How a primary school fire put paid to a major betting coup

Jeannie reflects on a bet that was foiled by a school fire

coleridge 001

Based in the West Sussex Gazette office in Arundel during the 1990’s, for both equestrian and news coverage, it was inevitable that there were occasional trips to the betting office, a short walk away, and we kept a supply of betting slips in a drawer in the news room.

It was the start of the Flat season, and encouraged by some recent successes over jumps, a colleague, Alan, asked me to recommend a horse that would win.
I’d already chosen my four horses for a 10p Lucky 15 – four win singles, six doubles, four trebles and an accumulator, costing the princely sum of £1.50.
My main selection was a  horse called Coleridge, a quirky four-year-old grey then trained by Derek Shaw at Ashington for Paddy Shehan at Woodmans Farm.
I’d seen him at Derek’s base not long before, where the horse was being given indiviual treatment he needed after not responding to life at Newmarket.
“He had a history of being a horse that was difficult to handle. He has immense talent but the problem is getting him to implement it on the racecourse,” said Derek. who now trains at Sproxton in Leicestershire..
He liked the challenge of Coleridge who could down tools in mid-gallop, or feel like a Rolls Royce going down to the star, but come out of the stalls like a Mini, and vice versa.
His recipe for success was infinite patience combined with variation in work, including hunting.
One of his rejuvenating methods was to send the horse loose up the gallops with his Jack Russell, Sam, in hot pursuit, which both horse and dog thoroughly enjoyed.
He was a long shot that day, but I decided to add him to my list, with a couple of others from the same meeting that I felt had a chance, despite fairly long prices.
My banker was King Credo, trained by the late Syd Woodman of East Dean, who was running over jumps at Newbury that day and to my mind certain to win.
” If you think that will win, I’ll have a fiver on it,” said Alan.
He duly made out his slip as well and we put them both on one side ready for the lunchtime sortie to the betting office.
A short while later the phone rang and I learned that Findon Primary School was on fire and I had to go over there with a photographer to get a story and interviews for the following week’s paper.
When we got back to the office, Alan said to me: “Are you going to put those bets on or what?”
I”Never mind, it was a real long shot. I’ll convert my bet to a 20p win patent without Coleridge,” I told Alan.
I headed off to the betting office, put on both bets, taking the price at 4-1 on King Credo and turned round to look at the results screen.
Coleridge had won at 40-1! I was devastated.
Not only that but my three remaining runners all won, the two Flat runners at  big prices, and I netted more than £60 just on the patent.
I refused to work out what I could have won, but my son promptly did it when I told him later what had happened and it amounted to several thousand pounds for just £1.50.
Incidentally Coleridge went on to finish fourth in the Cesarewitch at 66-1  that season.
Meanwhile Alan  was delighted with his £20 winnings on the classy King Credo and it was soon to lead to a very interesting summer of betting at the West Sussex Gazette- but that’s another story.

Retraining of Racehorses plays a vital part in life after racing

Trainer John Dunlop with  second placed Naughty Noah ridden by Miss D Keegan who both qualified for Retrained Racehorse Challenge at Edenbridge & Oxted Show, in August 2012

Pembrokeshire Show: Trainer John Dunlop with winner Jonathan Martin and Swift Alliance and second placed Naughty Noah ridden by Miss D Keegan who both qualified for Retrained Racehorse Challenge at Edenbridge & Oxted Show, in August 2012

Ex-racehorses are achieving outstanding successes in a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from dressage, show jumping, and side saddle through to endurance, eventing, polo and horseball.

You have only to take a look at side-saddle events for retired racehorses at the South of England Show and other county events throughout the country to see the transformation that can be achieved, turning these thoroughbreds into elegant, well-disciplined and talented competition horses.

Retraining of Racehorses- British Horseracing’s official charity for the welfare of horses which have retired from racing- is a major factor in this success.
The organisation, known as RoR raises funds from within the Racing Industry to help support this, as well as providing facilities and promoting the adaptability of racehorses to other equestrian activities. It also runs a well-established programme of competition sponsorship and clinics to help educate and improve rider handling of  former racehorses.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a balance between the number of horses leaving racing and the number of enthusiastic, and suitable, new homes. RoR provides part funding for four charitable centres, which provide care and retraining for former racehorses before placing them in suitable homes.One of these , Moorcroft Racehorse Welfare Centre, is at Slindon in West Sussex, and the others  are Greatwood, HEROS and the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre.

Clearly not all racehorses go on to star in a different sphere, but RoR hopes that, on seeing what can be done, more riders will think about taking on a racehorse when they are looking for a new horse.

This will help the charitable centres, the professional retrainers and, most importantly, the horses to find secure and knowledgeable new homes. RoR runs annual Elite Performance Awards for each discipline, in which competitors accumulate points at events throughout the country.

Rogers Revenge who qualified for Hickstead with Deirdre Johnston

Rogers Revenge who qualified for Hickstead with Deirdre Johnston

A programme has already been set up for 2013, with the person with most points in a discipline receiving £2,500 and the runner-up, a second prize of £500.For details of this programme and for more information about RoR see

* A new venture, EQuestrian Time run by RoR is a prominent discussion panel
tackling a wide range of issues. The first of these held in January 2013  at Oaksey House in Lambourn was a huge success when Sir Mark Todd joined Yogu Breisner, Bobby McEwan, Jamie Osborne and Lizzy Drury of Saracens to answer a  variety of questions from the audience.

Topics covered ranged from kissing spines, gastric ulcers, feet and joint problems, through to advice on breeding and considering the right temperament for retraining for any discipline. EQuestrian Time evening shows are planned to move around the country, enabling everyone to benefit, with the next taking place at Osbalton Riding Centre in Blackburn, Lancashire on January 31.

For details of further dates across the UK during February and March visit or the RoR on Facebook or follow on twitter @rorlatest.

For anyone needing individual advice on how to care for and retrain an ex-racehorse, or more personal and in-depth help, RoR also runs a Horse Care Helpline on 01780 740773 or you can e-mail


Colourful carriage driving spectacular will take place in Sussex

All manner of carriages will be at the event. Sarah Cockram is pictured here with her Friesian horses

All manner of carriages will be at the event. Sarah Cockram is pictured here with her Friesian horses

ONE of the most colourful spectaculars of carriage driving will take place on Easter Monday this year, April 1, at the South of England Centre, Ardingly, West Sussex.

The London Harness Horse Parade is steeped in tradition and offers spectators a glimpse into a world gone by and for those participating, a chance to showw off their best turnouts as well as to meet up with friends and fellow enthusiasts.

It is an amalgamation of two historic events- the London Cart Horse Parade, which was founded in 1885, and the London Van Horse Parade, which was founded in 1904.

There will be a new award this year- The Worshipful have not entered the London Harness Horse Parade within the last five years.

This will be determined by the Parade Secretary’s records of entries based on the exhibitor and not the animal(s) or vehicle.

All entries which qualify will receive a special rosette and a copy of the Centenary History Book “Parade”, in addition to any other prizes. Only entries that come forward for judging at the parade will be eligible for this award.

The first 12 eligible entries will receive a refund of £12 towards their entry fee.

For more details see:

Try this mounted sport which is exhilarating and packed with action and fun


Tent pegging is an exhilarating sport

Tent pegging is an exhilarating sport

If you have ever fancied a mounted sport that is exhilarating, action packed and fun, then there is one operating in Sussex  which caters for adults and juniors across the county and beyond.

Sussex Peggers Riding Club is welcoming, friendly and serious about its sport and has adult and junior members from across Sussex and beyond.

Based at Ditchling Common Stud Riding School it offers mounted skill at arms lessons for horse riders aged from 8 to 60+, with expert tuition, a focus on safety and great facilities. If you’re looking to learn a new equestrian discipline that will teach you new skills and improve your all-round horse riding then mounted skill at arms is the sport for you.

Skill at arms is a mounted sport that is exhilarating, action packed and fun. Disciplines are many and involve riding at the canter and gallop, on the flat and over jumps, with weapons such as sword, lance, revolver or pricker. Points are awarded for striking and carrying targets, and for speed and style.It is the first mounted skill at arms club to be awarded the status if an approved British Riding Club by the British Horse Society.

Disciplines include tent pegging, which is a test of accuracy, agility and athleticism. This involves galloping towards a 7.5cm wide peg placed in the ground and removing it on the point of a lance or sword. This can be done individually, or as a synchronised team riding abreast as half sections (two riders) or sections (three or four riders) or riding Indian file (four riders) in single file.

The  club’s first competition of the season is on March 24 while  on May 25-27, it is holding an inter-club  competition against a team from Holland.  A training weekend and competition for junior riders follows on Saturday and Sunday June 22-23.

Once again memnbers will be shpwing their skills over the August Bank Holiday weekend a England’s medieval festival at Herstmonceux which will have three days of competition and costumes from the Middle Ages.

Membership benefits of Sussex Peggers Riding Club include: 3rd party insurance for riders through British Riding Clubs, regular training, club competitions and a league series and social events throughout the year. All for £30 a year for adults, £20 for students and £10 for juniors. Email the Club for more details or see


New scheme to help young dressage riders achieve professional level

Help for young dressage riders

Help for young dressage riders

A new scheme aimed at young riders who have the talent and aspirations to make it professional level has been announced by British Dressage.

From September 2013, Hartpury College, through its Equine Academy and in conjunction with British Dressage, British Eventing  and the British Equestrian Federation , will bring its hugely successful Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) to equestrianism.

Already successful in several main-stream sports, the course offers selected talented riders the opportunity to get their foot on the career ladder and progress their skills, whilst learning how to manage all aspects of life in a professional sport as well as the chance to continue their education at the same time.

The AASE dressage and para-dressage schemes are open to riders aged 16 – 19 who meet specific criteria set by BD, and those who are selected will have the choice to complete the course either at Hartpury or from their home training base.

Apprentices will combine their riding with units aimed at preparing them for all aspects of their future career and will have access to a high quality training environment with modern well equipped facilities plus the benefit of talented coaches, conditioning experts, physiotherapists, nutritionists and one-on-one mentors.

The course has a variable duration, starting at twelve months for a full time Hartpury based student, through to much more flexible packages for those who choose to take the apprenticeship from home.

BD Education and Development Manager Jo Brown commented; “This is a great new initiative for riders who are talented and driven to become the elite riders of tomorrow.

“AASE provides a great way to combine a focus on a competitive dressage career with the opportunity to learn all the additional skills which make athletes successful. Riders also have the option to study A levels alongside the apprenticeship, which gives a realistic choice for young people who want to combine further education with a growing passion and dedication to dressage.”

Entry Criteria
All riders must have 5 GCSE grades at C or above. This is a minimum requirement to be considered for selection.

Details of the scheme are available at and search ‘Hartpury Equine AASE’.

For dressage and para-dressage AASE eligibility or other queries please contact Jo Brown, Education and Development Manager at British Dressage,, tel 02476 698833


A Fontwell mudbath started a lucrative tea fund venture

Sandcastle and connections following the Fontwell win

Sandcastle and connections following the Fontwell win

A FEW weeks after Coleridge’s spectacular 50-1 win victory at the opening of the Flat season (see earlier story here)  I was about to go to cover Fontwell races and take some pictures, when a colleague made a suggestion.
Spurred on by his financial success with a bet I had suggested on King Credo at Newbury, Alan said: “Why don’t you take some of the tea money with you and put it on something you think might win?”
Other colleagues agreed. We’d accumulated a healthy surplus from the £1 a week we all contributed to cover milk, coffee, tea and sugar.
“Well, just £5 then, ” said a more cautious one.
Off I went on rainy April day, with the skies looking ominously darker. The first person I saw at the track was a friend, trainer Paul Howling who was then based at Brook.
He was hopeful his horse, Sandcastle, might win the seller that day.
Sandcastle was an 11-year-old gelding, which had joined Paul’s string comparatively recently. His form in the last year had been poor, though he had clocked up 11 wins during his career.
The race was a conditional jockey’s selling hurdle handicap with 19 runners and the horse had David Bridgwater on board- a very capable young rider (and now an astute trainer). The owners were a couple from Health Dynamics Ltd.
The rain started coming down in torrents  before the race and I decided to put the tea fund money on at 16-1, with  £2.50 each way- there were 16 runners with bets paid out to four places.
A handful of the runners were pulled up in the two mile six furlong race and only a few were in serious contention in the final stages of what was becoming a mud bath.
Sandcastle plugged on to lead resolutely on the run-in, and won by a length and a half.
I’d already done my mental calculations as I joined the ecstatic party to welcome him into the winner’s enclosure.
The tea fund money had gained £50!
My colleagues were delighted and decided that rather than share out the £50, we would continue with our ‘investments’.
We concentrated on local horses and Charles Cyzer’s horses were beginning to run on the Flat. We followed the string, and he sent out 27 winners that season, including one from Art Form, three from Master Planner and five with Bold Resolution, and victories also came from Day of History, Temple Knight and Molly Splash, to name but a few.
Derek Shaw’s Fascination Waltz was another good winner for us at 12-1 at Windsor.
After a few weeks, Alan said to me: “I don’t like having this money stuck in a box in the drawer. It’s getting too much. I think we should put it in an account.”
So we opened an account with the building society down the road and called it The West Sussex Gazette Tea Fund.
I was regularly paying in money and on one occasion when we had a particularly good win with an each way double on Derek Shaw’s Coleridge , who finished fourth in the Cesarwitch at 66-1 and stable companion Fascination Waltz second at 12-1 in a six furlong handicap race  with 24 runners on the same day at the same meeting.
A very nice touch with combined place odds of just over 48-1……
When I paid the money into our building society account, the cashier looked at me in amazement and said in disbelief: “You drink an awful lot of tea in your office!”.
Eventually when someone left, the fund was disbanded and shared out. We had made a very healthy profit but above all had great fun doing it.  Happy Days!

Lucy continues vital donkey charity work in Israel

Lucy Fensome with rescued donkeys in the Holy Land

Lucy Fensome with rescued donkeys in the Holy Land

Sussex-based Lucy Fensome first visited Israel in 1989, when she was 19 to work for the Jerusalem Society for the Protection of Animals.

It was whilst working there that she first encountered cruelty inflicted on working animals throughout Israel and Palestine and the
incredibly harsh lives they lead day after day.

Later, when working as senior cabin crew for British Airways was driven by the desire to help, as much as she single-handed, the donkeys she
had seen working and living in such miserable conditions.

Her search for land to start her sanctuary in Israel was not easy but she eventually found a small barn and field to rent on a kibbutz
called Gezer and rescued her first donkey in March 2001.

Others soon followed and her charity, Safe Haven for Donkeys, became her home and she now shares it with more than 160 resident donkeys, four horses and two mules.

It is a far cry today from those early beginnings because Lucy now runs a mobile clinic and training courses in Palestine for local farriers
as well as education programmes.

Lucy with a working donkey

Lucy with a working donkey

Last year the first permanent clinic was opened in the Palestinian town of Qalqilya.

Lucy says her work has only been made possible by the wonderful support she has received from people in Sussex, in the UK generally as well as
other support from around the world.

She said: “We have taken in three new donkeys, plus a very poor horse and foal from Qalqily area. Misty came to us last June when a soldier told his
parents in Gan Yoshiyya to tell us about her. The donkey had arrived at his base’s outpost a few days previously, standing outside the electric
fence and gate.

“For us, trying to locate and find the army base was not easy at all, taking us into areas we never knew existed- but when we finally reached
it and saw that poor white donkey we knew it had all been worthwhile. She, like Anisa, unfortunately is very afraid of people and tried to
back away from us when we attempted to catch her. But we managed in the end with the help of one of the older, bigger soldiers!

“He told us how his family had a little donkey when he was a child and he remembered being very fond of it. So Misty, who we think is
around eight years of age, began the long journey back home in the horse box. She seemed thankful, though slightly in awe of
it all when we finally got back here late that night and put her in her own little stable.”

A major piece of good news is that, thanks to a major donation from one supporter, the charity has been able to open The Haven of Hope for
Nablus. It opened its doors last summer and is currently providing treatment for more than 200 donkeys, mules and horses each week.

SHADH relies entirely on donations from the public to be able to continue its vital work with donkeys in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra is the charity’s Royal Patron, while former MP Ann Widdecombe is another patron, along with actor
Anthony Head.

Locally the charity has shops in Burgess Hill and Portslade, while supporters hold regular fundraising events in Sussex, ranging from sponsored
walks to sales.

To support this charity contact local organiser Wendy Ahl at:The Old Dairy, Springfield Farm, Lewes Road, Scaynes Hill, Haywards Heath,West Sussex,
RH17 7NG 01444 831177 Email:

Special Cheltenham Festival preview before Fontwell Park’s next meeting


View of racing from Fontwell's grandstand

View of racing from Fontwell’s grandstand

Enjoy a special Cheltenham Festival Preview before racing at Fontwell Park’s next fixture on Wednesday March 6, when the seven race card will be a special one enclosure only meeting.

Racegoers can  book tickets in advance for only £11 when done on line. All racegoers will have access to every public area of the racecourse, including the ground floor of the 888sport Premier Grandstand. This includes numerous catering outlets, bars and two betting halls.

They will also enjoy an expert rundown on the Greatest Show on Turf in the grandstand ground floor,  before Fontwell’s racing starts at 2.10pm with the promise of some hotly contested races and exciting action.

To book and for more information contact





There’s no such thing as a racing certainty!

Jeannie recounts the moral of a victory almost in the bag
Stratford Racecourse

Stratford Racecourse

         “Paws and Jaws!, Whoever would give their horse a name like that?” a woman beside me asked loudly.
 I was at Plumpton races a few years after I had won the Tote Jackpot there, watching the horses in the paddock before the fifth race.
It was the unexpected name of number 13, a bay gelding, walking round with the other seven runners before the Uckfield Selling Hurdle Race, that had prompted the comment.
A man beside me turned to the speaker and said: “I would madam. That is my horse you are talking about.”
Undaunted, the woman replied: ” No wonder it hasn’t much form, with a name like that!”
On five outings so far, Paws and Jaws had failed to make an impression, with 0P000 to his name.
Trained by Hugh O’Neill at Dorking, he had some successful stablemates like Colonel Christy and Grand Armagnac.
But his owner, a man named Peter Hampshire, was quick to defend his runner.
“He’s a rarity, because he is a twin, and survived despite being the smaller one of the two,” he explained.
He continued:” Just look at his feet when he comes round. They are tiny. He has been plodding round at the back of the field all winter in heavy ground, when he needs to hear his feet rattle on good ground.
“He’s no chance on this, but we have had to run him here because he is raring to go, and the gallop will do him good.”
Sure enough, Paws and Jaws had tiny feet, totally unsuitable for ploughing through the mud at Plumpton.
As a parting comment, Mr Hampshire predicted: “You mark my words. He’s no chance of winning today, but I’m going to get all my training fees back at the end of the season. Paws and Jaws will run somewhere like Stratford, when the ground is firm and he will win at a really good price.”
By coincidence I was going to  a vintage aircraft rally at Long Marston, near Stratford on Avon on Saturday May 8 that year, when I noticed that Stratford Racecourse had an evening meeting on the Friday.
And who was declared to run- none other than Paws and Jaws, along with stablemate Administrator in an earlier race on the card, both ridden  by then jockey Micky Hammond.
So I went a day early and found myself at Stratford races on that warm evening. I was encouraged by Administrator’s runaway win, which yielded me a decent profit from a small stake.
The ground was on the firm side and Paws and Jaws looked magnificent in the paddock. An early sortie to the bookmakers’ stands showed he was 66-1 in places, and  modest bet would reap a good return.
As soon as the tapes went up in the hurdle race, Paws and Jaws streaked off to an early lead, ears pricked and keen. By the time he was on the final circuit his lead had increased and he was leaving the rest of the field behind.
 He jumped the second last 20 lengths clear of the remainder and headed for the final hurdle near to the stands, with victory assured. I was mentally counting my profit.
He approached the last with a commanding lead, jumped well but dropped a shoulder on landing in a slight stumble, but soon picked up again and went for the line in a storming finish.
The only problem was that his jockey went straight over the handlebars and fell off when Paws and Jaws dropped his shoulder….. the horse crossed the line on his own.
I was standing on the rails, near to Hugh O’Neill, who like me, could hardly believe his eyes.
He tipped his trilby back on his head, shrugged his shoulders with a wry smile and said not a word.
It just went to prove that there is no such thing as a racing certainty!