Magazine article The Spectator

Keep Epsom on the Map

Magazine article The Spectator

Keep Epsom on the Map

Article excerpt

Up on the Lambourn Downs at 6.30 a.m one morning recently to see gallops man Eddie Fisher, I was surprised to see an Epsom horse box and attendant car arrive at the schooling grounds. Out came that good chaser Chiefs Song, winner of more than L150,000 over fences, and the Saddler's Wells gelding Majesty, a potentially useful hurdler. With them was the wiry, familiar figure of trainer Simon Dow, owner of the trendiest short haircut in racing. Typical of Simon's attention to detail, the two horses had been brought across from his Clear Height stables close to the Derby grandstand to school over the set of three French-style hurdles included in the Lambourn facilities, prior to a crack at some French prize money at Auteuil.

As it happens, Chiefs Song, a past winner of the William Hill hurdle and currently being aimed at the Charisma Gold Cup, did not triumph on his first appearance at the French course. But he was up against former winners of their Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle. Simon, who is currently upgrading the level of horses in his stable, has recently had one of those spells when everything runs second, but on the flat and all-weather he still hopes to beat his previous season's best of 32 winners.

Simon is now a man on a mission. As chairman of the Epsom Trainers Association he is trying to build up interest and esprit de corps in Britain's most underrated training centre. Not before time, he and the ten other Epsom trainers have banded together to promote it. They are holding Open Days. They are running trade stands at key meetings, setting up a welfare fund to look after the interests of Epsom's 200plus stable staff and they are launching an Epsom Downs racing club, with sponsorship from United Racecourses, which will give members, for a few hundred pounds, all-year-round involvement with animals in Epsom stables. They hope eventually to have 11, one trained in each of the Epsom yards.

As a former Epsom resident it was always a puzzle to me that the Epsom trainers did not attract more custom. There is no other recognised training centre where the London-based can watch their horses on the gallops and still be behind their office desks by 9 a.m. The facilities on the Downs are excellent, with a new all-weather gallop recently installed, and plenty of variety in the training grounds. `If I was a horse I would want to be trained in Epsom,' says Simon, and until his recent retirement Reg Akehurst frequently proved how Newmarket horses, bored with the wide open spaces at headquarters, could be rejuvenated when switched to leafy Surrey. Nervy types apparently find the Downs relaxing.

Joe Naughton at Durdans Stables took a series of top sprint prizes with Hever Gold Rose, now sadly deceased. …

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