Jeannie recounts the moral of a victory almost in the bag
“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!