Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

Fretful horses who waste their energies -- and often their racing potential -- ceaselessly pacing their stable dormitories are known as 'box walkers'. Some trainers merit a similar description, dragging nervously on one racecourse cigarette too many. It isn't sharing the washing-up but their teeth that have left their nails worn down to the quick. Their brows are furrowed as they saddle up their hopes. Instead of enjoying a joke with an owner's wife their eyes flicker nervously to their four-legged charges skittering around the paddock for fear they are sweating up. Nervousness is easily transmitted between man and beast and I always feel more comfortable when the handler responsible for the horse carrying my tenner looks relaxed.

William Haggas is a smiler, so mostly are Richard Hannon and Michael Bell. Another man who invariably looks as though he is enjoying his racing is Ralph Beckett, and after a recent visit to his gloriously peaceful Kimpton Down stables near Andover I can see why he has established such a good record with fillies. They respond to a man at ease with himself.

When I first met Ralph, he was in the former lads' hostel at the end of Peter Walwyn's old yard in Lambourn, the yard he took over to begin training in 2000. Now he and wife Isabelle welcome you to a state-of-the-art yard built near Andover by Toby Balding, where they relish the100-year-old grass and have refashioned a fine set of synthetic gallops. In 2008 Ralph, then training at Whitsbury, took his first fillies' Classic, the Oaks, with Julian Richmond-Watson's Look Here. In 2013 he went one better, not only sending out Talent as the 20-1 winner of the race but claiming second as well with the fancied Secret Gesture. Isabelle remains convinced that Talent (who later finished second in the St Leger) always was better than her Epsom price implied: putting it down to the fact that champion jockey Richard Hughes, who rode Talent while stable jockey Jim Crowley was on Secret Gesture, had been unimpressed in a gallop three days before the race and had been trying to get off her in search of a better prospect.

Although there have been key victories with colts too, notably Muharrak's 2008 Breeders Cup Marathon success in the US, there have been more successful fillies: back in Lambourn days Penkenna Princess was Ralph's first Group winner and in 2012 he won the German 1,000 Guineas with Electralane and other Group races with Waterway Run and Moonstone Magic. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.