Fond memories of Alston's stars
When you are old and grey and full of sleep and nodding by the fire take down the form book and slowly read, you will spot the name of Poetic Queen in the 3.20 at Wolverhampton and the name of Eric Alston next to it and it will bring other names flooding back.
The names of Stack Rock and Tedburrow and Reverence, all trained to glory at Eric and Sue Alston's small yard at Edges Farm at Longton near Preston.
Alston, now 73, fell in love with horses when riding on a rag and bone man's cart and delivering milk on a horse and cart for his father. The horse would pull the cart then Alston would ride it over a few jumps.
Alston rode winners as an apprentice with Walter Wharton, got bigger, took over his father's dairy farm and, with Sue, worked hard to make a place for horses in their life. Eric took out a permit and had his first winner with Samanza at Cartmel in 1979. In 1984 he had his first Flat winner, with Scrummage at Redcar.
Eventually, they sold the cows and kept their heads just above water until Stack Rock arrived. Once seen, never forgotten, Stack Rock was a massive horse who put both Alston and Kieren Fallon on the map, winning nine races and finishing second to Lochsong in the 1993 Prix de l'Abbaye.
Alston excels with sprinters. Another, Tedburrow, won 21 races, 15 for Alston. In 2002, aged ten, Tedburrow won a Group 3 race at Newcastle to become the oldest horse to win a Pattern race. Then there was Reverence.
Reverence was bred and owned by Gary and Lesley Middlebrook, whose familiar blue and grey colours will be carried by Poetic Queen.
They sent Reverence to Alston as an unraced four-year-old who had twice injured his pelvis. On his second outing, in 2005, Reverence won a maiden race at Ripon and just over a year later won both the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes and Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup. They were run on the soft ground that brought out the best in him. A month later, when Reverence went to Longchamp for the Prix de l'Abbaye, the going was faster and Reverence was narrowly beaten. In all, he won ten races and over £540,000.
The Middlebrooks run Wood Farm Stud in the Lake District and also have breeding interests abroad. Lucky beginners, their first winner, Last O'The Bunch, won 15 jumps races between 1989 and 1993.
Their daughter Claire is married to Lambourn trainer Daniel Kubler and most of the Middlebrooks' horses are now with them but Alston has not lost his skill with sprinters. Last year Ridge Ranger won a Group 3 race at York while the speedy Blithe Spirit nipped her way around Chester to win there for the fifth time.
Adam Kirby rides Poetic Queen, his first ride, I think, for Alston. It's unlikely to be a winning one but it would be nice to see the Middlebrooks' colours win again for the Alstons.