Greville Starkey

Greville Starkey The late Greville Starkey, who died of cancer, aged 70, on April 14, 2010, rode 1,989 winners, including five British Classic winners, on British soil, in a riding career lasting nearly 35 years. Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a working-class family, Starkey became apprenticed to Newmarket trainer Harry Thompson ‘Tom’ Jones straight from school and rode his first winner, Russian Gold, at Pontefract on June 9, 1956. The following season he became champion apprentice with 45 winners.

Starkey won his first British Classic, the Oaks, on Homeward Bound, trained by John Oxley, in 1964 and, in 1978, completed a notable ‘double-double’ by winning the Oaks and Irish Oaks on Fair Salinia, trained by Michael Stoute, and the Derby and Irish Derby on Shirley Heights, trained by John Dunlop. He also won the 2,000 Guineas twice, on To-Agori-Mou in 1981 and Dancing Brave in 1986, both trained by Guy Harwood, to whom he had become stable jockey in 1975. Indeed, it was in 1975 that recorded his biggest victory abroad, partnering 119/1 apparent no-hoper Star Appeal to victory over a huge field, which included the likes of Dahlia and Allez France, in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

In an era dominated by Lester Piggott, Willie Carson and Pat Eddery, Starkey was never champion jockey, although he did ride over a hundred winners in a season four times in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Sadly, though, he will always be remembered for the one race he probably should have won, the 1986 Derby, aboard Dancing Brave. In a race run at a muddling pace, Starkey adopted exaggerated waiting tactics and, although Dancing Brave made up ground hand over fist in the final quarter of a mile, the hot favourite failed to overhaul Shahrastani in the closing stages and was beaten half a length. Starkey was pilloried by the press for having ridden an ill-judged race, thereby setting Dancing Brave an impossible task, and the defeat was to haunt him for the rest of his riding career, and beyond.

Jamie Snowden

Jamie Snowden Nowadays, Jamie Snowden is an established trainer with over 200 winners to his name and, at the time of writing, is already enjoying his most successful season ever, numerically, with 43 winners from 171 runners, at a strike rate of 25%. A graduate from the point-to-point sphere, Snowden was, in his earlier days, a highly accomplished amateur rider. In fact, as ‘Mr. J. Snowden’ and ‘Capt. J. Snowden’, during a brief career in the King’s Royal Hussars, he won the Grand Military Gold Cup and Royal Artillery Gold Cup, both at Sandown, four times apiece between 2002 and 2008.

Nevertheless, having served his apprenticeship as pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls and assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, Snowden took out a public training licence in his own right at a rented yard in Ebbesbourne Wake, in rural Wiltshire, in 2008. In his first three seasons, he saddled just 15 winners in total, but his move to Folly House in Lambourn in 2011 paid immediate dividends. His very first runner from his new yard, Knighton Combe, was a convincing winner of the Listed English Summer National at Uttoxeter on June 26, 2011.

Snowden still has just a solitary Cheltenham Festival winner, Present View in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2014, to his name, but Listed wins for Pacify and The bannerkingrebel in the latter part of 2019, not to mention a wide-margin victory for Hogan’s Height in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree, provide plenty of cause for optimism. Novice hurdler Kiltealy Briggs has already won two of his four starts over obstacles and finished a creditable third in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, so could be another to keep an eye on. Either way, Jamie Snowden looks likely to continue his progress through the training ranks for a good while yet.

Kauto Star

Kauto Star Many steeplechasers have been described as ‘charismatic’ but, in the modern era, few, if any, have inspired the same level of enthusiasm and devotion as Kauto Star. On his return to the winners’ enclosure at Kempton after his fourth consecutive win in the King George VI Chase, on Boxing Day, 2009, he was greeted by four loud cheers from a crowd decorated in the green-and-yellow colours of his owner, Clive Smith. In fairness, the 9-year-old had just put in a superb round of jumping to beat erstwhile Hennessy Gold Cup winner Madison Du Berlais by 36 lengths – ‘magnificent’ was the word used in the in-running commentary in the Racing Post – so the attraction was, perhaps, understandable.

Indeed, two years later, in 2011, Kauto Star returned to Kempton to win the King George VI Chase for an unprecedented fifth time and, in so doing, avenge defeats by Long Run in the previous renewal, rescheduled for January, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous March. Officially described as ‘awesome’, that performance proved to be the last win of his career.

However, in his younger days, Kauto Star had also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice. He was a winning favourite in the ‘Blue Riband’ event in 2007 and, after finishing second by stable companion Denman the following year, reversed the form, to the tune of 20 lengths, in 2009 to become the first horse ever to regain the Gold Cup.

Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden, for most of his career in Britain, by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star won 23 of his 41 starts and over £2,375,000 in prize money. He only actually fell or unseated rider three times in 31 starts, but wasn’t averse to the occasional monumental blunder, as when ‘breasting’ the final fence, with the race at his mercy, on his first attempt in the King George VI Chase in 2006. Sadly, though, after joining professional event rider Laura Collett on his retirement from racing in 2012, he sustained pelvic and neck injuries in a freak accident at her Windy Hollow Stables in Lambourn, Berkshire in 2015 and was humanely euthanised shortly afterwards.

Favourite Horse – Frankel

Favourite Horse - Frankel Named after the late Robert J. Frankel, five-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer, Frankel was, according to World Thoroughbred Rankings and Timeform, the highest-rated horse in the recent history of Flat racing. Owned by Khalid Abdullah and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was unbeaten in 14 races, including ten Group One wins, at least one at two, three and four years.

Described in some quarters as a “freak”, what really distinguished Frankel from the other ‘greats’ since the late Forties was the consistency of his brilliance. Time and time again, the son of Galileo surged clear in the closing stages to beat supposedly top-class rivals by wide margins with consummate ease. By way of illustration, Excelebration, from the same Classic generation as Frankel, achieved a Timeform Annual Rating of 133 and, in any other era, would have been hailed as a champion. However, he met Frankel on five occasions at three and four years and was beaten an aggregate of 26¼ lengths, without ever laying a glove on his illustrious rival.

Frankel announced himself as an equine superstar in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in April, 2011, for which he started at odds of 1/2, making him the shortest-priced favourite since Apalachee was turned over at 4/9 in 1974. Ridden by Tom Queally, as he was throughout his career, Frankel made the running for the first time and, having been 10 lengths, or further, clear at halfway, romped home to an impressive 6-length victory. His margin of victory had been bettered just once before, by 8-length winner Tudor Minstrel – the joint-third highest rated horse since World War II, according to Timeform – in 1947.

Despite suspicions that Frankel had ‘run off’ with Queally at Newmarket, thereafter he competed exclusively in Group One company and won eight more races, all at long odds-on, before his eventual retirement in October, 2012. Thanks to the loyalty of his owner, Frankel propelled Sir Henry Cecil – a charismatic, naturally gifted trainer, whose career had been in decline since leading owner Sheikh Mohammed removed all his horses from his yard in 1995 – back to the top of his profession. Indeed, masterminding the unbeaten career of the horse he described as “the best I’ve ever seen” was to prove his swansong; Cecil finally succumbed to stomach cancer, first diagnosed in 2005, in June, 2013.