Saturday, 7 January 2012

In which I put aside weighty matters, and watch the racing instead

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

A small, quiet day. The police came and talked to me of sheep. There actually is a don’t let your dog chase livestock law, from 1953. I gave a witness statement. It’s rather odd, having a couple of coppers sitting on the sofa in all their regalia, taking down your every word. The Pigeon thought it was too much fun, and shamelessly flirted with the long arm of the law. The law laughed, quite a lot. Quite frankly, any policemen who like my dog are all right with me.

I made some minestrone and ate it. It was really quite good.

I watched the racing. My punting has been rather vulgarly successful lately; the last bet I had was a tenner on Celestial Halo, which scooted up at twelve to one. I got a bit swaggery, imagining William Hill cowering in terror before my might.

Today, there was a crash down to earth. My last fancy was actually pulled up, which really is rather shaming. I reminded myself so much of my father, who was a famously hopeless betting man. I always remember him groaning on a Saturday afternoon as his sure thing got stuffed. Although he did once have to be escorted to his car at Cheltenham by two burly minders, some time in the 1960s, because he had won so much money that he carried it away in a suitcase. (This may be one of those family folklore stories which is not strictly true, but I am not going to check with my mother, because I like the mental picture of Dad tottering off the racecourse, with a case full of what he called readies, accompanied by two bookmaker’s bodyguards.)

Here is the funny thing. I started writing this in the advertising break of Channel Four Racing. I was resigned to it being a disastrous betting day. I had one final flutter in the last race, and heard it come on in the other room, and went back to watch. Because my luck was out, I had no hopes. My horse was anchored in third last all the way round. Ah, he’s not going a yard, I thought. I am channelling Dad, and that’s all she wrote.

Then the jockey, Aidan Coleman, with a perfectly timed run, produced the horse, threaded his way through the pack, and hit the front. I started shouting. The Pigeon started barking. Something else was storming up the inside. ‘Come on, my son,’ I yelled. My fella stuck his head in front and would not be denied. William Hill, I wrote on Twitter, I laugh at your puny plan. Now I shall be insufferable.

One interesting side note, on the inexplicable ups and downs of racing. The horse I won on, Ciceron, is trained by a very elegant woman called Venetia Williams. Until a couple of weeks ago, her stable was suffering a catastrophic run of form. This happens sometimes: it doesn’t matter how good you are, nothing goes right. She said, ruefully, to one of the Channel Four fellows: ‘I couldn’t train ivy up a wall.’

Then, in a volte face of fortune, all her horses started trotting up. Just at the moment, she can do nothing wrong. That’s how it goes, in racing. It’s the same with jockeys, too. One moment, you can be covered in glory, the next you are arse up on the turf at Wincanton, trudging back ruefully to the weighing room with grass stains all over your breeches. It’s a very levelling game, like that. It has humility stitched into it.

The light has faded to indigo, and a laughing full moon is sailing high above the trees. I watch it through my office window. I think of all the lovely horses, and how much pleasure they give me. I think of how brave and gallant they are. I think of my father. He had his flaws, but he was gallant, too.


Here are some pictures of the day:

7 Dec 1 06-01-2012 13-28-24

7 Dec 2 06-01-2012 13-29-40

7 Dec 4 06-01-2012 13-29-55

7 Dec 6 06-01-2012 13-30-47

7 Dec 8 04-01-2012 14-35-56.ORF

7 Dec 10 01-01-2012 14-26-49.ORF

7 Dec 11 01-01-2012 14-28-49.ORF

7 Dec 12 31-12-2011 14-26-35.ORF

My little Pidge, with her serious face on:

7 Dec 15 06-01-2012 13-33-11

7 Dec 16 06-01-2012 13-33-21.ORF

Two different views of the hill:

7 Dec 19 06-01-2012 13-36-26

7 Dec 21 31-12-2011 14-26-31.ORF


  1. I LOVE your accounts (because, since they're true they're not simply "stories") of these tiny (magnificent) victories over seemingly huge odds. They may be relatively "small potatoes" in the grand scheme of things (metaphors & cliches crashing together, ah me...) but they give me hope.
    Thank you...again.

  2. How old is Ms. Pidgeon? Her muzzle is such a distinguished grey!


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