Dancing Mystery's trainer Eric Wheeler saddles last runner
Eric Wheeler, who won 25 races with five-furlong specialist Dancing Mystery, draws a line under more than 30 years as a trainer when he saddles What A Welcome in a maiden at Windsor on Monday.
Wheeler, who is 79, has spent a lifetime in racing, as he was a long-time head lad to Stan Mellor before taking out his licence and prior to that worked for Jack Colling and Dick Hern.
While he has trained around 150 winners, many of whom became great favourites with the racing public, he has not had one for more than two years and admitted he is not enjoying it as much as he once did. He intends spending more time in Spain and managing a few horses for friends.
'It's been a great life'
Looking back on his career, he said on Sunday: "I've had a lot of fun and I've trained for some great owners, many of whom stood by me through thick and thin, but I'm not as sound as I was and it's not quite so much fun.
"It's been a great life though, and I've been lucky to train some wonderful horses and to play a small part in bringing on quite a few jockeys, including Stephen Carson, David Kinsella, Alan Daly, David Harrison and most recently Joey Haynes."
He added: "I always loved training sprinters. Dancing Mystery ran 198 times and won 25. He was second in a Group race in France and also took us to Ireland and Dubai. He was third in Dubai and won at Lingfield ten days after he got back. He's still with me at 23.
"Green Dollar won a Great St Wilfrid and many more, and I also won plenty with horses like Absolute Fantasy, Dark Menace, Even Bolder, Malibu Man and all the Batchworths.
"They weren't all sprinters though, and Bronze Runner was a wonderful horse for me. He wasn't much better than a plater, and I think Philip Blacker [jockey, owner, steward and sculptor] must have been drunk when he bought him, as his legs dished so badly that Ginger McCain once turned to me during a race to say he'd broken down. But that was just the way he galloped – and he won 12 races."
Bronze Runner was Wheeler's first winner, in a race for female apprentices at Nottingham in 1987, and the occasion was made all the more special as Nottingham was also the scene of Mellor's 1,000th winner.
Wheeler's most prolific winners
Wheeler recalls: "He would have been ridden by Stan's daughter Dana, but I think she had an exam so Candy Moore [trainer Gary's sister] rode him.
"It was great to win at Nottingham, as I had some wonderful times with Stan, when we had horses as good as Pollardstown, Lean Ar Aghaidh and the New Zealanders Royal Mail and Royal Stuart."
It's long odds against Wheeler signing off with a winner, but What A Welcome is one to keep an eye on.
He said: "He's going to Patrick Chamings and is a lovely horse for the future."