Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Farewell to a Pair of Star Thoroughbreds

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Farewell to a Pair of Star Thoroughbreds

Article excerpt

Byline: By Doug Moscrop

John Francome is good company. A great storyteller. No surprise really that he has the talent for writing racing thrillers. When he talks about his racing experiences, everybody holds on to every word. When he mentions Fred Winter, admiration takes over. He owes him everything.

Since Winter suffered his debilitating stroke in 1987, Francome visited his former guv'nor regularly. Francome joined Winter's stable on leaving school and remained at Uplands throughout his career. Not only was Winter his mentor and employer, he became a close friend.

For Winter, who died this week aged 77, the job had to be done right irrespective of the time and cost. "Everything was done to perfection, even if didn't make sense commercially," revealed Francome. "The boxes were painted before every season and no expense spared in the running of the yard. The best of everything for horses and staff."

Winter was quick to recognise the potential of Francome and he was soon promoted through the riding ranks.

"We had one row in 15 years," says Francome. "That says more about him than it does about me. I had given a horse a bad ride and he only mentioned it once on the way home and that was the end of the matter. `Don't do that again, Johnny.'

"I owe him everything and there are lot more people out there who must feel the same about him."

Acclaimed as the greatest jump jockey of the 20th century, Winter was also among the finest trainers. He retired in 1988 after a severe stroke had denied him his speech and mobility.

Richard Pitman was one of Winter's first employees when he began training in Lambourn in 1964. "I hadn't ridden a winner in four years as a professional, but felt this was the chance I had been looking for so I asked him if I could work for him."

Later Pitman became first jockey and will always be associated with such equine stars as Lanzarote, on whom he won the 1974 Champion Hurdle, and Pendil, dual winner of the King George VI Chase and beaten a short head in the 1973 Gold Cup. He also partnered the Australian horse Crisp, who was a gallant runner-up to Red Rum under top weight in the Grand National. …

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