Saturday, 7 April 2018

Willie Carson

Willie Carson
Having been born and raised in Stirling, Scotland, Willie Carson 75, has been an ambassador for horse racing for many years and is a face is familiar to most people living in the United Kingdom. Featuring on television for decades, he was once a team captain of BBC1’s Question of Sport, appearing nationally every Saturday evening.

He earned his name in the sport that he still loves today and his journey began as an apprentice to North Yorkshire based Captain Gerald Armstrong. His first win of note came at Catterick Bridge in the Summer of 1962, when he rode Pinker’s Pond to victory in an apprentice handicap.

Willie Carson learned his trade over the next decade, at which point, he really came to prominence. 10 years after winning his first ever race, he went on to win his first British Champion Jockey title in 1972 and then again in 1973. It was a feat he repeated three more times, coming out on top in 1978, 1980 and 1983.

Ironically, Carson’s best ever tally came 7 years later in 1990, riding to an astonishing total of 187 winners. In many other years, this would have been enough to claim the Champion Jockey mantle, but the imposing figure of Pat Eddery stood in his way and got there first with a staggering 209 winners.

That same season saw Carson become one of just 4 jockeys ever to win 6 winners at the same track on the same day in the whole of the 20th century.

Longevity

Carson always looked after himself and this allowed him to continue until well into his 50s. In 1996, he retired at the age of 54 and was very much still at the top of his game. In 1983, he was deservedly awarded an OBE for his contribution to horseracing and will certainly go down as one of the greats.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Tim Vaughan

Tim Vaughan
Former Welsh Champion point-to-point jockey Tim Vaughan is a National Hunt trainer, who in 2012 became the youngest ever to record 100 winners in a season. 
 
Since 2008 he has trained over 700 winners including Grade 1 victors, Saint Are in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle and Spirit of Adjisa in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. In 2017 he saddled his first ever Cheltenham winner when Master Dancer won in the Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle. Another career highlight came with Beshabar’s victory in the Scottish Grand National in 2011. 
 
Hailing from the Vale of Glamorgan, Vaughan rode 117 winners and was named Champion Welsh point-to-point jockey during his amateur days. He initially began training as a chartered surveyor, while competing, but despite warnings about the career path, opted to instead become a trainer. 
 
Vaughan obtained his training licence in 2006 and quickly became on the most talented, young trainers in the country. After setting up his stable at Pant Wilkin Stables in Aberthin, Cowbridge in 2008, Vaughan saw his fortunes rise and stable expand. Within eighteen months of starting he had made it into the top 10 trainers list in the country. 
 
Vaughan had 55 winners in the 2008/9 season and went on to break the 100 barrier in the 2011/12. A year earlier he had surpassed another milestone, crossing the £500,000 prize money mark for the first time. He works closely with stable jockey Alan Johns, who rode 45 winners in the 2016/17, all coming from Vaughan.

Desert Orchid

Desert Orchid
Assessing the popularity of racehorses from different generations is never easy, but Desert Orchid must surely rank alongside Arkle and Red Rum as one of the most iconic steeplechasers in the history of National Hunt racing. Although officially a grey, Desert Orchid gradually lost his birth colour with age, becoming almost white. As such, he was easy to pick out in a race which, coupled with his bold, front-running style and flamboyant, albeit occasionally erratic, jumping added to his appeal to the general public.

Owned by Richard and Midge Burridge and trained by David Elsworth, the aptly-named son of Grey Mirage I made 70 starts over hurdles and fences, winning 34 of them. His major victories included the King George VI Chase at Kempton (four times), the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Irish Grand National.

His finest hour, particularly for a horse famously better going right-handed, came at Cheltenham on March 16, 1989. On heavy, almost unraceable, ground, Desert Orchid started 5/2 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, having been left in the lead by the fall of Ten Plus at the third last fence, was headed by confirmed mudlark Yahoo on the run to two out. Yahoo maintained the advantage until the run-in, but Desert Orchid rallied on the famous uphill climb to the line, quickening in the closing stages to win by 1½ lengths. Winning jockey Simon Sherwood said afterwards, “Without doubt he could have won three or four Gold Cups if Cheltenham had been right-handed.”
Aside from his victories at the highest level, Desert Orchid also won numerous handicaps, over a variety of distances, under seemingly prohibitive weights. In the Victor Chandler Chase, over 2 miles, at Ascot in 1989, he beat Panto Prince by a head conceding 22lb and the following April won the Irish Grand National, over 3 miles and 5 furlongs, at Fairyhouse by 12 lengths, despite conceding 26lb and upwards to each of his 13 rivals.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Mark Johnston

Mark JohnstonOne of Britain’s leading racehorse trainers, Mark Johnston has trai
ned over 4,000 British winners one of only three to achieve the feat.

Scottish born Johnston began his career as a vet, studying at Glasgow and practicing for three years before buying a training yard in Louth, Lincolnshire in 1986. He obtained his trainer’s license a year later, achieving his first win with HInari Video at Carlisle. 

In 1988 he moved to the Kingsley House yard in Middleham from where he built one of the most successful stables in the country. Eventually extending it to two further stables, the training facility now covers 270 acres. 

Jonhston’s first British Classic win came in the 2,000 Guineas with Mister Baileys in 1994. In 2004 he won the British and Irish 1,000 Guineas with Attraction, who he cites as the horse he’s proudest of having trained. His most successful was Shamardal, who was voted the 2004 European Champion Two-Year-Old. During his three seasons, Shamardal won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, The Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp, The Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and the St. James's Palace Stakes at Ascot. 

In 2017 Jonhston became only the third trainer to pass the 4,000 British winners milestone. He currently sits behind Richard Hannon Snr and Martin Pipe on the all-time list of British winning trainers, who have 4,193 and 4,183 wins respectively. 

He cites Mister Baileys win at the 2,000 Guineas as his career highlight, claiming the victory enabled his career to move up “another level”.