I was up the gallops when my phone rang. Henry Ponsonby’s name popped up.
“Hello Mick. Erm . . .”
About three months before Henry and I had had a barney and I’d arranged for a horse who he’d had in training with us to be sent elsewhere after the blazing row – I’d called him all the names under the sun.
Henry continued: “The thing is Mick, I’m sending my yearlings to Brian [Meehan], Richard [Hannon], and now Tim Easterby this year and your invite to the shoot day, as kind as it is, puts me in a rather awkward position . . .”
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, I haven’t got a horse to send you and, after what happened in September, I thought that was that . . .”
When I first started training, Henry sent me a very cheap filly called Affair Of State. I only had ten horses at the time and he sent me her not because he thought I could train, but because I was getting headlines as a former footballer starting a second career. Being a canny syndicate manager, I reckon he thought he’d be able to shift a few more shares by sending her to me.
By sheer luck, Affair Of State then won a very valuable sales race at the Curragh that would basically take care of my bills for at least a year. The race was worth about £200,000 if my memory serves me right.
Back to the phone call.
“Henry, I’ve not invited you on the shoot because I want to train for you. I’ve invited you because you’re my mate and because we need a court jester to rip the piss out of, so stop acting like horses matter and come and have some fun!”
And we always had fun.
I always ruined his shooting by heckling him from my seat in the gallop wagon that I insisted on parking behind his peg. He’d then regale us all at The Harrow in the village after.
Henry told tales that would have everyone in hysterics and had very few limits on where his anecdotes would go. Put it this way, I’m glad I went to Amesbury Secondary Modern as opposed to his boarding school.
I owe a lot to Henry; for sending me that filly, for sending me the likes of Gatwick, who was good enough to take his chance in the Derby, but most of all for making me laugh and light up the whole day whenever we got together.
Everyone else will say the same. He made people laugh.
That’s a life right there. I loved him.
West Ilsley, Berkshire
The death of Tim Etherington was such sad news.
He was the first trainer for the London Racing Club Owners’ Group. At first he trained for Andrew Wates at Henfold, but we stayed with him when he went home to Malton to take over his father Jimmy’s yard.
He was the most lovely man. He was always happy to take large numbers of members around the yard. He had good horses with Andrew, not least the spectacularly handsome Rough Quest, and he would arrange for us to see work and schooling. We had some strangely long-priced winners with him as well.
Tim was a real gentleman, always solicitous and patient and never patronising.
It is so very sad he died so young. The London Racing Club sends its heartfelt condolences to Tim’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.
London Racing Club
While visiting Bro Park in Sweden last Sunday it was so noticeable how little difference the non-use of the whip actually made to the racing.
In fact, as a spectacle, it was a far more attractive sight.
Look at things logically. If jockeys use their whip with equal force and efficiency, the incremental increase in the speed of each runner will be exactly the same so the result will also obviously be exactly the same. There is a strong likelihood, too, that the horses will be a lot happier in their future endeavours.
Gavin Sheehan, Elliot Ohgren and the legendary Niklas Loven among many others all seemed to manage just fine with this recent Scandinavian initiative. It would be wise for British and Irish racing to take notice.
Forest Gate, London
I am fully in agreement with Richard Forristal’s view of the Racing League (September 22). No matter how much money you throw at it, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Newbridge, County Kildare