of The Grand National

Richard Dunwoody Jon Franklin

The Grand National fences have been altered substantially in recent years. In some cases the height has been slightly reduced, in other cases the drop on the landing side has been levelled off, and in all cases the internal construction has changed from wooden stakes to a synthetic core. These changes have been made to improve the safety of the race, and the ‘new’ fences still seem to take plenty of jumping although they are designed to be more forgiving. The look of the fences is unchanged, although old jockeys like me will always say that they seem much smaller than in our day.


(height 4ft 6in)

This is an ordinary, plain fence that over the years has accounted for a large number of fallers because of its position in the race – the full field jumps it and the jockeys tend to be going much too fast towards it. It’s important to give your horse a good, clear view of the fence, which is why everyone is keen to get a good position, but going off so fast in order to accomplish this often causes horses to over jump and crumple on landing. I never fell at the first – I remember Graham McCourt and Richard Rowe had terrible luck here – and now that the run to the first has been reduced it has caused fewer problems.

Grand National: The First fence.
Grand National: The First fence.

2 /18

(4ft 7in)

Just a straightforward plain fence, nothing out of the ordinary for Aintree.


(4ft 10in, 6ft ditch on take-off side)

This is a big fence, the first real test, and a fence that all the jockeys have on their mind before the start. There’s a big ditch on one side and a reasonable drop on the other, and it rides almost as though it’s bigger than it actually is. I’ve nearly hit the deck several times here, and it’s especially troublesome on the second circuit when the horses are more tired.

4 /20

(4ft 10in)

Another big, plain fence that can cause quite a few fallers. It generally rides well but, as for the previous fence, it can wipe a few out on the second circuit. In 1997, I fell here on the second circuit when going well on Smith’s Band, who very sadly did not survive.

5 /21


Big fence that tends to be as straightforward as any on the racecourse. It’s always known simply as “the one before Becher’s,” as that’s what all the jockeys are thinking about when they’re approaching it!

Grand National: Becher's Brook.
Grand National: Becher’s Brook.

6/22  Becher’s Brook


It’s not the fence itself but the drop that has made this the most famous fence in the world. Although the brook has been covered over and the drop levelled out to a considerable extent, it’s still the focus of attention.

I always used to track out to the right on approach if I could because the drop isn’t so high there. I was dead centre when I fell on West Tip in 1985. You feel as though you’re jumping out into space. You hang in the air for a long, eerie moment, and invariably horses peck when they land. There’s a history of horses falling here on the second circuit, leaders such as Andy Pandy and Uncle Merlin, because they’re more tired and the drop can catch them out. It’s been altered, but it’s still a fearsome fence.

7/23  The Foinavon

(4ft 6in)

The Foinavon fence is named after the 1967 winner who was one of the few to escape an enormous melee here on the second circuit. It’s on a bend, which can complicate matters, and although it’s small enough horses are prone to making mistakes because it comes after the shock of the drop at Becher’s. They seem not to want to get too high at this one.

Grand National: THE CANAL-TURN
Grand National: THE CANAL-TURN

8/24  The Canal Turn


The Canal Turn is where horses have to make a 90-degree turn on the landing side. You can lose a lot of ground if you go ‘straight on’, but if you’re on the inner you can very easily be hampered and find yourself in trouble. The approved method is to swing out to the right on approach and then angle in over the jump, apexing the corner and saving ground. Needless to say, there are often fallers and unseated riders here.

Grand National: Valentine’s Brook.
Grand National: Valentine’s Brook.

9/25 Valentine’s Brook

(5ft, 5ft 6in ditch on take-off side)

Not usually a problem despite its size; if you’ve made it this far, this is where you start getting your horse into a rhythm and start keeping an eye on the loose horses around you. On the second circuit, if you’re in with a chance, this is where you start thinking about tactics and about making a race of it.



A straightforward plain fence, a relief after the last few fences.


(5ft, with 6ft ditch on take-off side)

This is a big ditch but given its position, at a point of consolidation either before going out toward the second circuit or beginning the final challenge, it seems to cause less problems than many of the fences.


(5ft, with 5ft 6in ditch on landing side)

The third-last, and the last fence before crossing the Melling Road and coming back on to the racecourse ‘proper.’ You don’t want to take off too far away because there is a small ditch on the landing side.


(4ft 7in)

Ordinary plain fence, but can cause problems, notably in 1994 after it was rebuilt and thus stiffer than before. There were three or four fallers on the first circuit.


(4ft 6in)

One of the smallest on the course, but given that it’s the final fence, it often seems pretty big. By the time we get here on the second circuit there’s usually plenty of spruce dressing missing, big holes that can help if you’re on the right line to take advantage of them.

Grand National: The Chair-5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side.
Grand National: The Chair-5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side.

15 The Chair

(5ft 2in, with a 6ft ditch on the landing side)

The Chair. The tallest fence on the circuit and the approach funnels in, making it the narrowest fence, too. It’s one everyone takes care over, especially with loose horses getting in the way. It’s very important to give your horse a clear view. Now and again a horse plants itself or ends up in the ditch, and there have been several photographs of riders coming over the fence without their horse. It’s right in front of the stands, too, so there’s plenty of noise to add to the situation.

Grand National: The WATER JUMP
Grand National: The WATER JUMP

16 The Water Jump

(2ft 6in)

Never usually a problem, although now and again a horse might drop his hindlegs in the water. My grandfather fell here back in the 1920s – he was probably one of the last one’s ever to fall at it!

Royal Ascot in numbers

Mats Genberg John Franklin
30 – minutes: the time between each race.
30 – minutes: the time between each race.

Royal Ascot is legendary in the horseracing world. Never is the United Kingdom so British. Nowhere else are so many top hats and Rolls-Royce cars to be seen. Nowhere else are so many lobsters and glasses of champagne served.

Amidst this dandy environment and all the elegant spectators, this is a festival with capital F.

Hundreds of thousands of people take the 45-minute ride from London to enjoy the world’s greatest garden party—and some of the world’s best horses ever. Royal Ascot is one of the world’s top race meets, but it would not be what it is, if it weren’t for the figures.

Here are Gallop Magazine’s own facts and numbers for Royal Ascot, along with photographs by Jon Franklin.

210 –  Million Pounds £: the cost for the new grandstand at Ascot in 2006.

12 – the number of employees who care for the grass on the track.

73 – feet: the ascent the horses must complete on the final stretch.

400 – helicopters descend for Royal Ascot each year.

4 – inches: the maximum height of the grass on the track.

16 – the number of Group races during five-day meet.
16 – the number of Group races during five-day meet.

18 – the number of Group races during five-day meet.


300,000 – the number of spectators at Royal Ascot on an average year.

Private lounge.
Private lounge.


247 –  the number of private lounges at Royal Ascot.

39 – the number of kitchens that cook for the spectators.

High hats.
High hats.

4 – the number of Royal Ascots you must have attended from the Royal Enclosure before you can mentor a new visitor.

Glass of Champagne.
Glass of Champagne.

51,000 –  the number of bottles of champagne served during Royal Ascot.

Winners circle.
Winners circle.

750,000 – Pounds: the purse in the Prince of Wales Stakes.


Newmarket, a town that is all about horse racing

Mats Genberg Trevor Jones/thoroughbredphoto.com, Mats Genberg

It’s early morning in Newmarket, 60 miles from London. The town is awakening. Hardly any traffic – maybe one or two garbage trucks. And a couple of blocks from the main street, 35 racehorses walk across a pedestrian crossing. Follow GallopMagazine to the English town where it’s all about horse racing.

Driving into Newmarket is a special feeling: farmland decreases, and full, tall hedges with magnificent wooden fences line both sides of the straight road. Within a couple of miles you see stud farm after stud farm, with glorious names and impressive entrances. Behind the stud farms you can catch a glimpse of enormous, green-grass paddocks. Everything is in mint condition, but never sterile or ostentatious. Here, the horse – specifically the Thoroughbred – is the focus.

As you approach Newmarket, you encounter one of Britain’s numerous roundabouts. An enormous statue of a rearing horse with its groom graces the centre.

Plastic Lids

Signs point toward National Stud and July Course, one of the town’s two race tracks. The training fields begin right after the roundabout. On each side of the road are huge grass fields dotted with hundreds of small white plastic markers. Parallel with the road, the markers look like they should be on the runway of an old airfield.

“The plastic markers show where you can ride your gallops today,” says Jessica Humble. ”The markers are moved almost every day, so that we always have new grass to ride on. Jessica is originally from Sweden, and has lived in Newmarket for several years working as an exercise rider for many of Newmarket’s 77 professional race trainers.

To walk on the turf in Newmarket is like walking on a beautiful lawn that stretches for hundreds of acres. The land is perfect, and the roots of the grass go down about 10 inches. The calcium rich lower soil layer makes the land self-draining. A little more than half-a-mile away, the futuristic newly-built grandstand of Newmarket’s second racetrack, Rowley Mile, rises from the valley. It’s astonishingly beautiful and almost surreal. If you have ever ridden a horse, you will feel the need to set off at full speed on this track, as have many before.

Which gallops are open today? And the famous Warren Hills gallop.

King James I (Mary Stuart’s only son) was one of the first to ride here. In 1605 while hunting hare in neighbouring Fordham, suddenly he found himself in the moorlands of Newmarket. He fell in love with this “Prime Sporting Country”. He bought the house which today is the Rutland Arms Hotel, and built the town’s first royal palace. He and his staff held races here with local and Spanish horses. The Spanish horses were found on the beaches after shipwrecks from the Spanish Armada in Galloway. (The Thoroughbred didn’t exist yet).

James’ son Charles I built the first stand on the moorland. But it wasn’t until his son Charles II inherited the throne that horse racing became known as the Sport of Kings.

Charles II loved horse racing so much that he built a new palace in Newmarket, to which he moved his entire court every year. He also put formal regulations into place, and in 1665 the world’s first horse race, following these regulations, took place – The Newmarket Town Plate. Charles II himself won the race in 1671, and to this day the race is still run every year, making it the oldest annually held race in the world. At three miles, six furlongs, it’s not just the oldest race, it’s also the longest.

”It’s astonishingly beautiful and almost surreal. If you have ever ridden a horse, you will feel the need to set off at full speed on this track, as have many before.”

The Capital of Horse Racing

As the interest in horse racing grew in England, Newmarket grew as well. Horse institutions started to move there, and in 1750 the Jockey Club was founded. Soon yearly regular conditions for races were written for Newmarket, most of which are still ridden today. In 1809 the 2000 Guineas was ridden (one mile championship for 3-year olds) for the first time, and five years later the 1000 Guineas had its premier (one mile for 3-years-old fillies). These two races set the standard for similarly-named or -distanced contests in many countries around the world.

Today almost 15,000 people work in Newmarket, and approximately one in four works with Thoroughbreds or horse racing. The question is if any other sport has such an obvious capital. More than 2,500 horses are in training here. Additionally, the town is surrounded by 65 stud farms, where another 1,000 horses are trained, including The National Stud and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makboum’s Dalham Hall Stud (Darley).

When you pass the town sign (Illustrated with King Charles and race horses) and drive around in the town, you feel horse racing everywhere. The Jockey Club is located on High Street, with the statue of the stallion Hyperion in front. Next door is the horse racing museum. Some distance away is the shoe shop, which of course offers tailor-made jockey boots, and the jeweller who sells bronze statues of race horses. Tindall’s bookshop has hundreds of horse books, and art galleries have plenty of Thoroughbred portraits. A block away you see horses in the flesh. Behind a gate in a residential area you can spot a walker and a couple of stalls. And close to all this is Tattersalls, the oldest bloodstock auctioneers in the world.

”If you love horse racing, you love Newmarket,” Jessica says.

”The town is like one big race day. There’s horse racing everywhere. And a lot of young people come here. It’s like a school trip. With people [of] every age and from all over the world. ”The influence of horse culture is pretty obvious, just looking at the pubs on High Street. Jackets with trainers’ and stud farms’ names, queuing for a pint. Today’s races on the Goodwood track are shown on the TV. On the street every tenth vehicle is a horse truck. Men in caps in dented Land Rover pickups stop outside the betting office to have a chat with Ferrari owners. Owners and trainers? Or more-or-less successful gamblers?

Ex-trainer Gillian Hay still has her house at the bottom of Warren Hill: ”Everything is here. Not only the great training facilities, but also all the services you need, literally around the corner.”

Horse hospitals, veterinarians of every thinkable specialisation, horse fertility clinics, farriers with different specialties, horse transportation, saddle makers, lawyers. Everything within walking distance. And the training facilities are out of the ordinary: the Jockey Club has a total of 1100 acres of training area: 50+ miles of turf training tracks and 16+ miles of all-weather tracks (polytrack, wood chips or dirt track).

But the long grass slopes are the heart of all conditioning for many of the trainers.

Warren Hill and Long Hill Warren and Long Hills are two straight uphill grades in the north of Newmarket. To be standing there by the rail is true horse-spotting. Trainer after trainer come with their horses, or their ”string.” Usually the horses are ridden on loose reins through the town. No one in Newmarket would ever think twice about bringing a young 2-year-old Thoroughbred through street traffic. They all do it. Every day. Walking along with heads hanging, like riding school horses. Side by side with buses and strollers.

First out this day are some of the smaller trainers, with five-to-six horses each, and sinewy riders in their 60s. Cigarettes in mouth — although it has plenty of negatives, smoking is a good way to hold the appetite and weight in control.

The next group is about 30 horses or even more. Everyone is wearing the identical jackets and helmet covers. The only one wearing riding pants is the head lad, the group leader. Everyone else is riding in jeans. On an old race horse, the head lad stops traffic at the pedestrian crossings. Riding in front. Making sure everybody is doing right. Reporting to the trainer. At the bottom of the hill, he positions his horse to the side, and watches as the riders shorten their stirrups, or ”leathers.”

”Today’s races on the Goodwood track are shown on the TV. On the street every tenth vehicle is a horse truck.”

In two seconds the riding horses turn into the Formula 1 racers they are bred and trained to be. Two by two they race a mile and a quarter, up the legendary Warren Hill synthetic surface. The string gathers at the ridge and then walks down again for a new round. Then it’s back to walking again, a mile and a half across the town. After this the horses have a break, and rest until the next day. But each rider normally has two more horses to ride.

”It’s sometimes hard,” says Jessica, ”but most of all it’s fun. You get your dose of adrenalin every day! I’ll see how long I’ll manage …”

Two men stand outside the pub at High Street. They’re in their 60s. Tiny. They’d be startlingly small in all other European towns, except for Newmarket. The first thought is kind of tragic: they’re ex-jockeys who know only one thing —how to ride race horses. So what does an old jockey do? Shouldn’t he be allowed to just sit still and relax and get his porridge served while watching daytime television?

As we walk by we hear that they’re talking about horses. Horses that they’ve ridden the very same morning. “You’ll see on Saturday—he’ll show them!” one of them says. He laughs, and you clearly see that a visit to the dentist would be a good way of spending the winnings he hopes to get.

And it’s by then you realise that adrenalin is an interesting life extending drug. That it can make some riders ride longer. Very much longer. At least in Newmarket, where the school trip never ends—if you don’t want it to.



It’s been more than 200 years since the first race horse was sold by Tattersalls. Today the bloodstock auctioneers occupy a large part of Newmarket, and the 11 yearly sales fill the town with people from all over the world.

Just walking around the old stables is fascinating. Young grooms sit on folding chairs outside the stalls of the horses they are there to look after. Getting up to brush a horse before it’s about to enter the sales ring, while under the watch of potential buyers and their advisors. In the parking lot horse boxes and Land-Rovers are parked next to Aston Martins. Racing’s ability to get people from all aspects of society together is never more clear than here.

Horses and grooms waiting to enter the sales ring.
Horses and grooms waiting to enter the sales ring.

The sales ring with its dome ceiling feels like a mix of a Russian circus building, a church and a courthouse with light coming in from a multitude of windows. Sheikhs in oilskin jackets and Irish ex-jockeys in jeans stand side-by-side at the rail scrutinizing the horses before the equines enter the sales building  to be led around the ring as the bids (hopefully) come.

Even if you have no intention of buying a horse, it is a fascinating spectacle to be on location when millions (in any currency) are spent.



Racing in the UK is not like anything else. Even more so in Newmarket, since “everyone in the business” shows up whenever there’s a race. The small town has two racecourses – and not a single bend! Both July Course and The Rowley mile are straight tracks …
July Course is the coziest of the two with races in the middle of summer. Start off with a parking lot picnic around 11 am before the races. After the last race there’s often a high profile band playing, so a day at the races can easily turn into a night as well.


The only hotel on High Street. As English as they come. And one of the few hotels in the world where you need to go down stairs and turn left, when your room is up and to the left … Navigating the corridors and stairs is a fascinating experience that many Newmarket visitors can tell stories about. Classic in the best sense of the word!


The racing pub on High Street. This is where you’ll find “everyone.” Just grab a seat and a pint, and before long you’ll be speaking racing with someone.

The racing pub on High Street. This is where you’ll find “everyone.” Just grab a seat and a pint, and before long you’ll be speaking racing with someone.
The racing pub on High Street. This is where you’ll find “everyone.” Just grab a seat and a pint, and before long you’ll be speaking racing with someone.

VISIT THE Brittish Horse-racing Museum If you are new to British racing this is a great first spot to visit. They have more or less everything – including a silent courtyard where you can rest your feet and have a good lunch at a decent price.

If you are new to British racing this is a great first spot to visit. They have more or less everything – including a silent courtyard where you can rest your feet and have a good lunch at a decent price.
If you are new to British racing this is a great first spot to visit. They have more or less everything – including a silent courtyard where you can rest your feet and have a good lunch at a decent price.

Get up early and go to the training tracks (The Jockey Club has a board where they list all open gallops each day) and enjoy the beauty of Thoroughbreds in the morning mist.

Get up early and go to the training tracks (The Jockey Club has a board where they list all open gallops each day) and enjoy the beauty of Thoroughbreds in the morning mist.
Get up early and go to the training tracks (The Jockey Club has a board where they list all open gallops each day) and enjoy the beauty of Thoroughbreds in the morning mist.

A classic brittish pub in Ashley, three miles outside town. This is where you will hear trainers and owners talking about why the last race came out the way it did.
Cool decorations and great food. Open 7 am-11.30 pm.
Sundays 12-15. Closed on Mondays.

A classic brittish pub in Ashley, three miles outside town. This is where you will hear trainers and owners talking about why the last race came out the way it did. Cool decorations and great food. Open 7 am-11.30 pm. Sundays 12-15. Closed on Mondays.
A classic brittish pub in Ashley, three miles outside town. This is where you will hear trainers and owners talking about why the last race came out the way it did.
Cool decorations and great food. Open 7 am-11.30 pm.
Sundays 12-15. Closed on Mondays.

The tack-shop with all you need for racing. Watch out for excess luggage on the flight home!

The tack-shop with all you need for racing. Watch out for excess luggage on the flight home!
The tack-shop with all you need for racing. Watch out for excess luggage on the flight home!

The Pantry. If you still think that Food Culture and England do not mix (in spite of the fact that every TV cooking show in the world has British chefs) you should visit The Pantry. Here you’ll find English food at its best, presented by a couple who really want to teach us what East Anglian cooking is really all about. Stop by for Sunday lunch and chances are you’ll find yourself at the table next to Sir Henry Cecil. www.thepantryfinefoods.com

The Pantry.
The Pantry.


Photo Special

Mats Genberg

In the summer of 1994 Jon Franklin and three work colleagues from a William Hill betting shop drove down from London to the Glorious Goodwood race meeting ob the south coast of England.

”Looking back, I am glad that I took my camera along. After the summer, I was moving up to Nottingham to begin a three year full time course in Photography.

Though he was a keen follower of racing through his job at William Hill, he had not till that day attended a race meeting.

From the moment I set foot inside Goodwood Racecourse, I couldn’t put my camera down.

I was fascinated. The people, the horses, the highly charged atmosphere, the sheer beauty of the racecourse.

From that day on, I knew precisely how I was going to spend my three years at University. I was going to dedicate my time there to documenting racecourse life in Britain.”

Jon sent some of his photos to Goodwood and by chance, his style of photography fitted very much their vision at the time and Jon soon became the ”house photographer”.

This led to his involvement in the well known book ”Racing Tribe” —a light hearted study of racing and race going in Britain by social anthropologist Kate Fox.

Today Jon produces photographic imagery for the marketing departments of over twenty racecourses throughout Britain, Ireland and in Scandinavia.

‘As I say, looking back, I am glad that I remembered to take my camera with me on my day trip to Goodwood in 1994.’

It has been a marvelous photography journey and one that hasn’t ended yet.”

How to be in big races

while paying for the small

Mats Genberg Highcleare stud

Highclere is a name that has a certain ring to it. Highclere Castle is one of the truly classic British homes, located just outside the racing town of Newbury between London and Oxford. It’s so iconic in its presence that the castle was chosen to play the ”lead role” in the TV series Downton Abbey.


But Highclere Estate is not just a pretty house on TV. It has been the scene for racehorse breeding and management for many years. Highclere Stud covers more than 300 acres and is home to about 20 top quality broodmares.

”We have been into racing here for more than 100 years,” says Harry Herbert, who is the man behind Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.
Harry’s father was racing manager for The Queen, and the family lived at the now-famous castle. The royal racing manager duty is still in the family as Harry’s brother-in-law, John Warren, now holds that responsibility.

John is also considered one of the world’s top bloodstock agents, and he has a long track record of finding future racing stars at reasonable prices at sales.

”Me and John sat down one day some 20 years ago and talked about the fact that so many of the big races are won by the same owners.” Herbert said. ”You see the same silks over and over again and the same faces in the winners’ enclosures at the major races.

”At the same time you see new owners buying expensive horses and putting all their eggs in one basket. That often turns out to be not so succesful.”
With the knowledge and facilities at hand the two decided to create a brand new form of racehorse ownership—a group of syndicates aimed at owning horses at the very highest level. In turn, that gives the share owners a true race horse ownership experience at the highest level.

”The very idea is to give a full experience at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time normally needed. A bit like being Royal without the need for a royal income…”


”Syndicates are nothing new, but many times the share owner is reduced to a bill-payer,” said Herbert. ”Our idea was to provide the experience that many want but that is so hard to come by. And to do it at a cost efficient level.”

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing is different from many as it is not one syndicate. It is a group of syndicates. Also, it is not affiliated with any one trainer. All syndicates have two horses, trained by two different trainers.

”We create our new syndicates every year in June,” said Herbert. ”At that time there are no horses in them, but the trainers are already named. So when you look at a syndicate you chose one with a trainer combination that you like. Such as Andrew Balding and Richard Hannon or Sir Michael Stoute and William Haggas.”

Many of Highclere’s trainers are known for not normally accepting horses owned by partnerships, as it often means a lot of extra work for them. Highclere Racing has been an exception, having horses with most top trainers in the UK as well as some of the most respected names in France and in Australia. Once the syndicates are formed, Warren goes out to find the right horses for each syndicate. Normally some 18-20 horses are purchased at the yearling sales starting in Deauville in August and ending in Newmarket in October.

All yearlings are then shown at Highclere’s Yearling Parade at Highclere Estate in October. The event gives the new share owners a taste of what is to come. Here in the shadow of Highclere Castle everybody is a VIP and can meet their horses trainers and mingle with other owners.

”Owning a race horse is never to be seen as an investment,” said Herbert. ”It is something that adds to the fun of life, and our job as an ownership company is to make sure that each shareholder gets as much fun as possibe as ‘dividend’ for the money they put in. The best fun is of course to be in the winner’s enclosure­—but we want to make the time leading up to that to be fun as well.”

After the yearling parade, horses get their first schooling at Highclere Stud before being sent of to the trainers after a few months. This gives Highclere staff a good chance of seeing the individuals and advising the trainers on any particularities.

Share owners in Highclere’s syndicates get regular updates and can also feel trust in having the same racing manager as The Queen.
”John keeps constant track over the most suitable races for every horse and gives advice to the trainers,” said Herbert. ”And they know that his advice is normally worth listening to!”

With 30 percent of all syndicates ending up owning Black Type horses, the statistics speak for themselves. Not to mention, wins or places in all UK Classic races and seven champions. This includes the world’s highest rated racehorse in 2010 —Harbinger.

Tours to trainers yards are organized during the training period and owners get a chance to stay at the historic ”Jockey Club Rooms” in Newmarket. When a horse runs, each owner gets two owner-badges that give access to the paddock and all owner-only facilities.

”We don’t just send out e-mails,” said Herbert. ”We find it very important to have a living contact, and we often call owners to give them information and to tell about upcoming races.” Highclere Racing also has their own box at Newbury Racecourse and makes arrangements for hospitality on major race days.

”The very idea is to give a full experience at a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the time normally need,” said Herbert.
”A bit like being Royal without the need for a royal income…”

Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s famous colours.
Highclere Thoroughbred Racing’s famous colours.

Shares in Highclere Thoroughbred Racing start at about £16,000. That includes all costs for 2 horses until the end of the 2-year-old season.
A second, smaller payment is made for the 3-year-old season.
Each syndicate has 10 – 20 owners.
After the 3-year-old season, proceeds are split between owners. Any minus in the books is covered by Highclere Racing.

Famous Highclere horses

Harbinger, bought for 180,000 Guineas had 6 wins in 9 races including King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 2010. That year he was ranked the best horse in the world (135).

Memory won her debut at Goodwood before going out to win The Albany Stakes (G3) at Ascot and the Cherry Hinton Stakes (G2) at Newmarket.

Petrushka won the Irish Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks in 2000 as the first ever syndicate horse to win a Classic race in Europe. Sold for $5.25 million to Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud.

Delilah, bought for 72,000 Guineas as a yearling she went on to win the Princess Royal Stakes (G3) at Ascot and the Constant Security Park Hill Fillies Stakes (G3). She was then sold in the USA for $600,000.


of Royal Ascot 2012

Mats Genberg Alan Crowhurst/gettyimages

Royal Ascot is always that … Royal.
But never was it more Royal than 2012.
We don’t talk about the fact that Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee after 60 years on the British throne. We refer to fact that this celebration was highlighted by the King & Queen of the Turf. Frankel & Black Caviar.





The two biggest stars racing has seen in many years. The two highest rated horses in the world. Racing on the same course.
The same week. At the Royalest Ascot ever.

Frankel is ”The King.” No question. No matter what some people in Memphis might think. And even if he (just as the Graceland owner) never has performed outside his own country, the facts speak for themselves.

The King came to Ascot and The Queen Anne Stakes with 10 wins in 10 races and the highest rating in the world. He faced two of the five highest rated 3-year-olds in the world. And he destroyed them. With three furlongs left to go it was clear to all ”The King has left the building.”

Frankel bid the others a good day and went home. Passing the finnish line on the way – 11 lengths before anyone else.

In what has been described as ”possibly the greatest performance in Thoroughbred History.” The result? A rating of 147 by Time-form. 142 by Racing Post. Both are the highest ever given to any horse by each organization. And the day after the victory his trainer, Sir Henry Cecil, mentioned that Frankel lost a shoe during the last part of the race. It doesn’t get a whole lot more Royal than that.

Not even at Ascot.

Facts about Frankel


Black Caviar

Unbeaten with 21 wins in Aust-ralia. The thunder from Down Under. The magic mare Black Caviar. The one that makes the country stop when she runs. Still not completely trusted in the UK.

Was she as good as they said?

BC’s trip was covered by Oz media in a way that hasn’t been seen since when Beatles went to the U.S. in the ’60s. Filmcrews watched her get on and off the plane. Cameras followed every step. And thousands of people gathered in front of Jumbo-Trons in Australia to see the Diamond Jubliee Stakes.

Her job was to go out there and win. Odds were 1,3 to 1.

But the 1,200 metres on Ascot were tougher than expected. BC was not in her normal swing, and jockey Luke Nolen didn’t have his best day.

But the biggest remains – she won. By a nose, but she won.

Beating multiple Group 1 winners after a 16,000 km trip. With (as we learned later on) muscle tissue problems. As we see it, that’s about as Royal as it gets.

Facts about Black Caviar


TRUE COLOURS – your design on your horse

Mats Genberg Photo Trevor Jones/thoroughbredphoto.com, Jon franklin,

Formula 1 cars. Soccer teams. Corporations. Everyone’s got identifying colours today. But the tradition of colours may be the oldest in horse racing. Racing authorities require that every horse owner registers a unique colour-and-pattern combination, called silks. It’s a tradition that was started more than a hundred years ago, and that goes back all the way to the knights.


IIn horse racing, all owners design their own unique silks, which are then worn by the jockeys riding their horses. You make up a colour and pattern, submit your silks for approval with the horse racing federation and wait for approval. If the silks aren’t already being used, you are normally approved and can have the silks sewn up.

You can have one pattern on the chest, another on the arms and a third on the cap. Stars, stripes, rhombi, polka dots and other patterns in different colours. The combinations are endless.

The most desirable are the single-coloured, distinguished silks, especially in the sport’s home country, England. In the UK (where there are auctions for sought after license plates!) there are auctions for the privilege to ride in certain silks in horse racing.

There are those who are willing to go far to get silks in the colours they really want their jockeys to ride in.

Susan Magnier, of the family behind the world’s leading breeding empire, Coolmore, is one of them. In 2000 at a Sothebys auction, she paid 69 000 pounds for the right to race in all pink silks!

When the British arrange auctions of attractive horse owner silks, you will see prices up to £69,000. That doesn’t include the silks as such, just the right to compete in them.
When the British arrange auctions of attractive horse owner silks, you will see prices up to £69,000. That doesn’t include the silks as such, just the right to compete in them.

Bear in mind that this wasn’t Ms Magnier’s first silks: she already had all-dark blue silks registered. The new pink silks are used only when she has two horses in race – a couple of times per year.

Auction program
Auction program

In 2005 the British Horse Racing Authority put bronze-coloured silks up for auction at Sotheby’s. The starting bid was GBP 60 000, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s sons were willing to pay. The next year, all-grey silks were up for auction for the same amount, GBP60 000.

The auctioneer, Graham Budd, said: ”Each time single-coloured silks are on the market, the request is big. Some of the large horse owners have them, and it’s seen as prestigious to race in them.”

All this began in the early 1760’s, when it became mandatory to register your silks. In 1762 the Jockey Club in England registered 17 different silks, “to more easily be able to recognise the horses in races and even to prevent disputes to begin as a result of not be able to identify the riders.”

In 1766 the use of silks spread to “the Colonies” (now the U.S.A.), when the Philadelphia Jockey Club first registered silks.

Royal Silks

Some of the silks in the world have their own history.

In 1875 the Royal Silks were registered by Queen Victoria: purple jacket with red arms, golden strings on the chest and a black velvet cap with a golden tassel (the golden tassel Her Majesty’s idea). The silks are still seen often, as Queen Elizabeth II is a majoir horse racing enthusiast and owner.

The Queen Elizabeth II in True Colours

In 1788 the 13th Earl of Derby (called Lord Derby) chose his black silks with a white hat. These are still used by the Derby family. The silks actually are not only a black jacket with a white cap, but black with a white button and a white cap. Those details are not registered, but the button has a good story behind it: In 1924 Tommy Weston rode the Lord Derby’s (The 17th Earl of Derby) horse to victory in the English Derby. In that race he wore what appeared to be a white button on Lord Derby’s black silks: in a hurry, Weston had accidentally buttoned the jacket with his white scarf covering one of the buttons. Since that day, the button has always been part of the silks.

Military Influence

Horse racing had its western beginnings in the military: in that sense, uniforms were the de facto first silks.

In Sweden horse racing from its beginning was a sport for officers, and the riders wore their uniforms. By the late 1800s, special jockey silks began to appear and even here some where Royal. All black and a silver tassel on the cap belonged to Prince Gustaf Adolf, father to the current King Carl XVI Gustaf, during the 1920s and 30s, when he successfully rode jump races on his own horses. Prince Gustaf Adolf was actually the second-best amateur rider in 1930, with five victories in jump races!

Who has silks?

All horse owners must have a unique colour combination on their silks. And a combination of owners is considered a new owner. If, for example, Mrs Smith owns a horse, she has her own silks. If she owns a horse with her cousin Mr Jones, and the horse is registered with “Mrs Smith & Mr Jones” as owner then that “stable” must have its own silks, even if it’s only the colour on the cap that is different.

Designing silks is fun. Is a horse owned by a company that has a graphic profile? Are there any symbols or colours that have a special meaning to you? Are the colours you consider visible?

From a long distance, it can be difficult to see the difference between dark green, burgundy or marine blue. But pink and yellow might not suit everyone…

The combinations are plenty, even though there is now a European agreement that prevents too much creativity in the patterns. There’s still some variety: for coloured jackets, 25 different body details are available, plus 10 different patterns for the arms and eight different for the caps. You are also allowed to use any of 23 different colours in the creation of new silks.


Jörgen Nilsson Mirrorpix, Trevor Jones/thoroughbredphoto.com

When Milan-born jockey Lanfranco Dettori arrived at Ascot racecourse on 28 September 1996, he was quite well known in the British domestic racing scene and had been Anglicized to the more familiar ‘Frankie.’ Nevertheless, on the international racing stage he was still merely in consideration for a minor role.
Until that Saturday, that is. By the end of the day, he was making headlines all over the world.


Meanwhile, Pat Epton, a cleaner and a mother of four from Lincolnshire, was a devoted admirer of Frankie Dettori. When she noticed that the object of her admiration was riding in all seven races at Ascot, it was only natural that she bet a half-pound win on each of Dettori’s seven mounts.

Darren Yates from Morecambe was far more than a devoted admirer of Dettori—he was obsessed. He was also a compulsive gambler who backed all of Dettori’s runners. This passion was not shared by his wife, especially since her husband’s gambling strategy was going as badly as his cabinet-making business. Yates had reassured his wife more than once there would be no more gambling on his part, and on this particular Saturday, he made the same promise as he left home for a football game. But on the way, he took a detour to the local betting-shop, William Hill, and invested a large amount of the household money on his Italian idol. It was supposed to be that very last bet every confirmed gambler considers, and he placed a major part of the investment in a half a pound Super Heinz.

A Super Heinz is a wager on seven selections that consists of 120 separate bets: 21 doubles, 35 trebles, 35 fourfolds, 21 fivefolds, seven sixfolds and a sevenfold accumulator. Since the winning odds are multiplied with each other, the final odds can be astronomical on a lucky day. Yates completed his wager with an each-way accumulator, meaning that Dettori’s seven runners should either win, or at least come in second. He wagered a pound and opted for the Early Bird odds, which are fixed odds that do not fluctuate with the market movements on the race-course.

Kevin Nightingale was not in the best of moods when he opened Corals betting-shop in Battersea in south London. He had lost big time on Dettori’s five runners the previous day at Haydock Park. He got a good laugh for himself when a customer wagered a £5 each-way accumulator on Dettori’s five first runners at Ascot.

Fred Done, the owner of a chain of betting-shops in the north of England, made a devastating decision when he gathered the staff for the morning meeting that day. He proclaimed that the customers who wagered on multiple bets should be offered a double bonus.

John and Mary Bolton celebrated
their 19th wedding anniversary in London that weekend. It was decided Mary should do some shopping while John spent the afternoon at Ascot. As a gift, Mary received a bet consisting of her own picks. As they studied the race card together, she chose the easy way out when her husband tormented her with questions. “Take Frankie Dettori,” she said. And to end the questioning session rapidly, she continued, “In all seven races.”

John Bolton strolled down to Ladbrokes betting shop and wagered 21 nine pound doubles and a five pound each-way accumulator on Dettori’s seven rides. He preferred the Early Bird odds and paid £217 for the lot.

As the audience flooded into Ascot that day, Gary Wiltshire arrived in a fairly good mood. Wiltshire was an on-course-bookmaker who managed his business directly on the British racecourses. He was a master in his métier and had earned a minor fortune during his long and industrious carrier.
When Wiltshire left his £500,000 house, he was actually on his way to Worcester Racecourse, but after a second glance at the Ascot race card, he made a fatal decision. The races looked difficult—every bookmakers dream—and he went to Ascot instead. Andy Smith, a colleague of Wiltshire, was of the same opinion and also on his way to Ascot. But the bookie got stuck in a traffic jam and instead headed for Worcester.

Our main character, Frankie Dettori, had not had one of his best outings at Haydock the previous day, and expressed a bit of worry to his fiancée saying, “I´ve got a bad feeling about Saturday.” But encouraged by a night’s sleep, the Italian estimated a decent each-way chance in the first race and a proper win chance in the highlight of the afternoon, The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

The Cumberland Lodge Stakes is a Group 3 race run over a distance of one mile and four furlongs. In the blue colours of Godolphin, Dettori mounted the 3-year-old filly Wall Street as a favourite. The Italian made no mistakes and fulfilled the crowds’ expectations through a rather comfortable victory. The punters got an immediate advantage from the on-course bookmakers at Ascot.

”But after a second glance at the Ascot race card, he made a fatal decision. The races looked difficult — every book-makers dream — and went for Ascot instead”

Except for Tote, at this time owned by the UK Government (sold to Betfred 2011), the English bookmakers are exposed to liability. Hence it is not the punters’ generated money that determines the odds in a betting pool like in pari-mutuel betting. Both the off-course bookmaker and the on-course bookmaker offer fixed odds, with no economical back up but their own purse. Of course, bookmaking is a far more complicated business, but it is never to the benefit of the bookmakers when the public favourites or national icons triumph.

In the second race of the afternoon, The Diadem Stakes, a Group 2 race run over six furlongs, Dettori was yet again dressed in the Godolphin colors. His mount Diffident faced a dozen contenders, and having not impressed in his previous two races, the Godolphin horse went off at 12/1.

Dettori, who rode Diffident for the first time, got a prominent position early on from stall 10. The race went slowly, and it was just one furlong out that things began to happen. The heavily backed favourite, Lucayan Prince, had been in trouble throughout the whole race but finished quickly. However, it was too late. Dettori had already made his move and held on to a close victory. It was a characteristic jockey win, and the Dettori followers were exultant.

Done, the proprietor of a chain of betting-shops in the north of England, was soon notified of the forthcoming threat. An employee phoned him at his home and made him aware that there was £20,000 riding on Dettori ahead of the third race.

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, a Group 1 race run over one mile, was undoubtedly the main event of the afternoon. The starting field was all talent.

The 3-year-olds included Bosra Sham, winner of 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket; Ashkalani, winner of Poule d’Essai des Poulains; and Bijou d’Inde, winner of St James’s Palace Stakes. The elder guard wasn’t bad either: First Island, a Sussex Stakes winner; Charnwood, a Queen Anne Stakes winner; and Soviet Line, winner of the Lockage Stakes.

Dettori mounted Godolphin’s 3-year-old Mark of Esteem, who had won the 2,000 Guineas earlier in the year. He was scratched from the Epsom Derby and failed in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Mark of Esteem sweated up in the parade ring, and the on-course punters made him shared second favourite with Bosra Sham. Ashkalani was in a poor shape and turned out to be a bad favourite.

Bijou d’Inde set the early pace together with Bosra Sham, and Mark of Esteem trailed five lengths behind. As Bijou d’Inde tired, Dettori advanced inside the final furlong and the race developed into two-horse contest. As they approached the finishing line, Pat Eddery on Bosra Sham had a slight advantage and felt he couldn´t lose. He was wrong.

From the corner of the eye, Eddery noticed Dettori raising his right hand, claiming victory. Mark of Esteem had a tremendous turn on foot, or as the Italian expressed it, “When I asked him, the response was electric.”

Dettori’s third win alerted the betting companies to the gravity of the situation. Another Dettori win and they would face big payouts on popular betting types such as Yankee and Lucky 15.

Frankie Dettori leaps from Fujiyama Crest, his 7th out of 7 winners Ascot Festival 28th September 1996 © Trevor Jones
Frankie Dettori leaps from Fujiyama Crest, his 7th out of 7 winners Ascot Festival 28th September 1996
© Trevor Jones

A Yankee is a multiple bet consisting of four selections divided into six doubles, four trebles, and finally a fourfold accumulator. Lucky 15 is basically the same but includes four win bets which altogether makes 15 combinations, hence the name. The punters could pick any of Dettori’s seven mounts, but unfortunately, especially from the point of view of the betting companies, most of the money was on the first four races—simply because they were the only races covered by the BBC.

The dominating betting companies at this time, William Hill, Coral and Ladbrokes, were heavily exposed by the fact they were laying a major part of the multiple bets. Most of the multiple bets were premised on starting price, which is the average odds offered by the on-course bookmakers who operate on the racecourses.

In contrast to the fixed Early Bird odds, the starting price odds fluctuate until the race begins—a fact that the off-course bookmakers could utilize by having representatives at the racetrack who shorten the starting price odds if necessary as a kind of assurance.

For example, Dettori’s next mount, John Gosden’s Decorated Hero was available early on at 12/1 but went off at 7/1 through a collective endeavor by the exposed off-course bookmakers.

The Tote Festival Handicap rounded up 26 runners. Decorated Hero carried top weight and had a bothersome draw in stall 22. Dettori was in no way optimistic, but the race turned out perfectly for the pair.

Decorated Hero ran wide and gradually worked his way into the field. With one furlong to go, Dettori headed front and kept on well, winning easily by 3.5 lengths. The jockey, who had already pleased the crowd with his spectacular flying dismount after his victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, celebrated with restriction after his fourth win: raising his fist, hiding his thumb and spreading four fingers apart.

The accumulated odds after Dettori’s fourth win were up to 1351/1. The major betting companies knew that it could easily go from bad to worse. In the upcoming race there were potential betting payouts for the Super Yankee, which consists of five selections combined in a total of 26 bets. This would be extremely bad and could get even worse if Dettori was victorious in the sixth and seventh race, considering the enormous payouts on Heinz (six selections) and Super Heinz (seven selections).

The BBC was only scheduled to transmit the first four races. But instead of ending the transmission as usual, it decided to linger for a few more races, hopeful of a continuation of Dettori’s one-man show.

This bewildered Yates when he entered the local pub just in time for the fifth race. He was a bit crestfallen after a disappointing four-nil defeat in the afternoon’s football game, and later on he knew he had to face his wife with an acceptable explanation about the missing household money. When he became aware of what was going on at Ascot, it was not a matter of drowning his sorrows. His initial £67,58 wager had produced a net profit of £700 and it was far from over.

The 3-year-old Godolphin filly Fatefully was available at 9/2 as fixed odds that morning. When the bell rang and the gates opened in the Rosemary Rated Stakes, Fatefully’s odds had crashed to seven to four. The message was obvious from the off-course bookmakers: Salvage what you can, at the expense of the on-course bookmakers.

The Rosemary Rated Stakes is a handicap race run over a mile. Fatefully broke well and Dettori placed the filly neatly high up in the field. With two and half furlong to go, Dettori advanced and squeezed through to lead one furlong out. The filly barely held on to a close victory and managed to survive a stewards´ enquiry.

There was no need for Dettori to fold in his thumb this time. He raised his right hand and demonstrated that he was born without flaws, spreading five fingers apart.

In the north of England, Done the book maker knew he was in trouble. He was at his office calculating the losses up to the fifth race. It was a disaster already, and it was going to get worse—a lot worse.

In London, Mary Bolton had returned to the hotel after some serious shopping. She decided to watch the races on TV while waiting for her husband. After the fourth race she calculated that she had already won £15,000. When Dettori won the fifth race she couldn’t bear to watch anymore and left the hotel pacing the streets nervously.

The sixth race, the Blue Seal Conditions Stakes, attracted a quintet runners. Under normal circumstances, Dettori’s mount, Ian Balding’s Lochangel, would be considered the second or third choice behind the odds-on favorite, Henry Cecil’s Corsini.

However, ’normal’ was not the correct word to describe the events at Ascot that day. Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill poured tons of money on Lochangel in order to keep the starting price as short as possible. The professional gamblers utilized the overgenerous odds on Corsini, and when the gates opened, Lochangel and Corsini were five to four joint favourites.

According to Balding, Dettori was supposed to drop the horse in the field and go for a late run. However, in a split second Dettori reappraised the situation and decided to do the running in front. Eddery soon accompanied him on Corsini and the two of them drew clear of the field.

The home stretch at Ascot was a marvelous display of Dettori’s extraordinary riding skills. Whenever Eddery and Corsini seemed to approach, Dettori extracted another length of Lochangel and proved his change of game plan to be a stroke of genius.

Dettori had use of both his hands in the winners’ enclosure—the raised left hand, five fingers spread apart, joined with the right fists, thumb out, and an almost surprised smile demonstrating the sixth victory. He had equaled the record set by legends like Willie Carson, Gordon Richards and Alec Russell. The crowd at Ascot praised him as a hero.

Yates had plenty of reasons for grinning—specifically 27,000—for each sterling pound his multiple bet had generated, with one race to go.

Done the bookie did not grin that broadly. Through a quick but rather depressing arithmetic exercise, he established that Dettori’s six victories had escalated to 8,365/1 based on starting price odds. He dug out his chequebook and prepared for the day of reckoning.

Fujiyama Crest was title defender in the upcoming Gordon Carter Handicap. Nevertheless, the horse had presented poor form since and in addition, had been off for three months. He was also burdened with more weight this year and had been offered at double-figure Early Bird odds.

The general belief was that Dettori stood little chance going through the race card on board Fujiyama Crest. The Early Bird odds offering prices from 12/1 up to 20/1 were a correct estimation under normal circumstances.

However, at Ascot on this afternoon, the betting ring (the area where the British on-course bookmakers charge their business) had developed into a war zone. The three major off-course bookmakers were forced to shorten the starting price odds on Fujiyama Crest as a security measure. Despite their combined efforts the odds refused to drop below 2/1.

Afterward it was appreciated that the turnover in the betting ring on Fujiyama Crest reached a staggering £600,000. The on-course bookmakers had lost a fortune in the previous races to the representatives of the big betting companies and spotted an opportunity. Since they were completely convinced that Fujiyama Crest couldn’t win, they kept the pot boiling by refusing to lower the starting price odds below 2/1. They had stumbled into their own trap: instead of working the percentage, they had become gamblers.

”However, ’normal’ was not the correct word to describe the events at Ascot that day. Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill poured tons of money on Lochangel in order to keep the starting price as short as possible”

Unaware of the events in the betting ring, Dettori approached the starting gate on board Fujiyama Crest wearing the blue and pink silks of Japanese owner Seisuke Hata.

Shooting Light, a long shot contender partly owned by a certain J M Brown, manager of the bookies of William Hill, was heading in the same direction. The riding instructions communicated to jockey Tim Sprake by Brown were intended as a joke but to be taken seriously: “If you get anywhere near Frankie, stick him over the rails—I´ll pay your fine.”

The Gordon Carter Handicap stretches over two miles, and when top weighted Fujiyama Crest headed for lead, the atmosphere was tangible. Dettori kept a moderate pace unchallenged, and as the acknowledged judge of pace, he made no mistakes and got his mount into a nice rhythm.

Ray Cochrane noticed something he never experienced at Ascot before when he passed the grand stand on Pike Creek—a sustained roar. It was a noise that accompanied Dettori as he left the stands downhill towards Swinley Bottom (a turn at Ascot Race Course). Still no one challenged with five furlongs to go, and Fujiyama Crest showed no signs of fatigue.

In front when the field entered the home stretch, Fujiyama Crest was burdened by the top weight. Eddery on Northern Fleet closed in with the rest of the field. Dettori looked back, worried by the approaching sound of Northern Fleet’s clumping hooves. He pumped vigorously and Fujiyama Crest responded.

One furlong out, Northern Fleet was still cutting the margin, but the roar of the crowd carried Dettori and Fujiyama Crest to a narrow victory. The Italian defined his place in the history books by adding one more finger to his victory gesture and completed his achievement with his trademark—the spectacular flying dismount.

Simultaneously as the champagne flooded the winners’ enclosure at Ascot, Dettori’s feat reached front-pages throughout the world. Sporting Life changed the front page the whole afternoon due to Dettori’s tour de force. And when they were ready to print, the headline proclaimed “The Magnificent Seven,” the very wording their rival Racing Post chose.

The bookies in the betting ring were not likely to participate in the champagne party. As an on-course bookmaker put it, “If a bookmaker hasn´t lost a fortune this afternoon, then they just don´t lay horses properly.”

Bookie Wiltshire, the one who was originally was heading for Worcester that day, had lost about £800,000 at Ascot and was facing ruin. He was forced to sell his expensive and hard earned house. When he laid his first one-pound bet later that evening at Milton Keynes dog track, he thought, “It´s going to be a long way back from there.”

In north England, bookmaker Done was done calculating. He had lost £1,500,000—a figure that could have been so much less if he had kept his mouth shut during that morning meeting. He got use of a full chequebook and handled the situation in good spirit, screening Reward, Dead or Alive: Good Looking Italian Kid, Last seen In Ascot Area from the front of his betting shops.

”Reward, Dead or Alive: Good Looking Italian Kid, Last seen In Ascot Area”

Jockey Frankie Dettori November 2006
Jockey Frankie Dettori November 2006

John Bolton had experienced a depressing day at Ascot, constantly backing the wrong horses. That fact did not bother him in the least as he tore apart his bet tickets. He was mainly concerned with two other things: How much money had his wife won on his wedding day gift and was the betting slip in safekeeping?

Ahead of the seventh race, he had heard rumours of a customer at Ladbrokes that had £29,000 rolling on Fujiyama Crest at 20/1. It could only be his wife, he figured. When he returned to the hotel, he found his wife slightly awed but firmly holding the betting slip.

The next day, he got the answer to his first concern: Mary Bolton had technically won a shocking £900,000. However, she had to settle with £500,000 since that was the amount of Ladbrokes pay-out-limit. Still, it was a decent wedding day gift under any circumstances.

Epton, the cleaner who wagered a half a pound win ticket on Dettori’s seven runners, collected a total of £19. If she had bet another half-pound in an accumulator on all Dettori’s mounts, she would have increased her winning by roughly £120,000. She was quite pragmatic about it stating, “What you haven’t got, you don’t miss.”

Yates knew that the invested household money had yielded well, but not to the exact amount. He had forgotten he opted the Early Birds odds and was euphoric when he learnt his multiple bet had exceeded William Hill’s pay-out-limit by £50,000—making a total win of £550,823. And presumably, for once, his wife was rather pleased her husband had ignored her advice.

The following Sunday, Yates got an offer he could not refuse. He was to be paid the full amount by William Hill if he went public, and additionally, his Italian idol, Frankie Dettori, would personally hand out the winning cheque. He didn´t hesitate for one second.

William Hill and Ladbrokes paid out £8,000,000 each, while Coral got away with only paying out £4,000,000. In the end, the bookmaking industry lost almost £40 million on Dettori’s seven winners that Saturday afternoon, September 28, 1996.

Dettori’s consecutive seven winners added up to £384,992 in earnings for the owners. Dettori kept about £16,000 in basic pay. But of course winning the entire race card at Ascot, which means beating not only the very best of Thoroughbreds but the most able riders as well, was worth far more than that.

According to an interview some years later, Dettori claimed that a prominent recollection of his record-breaking day was that he went to bed in an extremely bad mood due to a quarrel with his fiancée.

What did they argue about?

That trifle had slipped his mind.