Racing turns out in force to bid farewell to much-respected Haslam
Over the centuries the historic town of Middleham has been the scene of numerous invasions, and under leaden skies on Thursday hundreds made their way to the town armed with their own memories in order to pay their final respects to trainer extraordinaire Patrick Haslam, who died this month aged 69.
In a service attended by 300-plus packed into the Church of St Mary and St Alkelda there were numerous tributes to a colourful character who saddled 988 winners, had at least one winner on every British racecourse in operation during his time, and was equally adept with Flat and jump horses, but eventually lost his ten-year battle against motor neuron disease.
In his tribute to his father, Ben Haslam said: "He wasn't ready to go. Even on the last day he was discussing our runners and bank balance.
"He was a forthright, colourful person who could be opinionated and had to have things done in a certain way. But he was very fair and we've had lots of letters and cards from people who worked for him, including one from a top Flat jockey who said that he was the best person he ever worked for – though he didn't realise it at the time!"
He added: "He bought most of his horses cheaply, including China Castle, who was the first horse owned by Middleham Park and won 28 races, and Nigel's Lad, who won 23 times. But perhaps his best buy was the 8,000gns he paid for Kinnaird who give him his only Group 1 winner when winning the Prix de l'Opera.
"He was always smartly dressed and was totally honest, his word was his bond, and he was a perfect role model."
Mark Johnston had recollections of the Haslam dress code, saying: "One of my first memories of him was on the gallops. He was there in his suede loafers and the brightest socks you've ever seen.
"But they weren't a pair, he had odd socks, and while he was ranting on about something suddenly he pulled out a red-spotted handkerchief, tied a knot in it and put it back in his pocket. I couldn't help but laugh after that."
Also in the congregation was Sir Anthony McCoy, who recalled his first dealing with Haslam.
"One day my agent Dave Roberts rang up to say he'd booked me to ride one for him in a juvenile hurdle at Sedgefield," said McCoy.
"I looked up its Flat form and it seemed useless, so I thought the four-hour drive there would be a waste of time. But it won, and I had lots of winners for him after that, often with horses who hadn't shown much on the Flat."
Another of his winning jockeys was the amateur Nicky Henderson, and the now champion trainer remembered their days in Lambourn, saying: "Roger Charlton, Paul Cole, Patrick and I were all bachelors together.
"I rode a few for him, including a double at Newton Abbot, and it was only on the way home he told me how much he had on them. I was pleased he didn't tell me beforehand!"
Also in the 300-strong congregation were numerous trainers, including nearly all of those currently based in Middleham, jockeys Paul Mulrennan, Graham Lee and Joe Fanning, former jockeys Jason Weaver, Barry Keniry, John Curant and Dale Gibson, and many of his former owners and employees.
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