Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Magazine article The Spectator

The Turf: Robin Oakley

Article excerpt

The mission was simple: take a load of garden refuse to the council dump and be back in time to drive Mrs Oakley to an urgent appointment in Oxford. On my return, there was no Mrs Oakley in sight. Strange, since she is the sort who will camp out at the station the evening before to catch a 9 a.m. train. She had a house key; I didn't.

Half an hour of fretting later, as I mounted a ladder to peer through the bathroom window for fear she might have slipped over and knocked herself out, an enraged Mrs Oakley appeared beneath me. She had frozen stiff on the nearby bridge, where she had walked to cut me off on the only route home to save us motoring time. How could I have been so stupid not to have seen her, she inquired, employing a vocabulary distinctly richer than I had known her to possess. How could she have been so blind not to have seen me pass, I replied with equal acidity. Well, probably with added acidity.

It was only after several minutes of such marital pleasantries that we both realised what had happened. The back gate of Oakley Towers, through which I had returned, is not visible from the front door. Mrs O. had clearly left through that front door to intercept me down the road at the precise second I drove in at the back. As we constantly see on the racecourse, timing is everything.

It was perfect timing last Saturday when that true gent of a jockey Jimmy Fortune announced his retirement after cleverly riding his old boss John Gosden's Nathra into a valuable third place in the Group One Sun Chariot Stakes, significantly increasing her value. As the Racing Post put it: the ever-dependable Fortune, who has been plagued by back trouble, was a Group One jockey going out in a Group One. Much better than departing after a Wolverhampton seller on a soggy Tuesday.

Certainly you will not see a sweeter bit of timing than young Charlie Bishop's ride on Accidental Agent to bring home his first Ascot winner in the valuable Totescoop6 Challenge Cup, a Heritage handicap. As Accidental Agent's orange cap began scything through the field, and as he held off the late challenge of the grey Lord Glitters, a £270,000 import from France, the lady in front of me in the stands began screaming him on at the top of her voice, jumping up and down with a force that could have split the concrete. It was Accidental Agent's trainer Eve Johnson Houghton, who is having a phenomenal season, egging on the handsome three-year-old. …

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