Magazine article The Spectator

Last to First

Magazine article The Spectator

Last to First

Article excerpt


IT is not a time that will get many chapters in my autobiography, but I was one of the founding fathers of the Greyhound Star newspaper. During this brief period - the organ went on to great things once I had left - I was ravished by the story of a dog called Mark the Bark: a good name, a great dog.

Mark the Bark was a dog of infinite resource and sagacity. He saw that chasing a toy bunny round in a circle was a bit silly. So he developed a trick of letting the field get ahead of him, and then jumping over the fence, running across the infield and jumping on to the hare in a kind of ambush.

At this far distance in time I can't recall all the details. Perhaps he did it once and was warned as to his future conduct; anyhow, that wasn't enough to put him off. In what was to be his last race, Mark the Bark had it all planned. He did his Mark the Bark thing; dropped to the back of the pack, jumped the fence, sprinted across the infield and sprang back over the fence to join in the fun.

It was unfortunate that he landed on top of the leader, the odds-on favourite and for astute punters the banker bet of the entire meeting. The stewards were unanimous: Mark the Bark had run his last race, having reduced the noble game to farce; after all, isn't Feydeau the most ancient of all dog names?

There are fools, bloody fools and men who remount in steeplechases. So runs the old adage, and it counts double if you happen to be riding in a novice chase. But earlier this year, in a splendid example of the novice chase at its very best, every single horse fell. Tony McCoy, not a man with false pride when it comes to winners, jumped back on board and somehow lumbered home to win. …

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