All Shapes Matter. A book review.

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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All Shapes Matter
Authors: Sreekanth Kumar and Chakra Sreekanth.

At first glance one would not be blamed for believing that this was just another run of the mill pre-school / primary school book. The characters, are five geometrical shapes. Circle, Triangle, Rectangle, Square and Octagon. It is their first day at Elementary school.

As the story goes on it becomes so much more than a description of shapes.
In a most unique and interesting twist the storyline digresses into the problems many children face in every day life at school through ignorance and prejudice, and how remarkable young children learn how to overcome prejudice of diverse individuals in their own way. Proving that children can learn to overcome diversity so much easier than adults.
The book not only educational to the child but in many cases those of us of a more mature age.
What though is most extraordinary about this book is that the concept of the story derives from a seven year old boy, Chakra Sreekanth. Not only the original storyline but also the illustrations are based on Chakra’s own work.

For any parent wishing to teach their children the fundamentals of diversity, this book is so easy for the young to understand and even to identify themselves with.
As a father I would recommend this book without reservation.

All Shapes Matter can be purchased from Amazon Books, reasonably priced at £6.99.

Chris Luke
September 2018.

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A Step Back in Time: Joe Payne does what he does best.

April 13, 2018 Leave a comment

A taster of our book in progress.

Following Luton Town through the 1936-37 season. The Hatters inaugural league trophy, when they topped The Football League Third Division South. A season in which Luton went so close to beating Division One Champions, Sunderland, in what were two exciting FA Cup matches.

Images (L to R) Joe Payne, Tom Mackey and George Martin.

Luton Town 1936-37.

September 12th, 1936
Luton Town 5 Crystal Palace 2
Bill Fellowes, Jack Ball, Joe Payne 3.
In what looked like a demoralising defeat for Palace at Kenilworth Road, by all accounts, the score flattered Luton somewhat. Jack Ball being the only true difference between the two sides, persistently troubling the left back with his speed and trickiness and determination to get the ball to his fellow forwards, showing signs of his old self that had not been prominent in earlier games so far, also effective in drawing the Palace centre half away from the Luton attack, which left holes in the Palace defence for the strike force to make use of.
Joe Payne hit the bar early on, but it was Palace who struck first with a goal from Birtley, with what was described as a “magnificent strike”, following a miss-kick from Tom Smith allowing the scorer to get to the ball before the defender could recover from his mishap.
Luton’s equaliser came following some forceful play to win the Hatters a corner which Jack Hodge placed with precision for Bill Fellowes to head home. It was Jack Ball’s persistence that gave the Town the lead just ahead of the interval, yet another cross from Hodge that Ball got his head on to make it two goals to one in the Town’s favour.
Straight from the restart though Palace themselves equalised, a bad clearance from the usually so dependable Tom Mackey, which was gently tapped back into the Luton Town goal area, Jack Nelson failed to intercept which left Palace’s forward player Blackman to take full advantage of and simply tap the ball over the line of what was a virtual open goal.
If Palace’s equaliser was a doddle for Blackman the Hatters third was an absolute corker of a goal. From a free kick Bill Fellowes placed the ball just out of reach of the mass of Palace players defending their goalmouth, it was a lovely placed cross that Joe Payne ran onto and headed into the Palace goal with some force. The Hatter’s regained the lead and it took just two minutes more before they were able to extend that lead to a two goal lead when Joe Payne again with the goal in his sight’s gathered the ball on the run and crashed in a shot that Dunn, the Palace keeper had no chance of preventing from hitting the back of the net with some force.
Both sides had chances after that and as with the previous game against Walsall, Dolman made a series of good saves and much to be fair can be said of Dunn in the Palace goal to keep the Town at bay until Luton’s left wing pairing of Fellowes and Stephenson made a superb opening for Jack Ball who unselfishly, although in what could be deemed as a scoring position decided to pass to Payne who was maybe even better placed, made the pass to the centre forward who had time to just gently slide the ball over the line for his the Town’s first hat trick scorer of the season. It was not long after that the final whistle was blown and a somewhat flattering score-line of five goals to two in the Hatters favour.
In after thought, it was said that the Town skipper did not have the best of games which was quite uncharacteristic of him in fairness, however Finlayson and Fellowes played some attractive and very constructive football at times. The usually dependable defensive line of the two Tom’s Smith and Mackey did not look as safe as they usually did when facing Palace’s attacking force, however the truth of the matter is they made fewer mistakes than those made by the Crystal Palace defenders, who were fortunate at times to have Dunn between the posts, as too were Luton to have Dolman standing there also. The most effective player it was reported, for Palace was a player who was to become well known to Luton fans in the weeks to come, Albert Dawes.
Luton Town: Bill Dolman, Tom MacKay, Tom Smith, John Finlayson, Jack Nelson, Bill Fellowes, Jack Hodge, Joe Payne, Jack Ball, Fred Roberts and George Stephenson.
Crystal Palace: Dunn, Owens, Dawes (F), McMenemy, Wilde, Collins, Birtley, Quayle, Blackman, Dawes (A) and Bigg.
Referee: Mr J Milward from Derby.

Other sporting news of the day was Great Britain’s tennis champion Fred Perry winning the 56th U.S. Men’s National Championship beating Don Budge (2-6, 6-2, 8-6, 1-6, 10-8). It was to be the last time a British player won the U.S. title until seventy six years later when Andy Murray would pick up the trophy in 2012 with the competition now better known as the U.S. Open.

Full Results for the day in Third Division South: Aldershot 2 Watford 2, Bristol Rovers 2 Northampton Town 0, Clapton Orient 3 Reading 2, Gillingham 1 Southend United 0, Luton Town 5 Crystal Palace 2, Millwall 0 Bournemouth & Boscombe 2, Newport County 2 Cardiff City 3, Notts. County 1 Queens Park Rangers 2, Swindon Town 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1, Torquay United 5 Bristol City 2, Walsall 4 Exeter City 2.

Appalled by Aintree.

April 13, 2018 Leave a comment
Earlier this morning I was privileged to indulge in a short, but interesting phone conversation with former Irish Champion Jockey and trainer,Tommy McGivern.
Tommy rode Arthur Moore’s Drumgora to victory in the 1980 Red Rum Chase. 
It was painful to learn from our conversation something that angers me greatly. The realisation of how much the management and organisers of this great race, slowly but surely have lost respect for those that have in the past, made the meeting what it is.
Sadly, in recent years we have seen the three day event turn into a free for all for drunken louts, especially National day. It is now more a corporate event for the privileged.
It is a sad day for National Hunt racing, when one realises that former jockey’s who have given their all to our spectacular sport in the past, such as Neale Doughty, Hywel Davies, both National winning jockeys and the likes of Tommy also have been forced to scramble with everyone else for tickets to gain entry to the meeting and pay for the pleasure also. This, I find quite upsetting which forces me to question, where has the loyalty towards such stalwarts of our sport disappeared to?
The answer to that is easy.
Into oblivion!

A Jockeys view.

April 12, 2018 1 comment

Ron Hyett aboard the Pilgarlic 1980.

Former national hunt jockey Ron Hyett gives an insight into the course and the fences of the Aintree Grand National.

To find a jockey from the era I am writing about, who could take us around the course was a difficult task, therefore I approached a former colleague who competed in five Grand Nationals between 1974 and 1980.

Ron Hyett, maybe not one of the better known of his era, however, I do know that most will agree with me that Ron was a most accomplished jockey. In 1972 he rode a double at the Cheltenham Festival for Mrs Katie Gaze, who trained at Sellack, Herefordshire. Even Dawn in the Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle and Cold Day to win the County Handicap Hurdle.

He was for myself, not only a jockey but is also a most formidable horseman.

Ron’s first National ride was in 1974 when he partnered Michael Scudamore trained Estoile. Horse and rider coming to grief at the nineteenth fence, named Westhead, the first open ditch after passing the starting gate.

His next ride came two years later, in 1976, when Stan Wright gave Ron the ride on Sandwilan. Ron gave the horse a superb ride to finish the course in seventh place. The partnership stayed together for the 1977 race also but Sandwilan decided that enough was enough for the day refusing at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit and unseating his jockey in the process.

Sandwilan ran in two further Grand Nationals, each time ridden by female jockey Jenny Henbrow, in 1979 they fell at the first fence and in 1980 the partnership was hampered and subsequently refused again at Becher’s Brook.

Ron, in 1979 rode Kick On for Keith Lewis, the 50/1 chance was bought down at the Chair.

The following year that, 1980, Ron was approached by Fred Rimell to ride The Pilgarlic, the most horses seemed to be able to gallop forever, who had already been placed fourth twice already in 1977 and 1979, in between those two runs finishing fifth in 1978. The partnership proved to be most successful, finishing third behind Ben Nevis, ridden by the American banker Charlie Fenwick and champion jockey John Francome on Rough and Tumble.

On to the race.

It’s quite a relief to the system once horse and jockey finally leave the parade ring, so many people and horses in such a confined area can be unsettling for both horse and rider. It can be a daunting time for the jockeys, too much time to think, added to that it seems to take forever.

By the time the parade of runners go past the stand, do a U-turn, canter back passed the stands, more often than not by this time the horses are quite wound up.

The journey down to the first fence is one heck of a long way in comparison to any other race in the calendar, but this does have its advantage of giving the riders nerves time to settle down and getting well away from the throng of the crowd is a blessed relief, good to at last be on the move. The crowds do get the horses more jacked up than they would at an everyday race meeting. In Ron’s day the crowds were so much closer and had more access to be closer to the runners than they do these days. That in itself could be quite unnerving at times. All of those factors added to the atmosphere, so much more electric than it is now maybe.

After showing the horses the first fence we would, as has never changed over the years, canter back to the start gate.

Then after having the girths checked and any other issues dealt with the starter would call us in. Ron firmly believes that Jockeys of his era had more respect for the starter than maybe those of today. Not in one of the Nationals Ron contended was there a false start, broken tape or any indication of there may be a chance of one. They did, however, have one bad experience at the start when animal rights activists got onto the track. However, apart from that, all starts were off first time. Ron’s thoughts are that as much as the jockeys, the starter also has a job to do, it was always considered that a part of the jockey’s job before the race got under way was to listen to the starter and comply with his orders, when all said and done he was not calling the horses back for no reason or just for the sake of being heard.

Once the flag is dropped and the tapes go up there is the inevitable charge to the first, every jockey trying to get a run advantageous to himself and his horse. The trouble has always been, up to and including this day, that the jockeys get carried away with the flow of the occasion, it cannot be helped, they know they are going too fast into the first fence, but that changes nothing. It will always be the same for years to come as it has been for years gone by. As the first fence approaches ones first objective is to get your horse to sit back on their hocks in order to take the obstacle and get away from it cleanly.

The first six or seven are drop fences and because of the speed they are going most horses tend to over jump them, which results in quite landing ungainly at the very least. What is termed as on their heads.

The second fence is much the same as the first, still not steadying the speed, the main concern is getting over it safely.

The third is a massive ditch, the reason that it does not look as big as the Chair is solely because, unlike the chair, that is a more compact fence, it is the width of the course, the funnel effect that the Chair possesses also makes it look more daunting to the eye.

Once the third has been negotiated safely Ron would find that the pace seemed to ease to a more sensible and even gallop. Both horse and jockey coming to their normal racing senses.

The fourth and fifth fences are both drop fences. Once they are negotiated the majority of the field tends to drift to the right as they approach Becher’s Brook, the sixth fence, the reason for this being that the drop is not the so prominent toward the outside of the track. This fence always seems to catch a good few out. In the sixties and seventies it was more of a sit back fence, jockeys on the buckle end of the reins as they land and having to regather the reins after. These days with the alterations that have been made for safety reasons it is not such a challenging fence to either horse or rider as much as it used to be, but still one that has to be thought about and respected. Ron recalls that it seemed to take an eternity from the moment of take off to the landing of feet on grass and moving off again to the next fence.

Once you have taken on and beaten Becher’s the seventh is found to be ridiculously small in comparison. Maybe that was what caused the problem initially in 1967 with the pile up, the seventh now being known as the Foinavon fence. Once the fence is jumped there is a slight left turn to be found that can put some horses off their stride.

Now one’s wits have to come into play, approaching is the eighth fence, best known to all as the Canal Turn. One must swing out to the right to take this fence. The danger is if one does jump towards the inner, those then coming from the outer after landing and taking the turn will give no room whatsoever for manoeuvre, this can cause extreme chaos, especially for those riding the race for the first time and do not judge the fence correctly. Another thing to think about is the fact that it is not advisable to stand off the fence and jump it too well either, because then the landing can be too far out, which results in the right angled turn even more problematic. Again Ron advises the best way to ride the Canal Turn is to go with the flow, the best result being all swinging out and coming at the same time. But as with anything you will always get one or two who do not adhere to the sensible approach, so if one does not have their wits about them it could so easily result in getting squashed on the inner at the turn.

Before having time to gather breath from the rigours of the eighth, the next is Valentines Brook, the first in a row of four very large fences. In actual fact they are much bigger than one anticipates them to be, they are massive. By this time the horses are more settled and in the main jumping well, having adjusted to the contents of the fences in relation to normal park fences they are used to. With the field hunting round for the first circuit rather than racing, none really tearing away from the field. They are back on their hocks when jumping and the jockeys back in control unlike for the first three or four obstacles.

During the first circuit the fences tend to jump okay, despite their size, good straight fences, apart from Valentines which has a ditch to contend with, if the horse does not get right to the bottom of the fence before taking off there would usually be no problem in getting over it safely.

After taking the row of four safely and most do, one can relax for a while, take a short breather, crossing the Melling Road, a nice sedate gallop in comparison to the pace at the beginning of the race.

There is a long, a very long run to the next fence, taking the turn into what would be the home straight next time round and there are two relatively small fences that are the second and last fences on the second circuit.

Following the two smaller fences the field swings away to the right and looming as large as life the chair comes into view, the field if strung out across the course has to come together as the approach is like a funnel with both sides of the fence adorned with large white wooden wings to guide the horses and riders into the fence. Which if there are still twenty or thirty runners still standing and in close contention can get quite congested, one hopes not to fall if in the front part of the field that is for sure.

Ron recalls that he was most fortunate with his first ride in the race, riding Estoile for trainer Michael Scudamore in 1974, he had the fortune of riding for a man who had an abundance of experience in the race and talked him through the course a few days before the race, so therefore the perfect mentor as far as Ron was concerned. The added bonus also of having ridden the mare before in a long distance race at Cheltenham and having finished third, which was a great help in knowing the horses ability and idiosyncrasies also, if any.

“She was a funny old thing” quotes Ron, “she used to tail herself off in a race, never on the bridle and then when having covered a couple of miles she would suddenly pick up the bridle. She did exactly that in the National, she went off the bridle, jumping everything with ease and she was a super jumper at that. As we swung away from the stands she picked up the bridle, jumped the first after the water, because she was now on the bridle she got it into her head it would be easy sailing from then on but landed on top of the fence. Ron is adamant that had she stayed off the bridle she would have finished the race with no problem.”

After the chair comes to the water, in those days every course in the country had a water jump, unlike now and therefore at that time the horses were used to it. But then again at Liverpool, the water feature itself was longer than most, it was an obstacle that caught many out because after the massive obstacles prior it was not unusual for a horse to underestimate it and invariably there would be one or two that would get caught out and drop their hind legs in the drink. It was not therefore uncommon to get splashed quite significantly at this jump.

Then another long run to the next after turning away from the stands and travel out into the country for a second time. This is where those still standing and running have the opportunity to get themselves into a position. They have negotiated the first circuit and those that have been just hunting round, which was usually most, are now thinking about getting arranged in order to start riding a race.

Ron confides that on the second circuit he would never look to jump any fence where the birch had been dislodged earlier, because lower down in the fences make up, there were great beams of wood and stakes to hold the birch in place. Taking such a gap in the fence may result in the horse not getting up as high as one would hope, which is quite feasible as far as the horses is concerned, the results could be catastrophic if one hit a stake or the beam of wood. Ron has much admiration for the fence builders of Aintree racecourse, the fences always built to perfection. The work put in between the Foxhunters and the Topham to get them again race perfect for the National must be long and painstaking. The unsung heroes of the Grand National are without doubt the fence builders.

Whilst discussing the fence builders, Ron mentions how amazing it is how much the birch flies around as the fences are jumped when horse in front and around you hit the birch. It goes between the saddle and the horse, one can only imagine how uncomfortable that must be for the horse during the race. Jockeys can be brushing birch from under their knees, birch in the tops of the boots. All of this adds to everything else going on around as one is trying to concentrate on the fences and the race itself. I just wonder how many disgruntled punters realise what goes on during races and the problems both horse and jockey have to endure. Ron carries on to add that even after the race when unsaddling, birch seems to be found everywhere, entwined in the breast plate and similar.

Another distraction during the second circuit, these days it is not so much as they have run offs, but in the sixties and seventies loose horses could get onto the inner of the course and the sound of horses galloping on the road for cars and ambulances could be quite distracting, especially when virtually alongside you.

Also at Liverpool one was more aware of the crowds more than any other course, even Cheltenham. Ron again recalls as he approached the home turn the crowd was much more noticeable than even when riding a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, much more intense. At Liverpool because of the stands out in the country the noise is constant. Especially at Becher’s and the Canal Turn, because those spectators cheer most enthusiastically as those fences are jumped.

At this point I asked Ron, when riding the Pilgarlic, what was the feeling when realising he was in such a good position.

During the first circuit we were not at any time in any contention, in fact nearer the back than the front of the field.

To be honest, not at any time did we get a blow-in on Charlie Fenwick’s mount. In actual fact at Becher’s second time round I did not believe he could keep galloping as he was, he definitely surprised me.

I was trying to keep a bit in hand, I truly thought the leader Ben Nevis would come back to us, at the same time I realised I was never going to catch John Francome on Rough and Tumble, the only way I was going to finish in front of him was if he either made a massive blunder or actually fell. It was unbelievable the pace that Ben Nevis was keeping up, he was absolutely relentless, he was thriving on the heavy ground.

With afterthought Ron realises that it was a good thing that he had tried to save a bit earlier on, instead of chasing the winner. Because, as we approached and went down the run in The Pilgarlic was a spent horse and did amazingly well just to finish the race at all.

There was actually a moment at Valentine’s that I did ask him to chase up the leaders, but as you well know it was a lost cause.

As we went to the last the old boy was absolutely unconscious, I was actually most surprised and thankful that he did not in fact refuse to take the last, he felt as though he was on his very last legs, but his honesty and courage would not allow him to do so. That run in is the most gruelling it knocks the stuffing out of any horse.

So there it is a jockey’s glimpse of the National fences.

Ron answered all question superbly, if it had been too technical the feeling is it would not have been so interesting and easy to write.

But then Ron Hyett has always been one heck of a narrator of stories, our thanks to him.



F.C. Dallas 1 Colorado Rapids 1.

It is becoming a familiar scenario this season for Colorado Rapids to concede a goal so late into their games. Last weekend being the exception to the rule.

Anthony Hudson was faced with having to make forced changes to the starting line-up due to Marlon Hairston and Danny Wilson’s injuries

As with previous games, their inability to capitalise on a lead has cost them dearly.

Both sides had the opportunity to open the scoring, Maximiliano Urruti on three minutes having the first chance of the game.

Diaz in the eighteenth minute was given an excellent opportunity to open the scoring from Michael Barrios pass into the centre, but his shot guided straight into the arms of keeper Tim Howard.

With twenty-three-minutes on the clock, Badji strikes the ball well, but into the path of Dallas keeper Jimmy Maurer, who could only fumble the ball, with Joe Mason running onto, Maurer diving back smothered the ball well at his second attempt to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Half an hour into the match and Diaz is handed a second opportunity, again from a Barrios pass, but his shot goes wide to left of Tim Howard’s goal.

Maurer proved his worth again with five minutes of the first half remaining, when producing another superb stop from Nana Boateng’s twenty yard plus drive along the ground.

An hour into the game and Rapids take the lead, Badji fights off a defender, slips the ball perfectly to his striking partner Joe Mason, who taps the ball over the line to give the Rapids a goal advantage.

Rapids now looking at the possibility of back to back wins. The two strikers linking up nicely to secure the lead.

Johan Blomberg went close for Rapids on seventy-eight minutes with a scathing drive that Maurer did well to tip over the bar, that would have most certainly have sealed the game for the visitors.

With just a minute of normal time remaining a long ball forward from the half way line was met by substitute Cristian Colman who ran from behind Rapids defender Deklan Wynne, whose praises I had been singing most of the past week, to head home for the equalising goal. Tim Howard looked rooted to the spot as the ball crossed the line.

Rapids have now dropped five points from their four games, every point lost has been in the latter part of their game’s. If they were able to hold on, how different their record for the season could look. As for their opponents, F.C. Dallas are still unbeaten for the season.


Team Line ups:

F.C. Dallas: Jimmy Maurer; Reggie Cannon (Cristian Colman), Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, Anton Nedyalkov, Carlos Gruezo (Santiago Mosquera), Jacori Hayes, Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, Roland Lamah (Tesho Akindele), Maximiliano Urruti.

Subs not used: Jesse Gonzalez (GK), Kristoffer Reaves, Victor Ulloa, Ryan Hollingshead.

Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard; Deklan Wynne, Axel Sjoberg, Tommy Smith, Kip Colvey, Johan Blomberg, Jack Price, Bismark Boateng (Dillon Serna), Edgar Castillo, Dominique Badji (Michael Azira), Joe Mason (Niki Jackson).

Subs not used: Zac MacMath (GK), Enzo Martinez, Sam Hamilton, Jack McBean.

Referee; Rubiel Vazquez.

Attendance: 13,147.


There were two thumping wins elsewhere with Atlanta scoring four goals during the final twenty-five minutes to beat LAFC five goals to nought the opening goal coming in the first half from Julian Gressel, followed by strikes from Martinez, with two in four minutes from Miguel Almiron and another in the seventh minute of stoppage time from Williams. For Bob Bradley’s LAFC it looks like their honeymoon period has come to an abrupt conclusion.

New England beat Montreal Impact by four goals to nil at Gillette Stadium. The visitors reduced to ten men after just thirteen minutes of the game when Saphir Taider was dismissed. The home side taking full advantage with goals either side of half time from Bunbury, Farrell, Fagundez and Zahibo to move them up to fourth place in the standings.

Real Salt Lake moved up to fourth in the Western Conference with two goals to one victory over second in the table Vancouver Whitecaps, Silva and Savarino with the goals who held on despite a late Brek Shea goal for the visitors at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

Chicago Fire edged out Columbus with a 1-0 win at Toyota Park thanks to Nemanja Nikolic’s twenty-seventh minute goal, the home team weathering the away sides dominance of the game despite Columbus having sixty-five percent possession and totalling twenty shots on goal during the entirety of the match.

Finally, Philadelphia and San Jose shared the spoils with a goal apiece draw, Bedoya’s second half strike cancelling out a goal for San Jose by Eriksson.

A Token Ride. (Barry Brogan looks back at 1968 Grand National).

June 19, 2017 4 comments


Moidores Token with his lad Ronnie McWilliams.

If there was one jockey who gave me the inspiration to want to further my career in horse racing when I left school, it was without doubt Barry Brogan.  One of the most talented riders of his era.

Barry had a checkered career and was associated with some of the best horses of his time including The Dikler, Billy Bow, Even Keel and last but not least Tom Dreapers’ Flying Bolt, reputed to have been the one horse capable of toppling his then stable mate, the great Arkle, from his crown. Barry partnered the ill-fated horse in his final race at Haydock. Barry was at the time Dreapers’ assistant trainer and stable amateur. Barry explained to me that in his opinion Flying Bolt was the best horse he had ever sat on and he had ridden work on both Arkle and Flying Bolt. Telling me also that he could have even beaten Arkle in the 1966 Gold Cup if their trainer had run both horses.

The 1970-71 season concluded with him finishing as runner-up to Graham Thorner in the National Hunt Jockeys Championship.

Barry has been most generous to describe his inaugural ride in what is without any doubt the greatest steeplechase race in the world, The Aintree Grand National. One could not have asked for a more sublime baptism.

He knew that he had much to live up to. In 1948 Barry’s father Jimmy had finished a most creditable second in the race to the Neville Crump trained Sheila’s Cottage, ridden by Arthur Thompson, on First of the Dandies.


Jimmy Brogan aboard second place First of the Dandies (1948 Grand National).

On February 24th, 1965, Barry was granted his trainers licence. Sadly though, the new trainer’s celebrations were so tragically marred. The previous day Jim, not only his father but also his best friend and mate, collapsed on the gallops with Barry in attendance and died instantly from a massive heart attack. Sadly two months away from being able to witness his son’s Grand National debut as a trainer.

Two months on and Barry Brogan was experiencing his first airplane ride from Ireland to the UK with three runners at the Grand National meeting, including Ballygowan, who was entered to run in the Grand National.


Ballygowan was to be  ridden by Irish Jockey, Tony Redmond. Barry recalls walking the Aintree course and when he got to the thirteenth obstacle, The Chair, he stood back in sheer amazement, thinking “Oh my God, how in his name do they ever get over that fence”, he had clearly never come across such a daunting fence before. Little did he know at that moment that three years down the line he would himself be having negotiate the same fence. Ballygowan refused at the twenty-first race.

Three years on and it is the morning of the 1968 Grand National excitement was getting the better of him as he woke in Liverpool’s Adelphi Hotel. As a jockey now he was walking the course alongside the trainer of his mount, Moidores Token, in the race, Ken Oliver, who was one of the most likeable and admired trainers of his time. Moidores Token was one of the fancied runners and Barry had ridden him in five previous races. The combination were unbeaten and that was an undeniable confidence boost which allowed Barry to have a much more positive approach than his initial experience of walking the course, pre-race.


Barry and Moidores Token, on their way to victory at Newcastle.

The days racing started perfectly, winning the opening race, the Liverpool Hurdle on Drumikill. Also trained by Ken Oliver, beating David Mould on the Dennis Rayson trained Rackham.

The following season Drumikill went on to finish second to the great Persian War, in the 1969 Champion Hurdle.

As the minutes ticked by Barry took the initiative, seeking advice from such seasoned National jockeys as Pat Taaffe, Tim Brookshaw, Tim Moloney and Gerry Scott.

Moidores Token was renowned for his jumping and could “stay all day”, a perfect National contender. An average plodder is how Barry describes him, something that sums up many National horses. The type of horse that would have always be in with a good chance if completing the course if getting a clear round. The biggest problem for any jockey even on the best of jumpers in the National is avoiding trouble, because of the volume of runners. The 1968 Grand National was no exception to the rule, with a total of forty-three runners going to post.

It was to become one of the greatest highlights during the jockeys illustrious career, to his absolute delight, not only completing the gruelling course but also finishing second to Red Alligator, trained by another superb trainer in Denys Smith and ridden by that most famous of recent Grand National Jockeys, Brian Fletcher, who was later to partner three times winner of the Red Rum and beating race favourite Different Class, ridden by David Mould, by a neck. Different Class was trained by Peter Cazalet and owned by Hollywood movie legend Gregory Peck. Moidores ran a superb race, always being handy and jumped beautifully up until the final fence, where he made one horrific blunder and could quite easily have ended up crumpled on the ground. However, he managed to find that extra leg and run on gamely to hold off the favourite.


Finishing second in the Grand National is a day that is forever etched in Barry’s mind, the greatest of thrills and a gratefulness and joyous occasion to be enjoyed for a lifetime.

Of course in true Barry Brogan fashion the connections partied through the night and into the early hours of the morning, at the Adelphi Hotel. One thing jockeys knew how to do in those amazing days, was how to party. Old school, such courageous and fun loving jockeys. For many of us much missed.


With grateful thanks to Barry Brogan for his time and the featured photographs.

Copyright Reserved. Chris Luke, June 2017.

Golden Miller (1927 – 1957)

Horse Racing - Golden Miller - 1934

Golden Miller with Gerry Wilson in the saddle.

It would be difficult to argue with the fact that Golden Miller is one of the, if not the, greatest Gold Cup horses in the history of what is the Blue-Riband of British National Hunt Racing, if not steeplechase racing the world over. He is without doubt the most successful, winning the race five consecutive years (from 1932 to 1936). In addition this most enigmatic of horses also won the 1934 Aintree Grand National, making him the first horse to win both the Gold cup and the Grand National in the same year.

Bred in Ireland by Laurence Geraghty in Pelletstown, Co. Meath. Laurence also being grandfather to jockey Barry Geraghty, who has himself ridden two Gold Cup winners to date, Kicking King in 2005 and again eight years later on Bob’s worth in 2013. However, some records show the horse to be bred by a dubious Dublin moneylender, by the name of Julius Solomon. Albeit by default as Solomon had claimed the horse’s dam, most likely as settlement from her owner James Nugent, and moved the mare to be taken care of by Laurence Geraghty. The mare was left at the Pelletstown stud for quite a number of years without any stabling fees or payment of keep being made by Solomon. Therefore, with law on his side, having kept the mare for no payment Geraghty stated himself in official records as the breeder of all the mares’ offspring whilst in his care. However, when Golden Miller’s older brother began winning, Mr Solomon quite suddenly from nowhere appeared back on the scene and instructed Messrs Weatherby to record him as the breeder in the next stud book, and thereafter was able to collect credit for the breeding Golden Miller also, whose mother he had forgotten about financially and whose visits to stallions had all been planned by Mr Geraghty.

Golden Millers’ sire was an unraced stallion, Goldcourt and was out of a Wavelet’s Pride mare, Miller’s Pride. He was foaled on April 30th, 1927.

The Miller was initially purchased by Mr Phillip Carr for £100 from trainer Basil Briscoe.

The horse’ new owner was also the father of England cricketer A W (Arthur) Carr, who captained the England side during the 1926 Ashes series in England, and was instrumental in the development of the notorious “bodyline” tactic, instructing his Nottinghamshire team mates, fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce to bowl at the bodies of their opposing batsmen. This later resulted in him being sacked from the County side and he was never to play first-class cricket again.


Briscoe who had a mixed yard of both Flat horses and Jumpers trained from his family home at Longstowe, Cambridgeshire before later moving his headquarters to Newmarket. The bay youngster did not show much interest in either hunting or hurdling and was for a while deemed as a most mediocre type. But Briscoe despite all of this kept faith in the horse and it was with great relief that his patience and faith in him paid dividends winning four races for him.

In 1931 Mr Carr was taken seriously ill and he instructed Briscoe to sell his horses on. With some heavy persuasion he was able to talk The Hon. Dorothy Paget into buying the horse.

Golden Miller made his chasing debut at Newbury, winning quite comfortably, only to lose the race through disqualification after being judged to have been carrying the incorrect weight.

Millers’ first Gold Cup victory came in 1932, just the eighth running of the race, when beating Inverse and Aruntius, into second and third places respectively. Miller was ridden by Ted Leader, who had also won the race in 1925 on Ballinode, only the second running, for trainer Frank Morgan. Leader had started his racing career as apprentice to his uncle Harvey Leader.

The combination of Dorothy Paget, Basil Briscoe and Ted leader also won the Champion Hurdle with Insurance, which was contested by just three runners.

Inverse made much of the running and was still leading when they passed the stands for the second and final time, with Golden Miller sitting quietly in second place. It was not until they jumped the second last fence that Leader made his move and took up the lead and gradually drew away from Inverse to win by four lengths with Aruntius a distant third. Leader was commended for his riding especially following a superb piece of riding to recover from Millers blunder in the back straight.

Millers’ second Gold cup victory came at the expense of Thomond II and Delaniege. This time he was ridden by Yorkshire born Billy Stott, who also rode Insurance to emulate the previous season’s accomplishments by winning the Champion Hurdle. Stott was to lose the ride the following month on Miller in the Aintree Grand National, with Ted Leader being reunited with his previous years Gold Cup winning mount. Stott did though secure a ride in the race on Pelorus Jack who suffered a heavy fall at the last whilst leading from the eventual winner Kellsboro’ Jack. Just a week after Billy was involved in a most horrendous motor accident where he was severely injured. However he returned to the saddle for another year before retiring. Sadly he succumbed to a massive heart attack in 1936.

With Leader back in the saddle for the 1933 National there were high hopes that he would become the first horse to win both races. However, the well fancied 9/1 shot fell at the 24th. The race as mentioned was won by Kellsboro’ Jack ridden by Dudley Williams for legendary Welsh trainer Ivor Anthony.

The 1934 Gold Cup Miller was to be ridden by Gerry Wilson. This was to become the jockeys most momentous year in what was an outstanding career. Winning not only the Gold Cup and Grand National on Miller. But also, the Champion Hurdle on lion Courage.

Millers’ third consecutive Gold Cup victory was to put him undoubtedly into the history books as one of racings greatest ever. However, as we are all now well aware this was still far from over. Miller and Wilson won the race by six lengths from Avenger and a further six lengths to Kellsboro Jack.

At Aintree Gerry Wilson retained the partnership and by some strange coincidence to the previous the previous seasons Gold Cup victory, the second and third horses in the race were Delaniege and Thomond II, although in reverse order this time with Delaniege getting the better of Thomond.

The horse had become a National Hero. A Nottinghamshire bricklayer, Fred Varney purchased a ticket in Irish Sweepstake which he shared with a bookie who had bought a half share in the ticket for £3000. With his £18000 share of the money he along with his son-in-law founded the Golden Miller Coach Company. Years later the company was bought out by Tellings, who renamed it Tellings-Golden Miller Coach Company. To this day you can see the company’s coaches up and down the country with a picture of a horseshoe and Golden Miller portrayed on the side of them.

With the 1935 Cheltenham Festival closing in again all the talk was about if Miller could win a fourth Gold Cup.

Gerry Wilson was again given the ride and the combination duly obliged starting the race as one to two odds on favourites, understandably so. A race that saw Golden Miller pushed to the absolute limits to hold off Thomond II by three quarters of a length, with Kellsboro’ Jack again in third place by a further five lengths.

Again he was to contest the Grand National, there was much talk of a record consecutive double victory. Gerry Wilson was again in the saddle. However, victory was not to be, horse and rider parting company at the tenth fence.

This was to prove disastrous for both jockey and trainer Basil Briscoe. Dorothy Paget was in a rage following the race and removed the horse from the yard where they had enjoyed such an illustrious career. This also became the beginning of the end for Briscoe as a trainer, he never recovered from Paget’s actions and not long after retired from horse racing altogether.

The horse was moved to the stables of Owen Anthony, who trained in Letcombe Bassett, Berkshire. A very straight talking fellow who was one of the very few who could cope with the tantrums of Ms Paget.

1935 found The Miller yet again contesting the great race, but there was much doubting that he would be able to continue his unbeaten record for a fifth consecutive time, especially also with another change of jockey. His designated jockey this time being Evan Williams.

Betting suggested that Miller was again well fancied and he duly won beating Royal Mail by a most emphatic twelve lengths, with Kellsboro’ Jack finishing two lengths behind, his third consecutive year at finishing third in the race.

Yet again Miller’s owner set her sights on winning the Grand National for a second time. There were some who were beginning to question her decision, although only nine years old, thoughts were that he had done enough. On this occasion the great horse fell at the eighth with Williams again his jockey.

In 1937, he was again aimed at the Gold Cup and that was a reasonable ask. He seemed to thrive at Cheltenham. However racing was abandoned, a result of the course being flooded. Who knows maybe he would have won a sixth consecutive time if the race had gone ahead. Alas, we shall never know.

So, interest again turned to Aintree, Evan Williams had been booked to ride Ivor Anthony’s other runner Royal Mail for owner Hugh Lloyd Scott, therefore Danny Morgan was given the ride on Miller. It is obvious that the horse had by now taken a dislike to the Aintree obstacles and he refused at the tenth carrying what must have been an excruciating weight of twelve stone seven. As for Evan Williams he had obviously made the correct choice, winning the race on Royal Mail, beating Coolean by three lengths with Pucka Belle in third place.

Golden Miller went to post for the 1938 Cheltenham Gold Cup as the bookmakers seven to four against favourite. He ran a game race under Danny Morgan but his reign as the unbeaten Champion had come to an end, finishing second two lengths behind Morse Code, coincidentally ridden by his former partner Danny Morgan. With Macaulay another three lengths back in third. It is reported that tear of sadness were abundant following the race.  It was without doubt the end of an era in British National Hunt Racing.

Golden Miller was eventually retired in 1939 aged twelve years. He finally passed away in 1957 at the ripe old age of thirty. A fitting retirement for the most affable of racehorses.

A half sized bronze statue was erected of this memorable champion in 1989. A fitting tribute to a true Champion.


Judy Boyt’s magnificent bronze effigy of Golden Miller located at Cheltenham Racecourse.