Magazine article The Spectator

A Winning Mover

Magazine article The Spectator

A Winning Mover

Article excerpt

Fashionable eyes were turned last weekend on Stravinsky's amateurish showing in France and on Always Alight's victory in the Ayr Gold Cup. But the warmest applause of the day was undoubtedly that ringing around the winner's enclosure as Peter Hedger welcomed back Brilliant Red, who had taken the 33,000 winner's prize in the Courage Handicap Stakes at sunny Newbury, by far his trainer's biggest success so far.

No sooner had family, friends and hardbitten hacks started celebrating a wellearned victory by one of the most respected small-stable grafters in racing than 'Hedge' was back in the winner's enclosure again with Veronica Franco. The five-year-old mare was a comfortable winner of the 15,000 Tote Sporting Index Autumn Cup, the second richest handicap of the day. Not a bad afternoon's work for a man who admitted that he had been `panicking all day' and whose wife Laura had told him that morning he couldn't do anything right.

To put his Newbury achievement in perspective, it meant that a 20-horse trainer with just six horses running on the flat had taken the two most hotly contested races of the day up against the likes of Henry Cecil, Barry Hills, Sir Michael Stoute and John Dunlop. Indeed, since a Dunlop horse figured in the finish of the Autumn Cup, Peter Hedger joked that perhaps the Arundel maestro would now be banning him from his gallops. His Chichester stable does not boast full facilities, so the Hedger horses are boxed up and taken to the Dunlop gallops for their serious work. There is no charge for the facility, just an understanding that the Hedger horses do not get in the way, and 24-hour availability for John Dunlop from the smaller trainer in his alternative role as a horse transporter.

A broken neck at Kempton in 1985 put an end to Peter Hedger's riding career after 16 winners, mostly for David Gandolfo and Bill Wightman and he tried his hand at market-gardening. But kicking snow off frozen Brussels sprouts to pick them for the Christmas trade had limited appeal and he was soon persuaded to use his racing connections by starting up as a horsemover, a function for which he is, as yet, better known than as a trainer. Nowadays he has seven vehicles, capable of taking between two and six horses. When he comes back with his second lot from the gallops, at around 9 a.m., the phone goes crazy for a while as he attends to his other business. And for those who imagine racing is an easy life the day goes on until Peter Hedger, who believes in giving his charges `little and often', doles out the final feed himself at about 8. …

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