Nineteen years ago I struggled to watch a late afternoon race on the TV. The race was being run at Ascot and featured three of my favourite horses ridden by jockeys I had followed for many years and knew personally, having met them when I was writing one of my own books.
I managed, through sheer bloody mindedness to see the race through. Strong Promise, ridden by Norman Williamson won, with Richard Dunwoody on board the favourite, One Man coming a close second with Charlie Swan on Sound Man coming in third. Much to the relief of the hospital staff, after the race I made my way down to the delivery suite to give birth to my daughter.
I’ve been keen on horse racing all of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of watching the old, real Grand National. I’ve read dozens of books on racing, about horses, jockeys and trainers, but I don’t think there has been one that I have enjoyed as much as Bobby McAlpine’s My Racing Certainties.
In racing, the owners are the unsung heroes of the game, the poor souls squeezed as an afterthought into photographs when the horse wins, not much of a reward when it is them who are actually funding the whole thing.
This entertaining and informative book redresses this balance, describing the life of an owner in all its heady, pocket-emptying glory. McAlpine is well equipped to write this book having been involved with racing as an owner since the 1950s and would as he says, ‘have been a much richer man if he had never caught sight of a racehorse, but like so many owners would not have missed the roller coaster ride for anything.’
McAlpine has been deeply involved in the racing world for over 60 years. He became a Steward in his 20’s is Chairman of Chester and Bangor on Dee racecourses and a Director of Aintree. He likes flat and NH racing equally and his favourite course is Ascot, where he recalls “the Royal meeting brings more international competition than any other course.”
McAlpine is the owner of Precipice Wood who won the Ascot Gold Cup and Cormorant Wood, winner of Four Premier Group Ones, including the Champion Stakes, the Juddmonte and Lockinge. He has also been involved in racing as a breeder, his Inglis Drever and won the Supreme Novice at Cheltenham. Another great horse is River Ceiriog who is trained by his good friend Nicky Henderson. However, although McAlpine did ride, he never raced and never felt the urge, like so many, to train horses. Racing is more popular now than ever, as he says, “A great deal has been done (to improve courses) attendances are rising steadily and for the first time over 6 million went racing in 2015.”
McAlpine’s deep knowledge of this fantastic sport shines through in the text. He clearly has an intimate experience of every aspect of the sport, its history and close connections with royalty. The book was not written entirely from memory, as McAlpine, says “I did a considerable amount (of research) and was fortunate to have access to the Jockey Club records and books.”
Anyone with even the slightest interest in racing will find this book fascinating. He details, in easy to read language, the ups and downs of being an owner. He shares stories of trainers and jockeys he has been involved with, the important courses, the punters and the life and challenges of being a Steward and management of racecourses. It is an easy read, one that can be dipped into during quiet moments, or devoured in a single sitting.
The book was inspired by McAlpine’s life time in racing. Even after sixty years involvement with racing he is still able to recall with great accuracy events and incidents and is already writing a third book titled ‘Ramblings of an Old Man.’
by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing
Published by Quiller Publishing in November 2015
Please visit Haynets Equestrian Bookstore where members can purchase the book with their 20% Haynet discount!