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InterviewThe Big Read

'You must be mad, guv' - Mark Tompkins and the most bizarre preparation for a Classic hero

The former trainer sits down with Peter Thomas 30 years on from his biggest success

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Peter ThomasRacing Writer of the Year
Mark  Tompkins on the 30th anniversary of Bob's Return winning the 1993 St Leger Newmarket 4.9.23 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Mark Tompkins relaxes in the garden of his Newmarket home, 30 years on from Classic gloryCredit: Edward Whitaker

I'm sitting under a welcome parasol in the dappled sunlight of Mark Tompkins' lush, green garden, embarking on my second cup of coffee and third chocolate biscuit, as the former trainer settles into a reassuring tale about the time when he was preparing Bob's Return for the 1993 Coalite St Leger. As any old person will tell you, they were simpler times back then, and readying a Classic winner sounds as though it was the simplest thing in the world, if the enthusiastic Yorkshireman is to be believed.

We've just got past the bit where his pride and joy has won the Great Voltigeur by six lengths and been installed as ante-post favourite for Doncaster, and it's all hugely relaxed, to the point where I'm pondering a fourth biscuit and a short nap, when Tompkins scatters the leafy idyll to all corners of the lawn.

"Two days before the Leger I popped him over some poles," he says idly, and an almighty clanging ensues, which sounds like the gods of racing venting their fury at his impudence, although it turns out to be builders throwing rubble into the skip on the other side of the fence.

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Published on 9 September 2023Last updated 18:00, 9 September 2023