering pace and won twice . On one occasion we booked Frankie Dettori to ride at Newmarket and the only communication I got from him as he got up on the horse were a cheeky hehehe chuckle and the words Jim Davidson.
Something happened as a 3year old because he became more of a sulky Marcus Bent character . In racing parlance ‘ he began to have his own ideas about the game’ . When they walked around the paddock before a race , he got slower and slower until there was a big queue of horses behind him . In the end , we decided that he had ‘fallen out of love with racing’
In a way though , his real career was only just starting , for some reason which he never felt able to explain to us , Charlton was never happier than when he was teaching the youngsters to race , so for the last 10 years he has been getting up in all weathers , virtually every day , to run full pace up a gallop at Epsom and then the minute one of the younger horses came alongside him he would jack it in. Imagine if Keith Peacock was given a 20 yards head start and every morning and for the human equivalent of 20 years , he had to run in front of Shaun Newton, Scott Wagstaff or Callum Harriot until they got to him, then you’ve got the picture.
This is a picture of him after winning at Chepstow in 2004.
Anyway, its happy retirement time now for Charlie in scenes reminiscent of Keithy P’s 70th birthday celebrations on Saturday .
However , the story is not entirely over because I own a leg in one of his last Epsom pupils, Rydan , who runs at Chester in the 2.10pm tomorrow. I am not suggesting anyone risks any of their hard earned because it is his first race of the season , but its on Channel 4 , so if you like horse racing , feel free to shout covered end type encouragement at your TV tomorrow. He’s quite a small horse , so something like ‘he used to be slight but now hes alright ‘ should do it.
If ( by some miracle) he wins , I will be the bloke being attended to by the paramedics .