Magazine article The Spectator

A True Gentleman

Magazine article The Spectator

A True Gentleman

Article excerpt

Timing, and tying yourself to the right event at the right time, is the secret both in advertising and political campaigning. I forget which advertising genius it was who was entrusted many years ago with publicising the Horse of the Year Show, an event which it had been decided to stage on a Sunday. Hardly a ticket had been sold. So he rolled up incognito at the Lord's Day Observance Society and demanded that they began protesting about this cruel sacrilege on a Sabbath. Within days there were protest marches and arrests. Within a week there were questions in the Commons . . . and within a fortnight the event was a sell-out.

The thought was provoked as I watched the legless two-year-olds slogging through the mud in the first race at Kempton last Saturday without so much as a whisper of protest from those who had been so vociferous about the Grand National a week before.

If the old definition of an optimist was the suicide who jumped off the top of the Empire State Building and was heard shouting `So far, so good' as he passed the 56th floor, then the lonely chap who was trying to sell ice-creams at the Thameside course on Easter Saturday ran him pretty close. It was bitterly cold. It was wet. And the going was bottomless. For the twoyear-olds having their first introduction to a racecourse that day it must have been a pretty off-putting experience. So bad was it that the seven debutants took longer to run the five furlongs than the standard time for a six-furlong race.

All credit then to Kevin McAuliffe's Champagne Rider, who, in the tender hands of John Reid, was brought smoothly to lead in the final stages and win going away. He is clearly a toughie. So too, in the nicest way, is his rider, the professional's professional. The popular Reid is one of the true gentlemen of his trade, with a winning smile and a good word for everybody. But he gives no quarter out on the track. As a co-president of the Jockeys Association he has worked tirelessly for safety standards and sensible practices. In the old days, he says, the older jockeys got away with bullying the juniors. `Out on the course they ruled the roost, though, mind you, you learned a lot in the process.'

When I asked him who his particular chums were in the jockeys' room he declared that there were no sworn enemies and no bosom pals. Such is the camaraderie of the weighing-room, `There aren't any that I could spend the night with and not have a good time.' But then there was a moment's reflection and a grin: `Of course you don't want too many real close friends because sooner or later you're going to upset them out there. …

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