Magazine article The Spectator

Mince Pie for Starters

Magazine article The Spectator

Mince Pie for Starters

Article excerpt

MINCE PIE FOR STARTERS by John Oaksey Headline, L18.99, pp. 278, ISBN 0755310667

A charming toff of the turf

John Oaksey is the archetypal English gentleman. He is a sweetheart, a star, the bravest of the brave, funny and kind: the only person who will disagree with this is himself. His modesty is complete, his successes are never his, the credit always goes elsewhere, to the horses mostly, or to his friends, his colleagues, his wives, his parents, his opponents, to luck. Wherever, but never to him.

Through these lenses so tinted with generosity as to make them sometimes almost opaque, we are treated to an account of his life, which has been a series of successes, triumphs over adversity and victories in many fields. He tries to pretend otherwise, but this is a rare failure.

Horse-racing dominates the story as it has dominated Oaksey's life. The horses come first, indeed his affection for them is almost anthropomorphic, but not quite. After all, he entrusted so many of them with his safety, and they rewarded him time after time and with, by the standards of the crazy sport he followed for so long, comparatively minor long-term damage to his body. Oaksey is fulsome in his praise for the animals that gave him such excitement and he has repaid that debt several times over, to them and to racing and perhaps most importantly to his co-riders. His contribution to the welfare of jockeys through his non-stop campaigning and fund-raising for the Injured Jockeys Fund deserves public recognition, but of course the author gives all the credit elsewhere. …

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