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Anaglogs Daughter
06 Sep 12 21:05
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Date Joined: 05 Jan 10
| Topic/replies: 29,479 | Blogger: Anaglogs Daughter's blog
This IS FROM 18 years ago


A FAIR CRACK OF THE WHIP

TOM MCCONNELL http://www.heraldscotland.com

''A prophet is without honour in his own land,'' or, to put it another way, ''I kent his faither.''

IN THE helter-skelter, sometimes graceful and always enthralling sport of National Hunt racing, Scottish trainers have been setting the heather alight at the highest level for decades. In racing circles the names are legend, almost as well-known as the steeplechasers and hurdlers they trained. Yet at home in Scotland there has never been national recognition; no award, no kudos for the men and women who achieve much from limited resources.

That is until now. From the 1994-95 season, which in Scotland opened at Perth yesterday, Caledonian Newspapers -- publisher of The Herald -- is sponsoring annual awards for the leading Scottish National Hunt trainer and permit holder.

The Herald Awards will be for most winners in the season, and Scotland's most successful jumps trainer will receive a prestigious trophy and a cheque for £1000. The leading permit holder -- those who own a few horses and train them for themselves or members of their family -- will receive a trophy and cheque for £150.

Tristram Ricketts, chief executive of the British Horseracing Board, has sent his congratulations to The Herald on its ''enterprising sponsorship initiative''. He said the awards would add ''welcome spice to Scottish jump racing'' and expressed the hope that they would be keenly contested.

The National Trainers Federation welcomed the support The Herald was giving to Scotland's National Hunt trainers. General manager Grant Harrissaid the NTF was very willing to support The Herald's decision to reward trainers in this way and wished the award every success in its inaugural season.

Of the two codes in horseracing -- Flat and National Hunt -- the latter is by far the most popular in Scotland, especially in the Borders and the rural areas and particularly with the farming community. There are more than 30 men and women in Scotland training horses to race over hurdles and steeplechase fences. About half of them hold public licences to train for any owner; the remainder are permit holders, usually farmers who breed their own horses or buy cheaply at the bloodstock sales.

Jump racing in Scotland goes back to 1839 when the Earl of Eglinton introduced it on his estate at Bogside, near Irvine, and the first Scottish Grand National was run there in 1867. In the same year National Hunt racing began on the Berrymoss at Kelso, where it still attracts a large and enthusiastic following and provides excellent racing.

The most northerly racecourse in Britain, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful from a scenic point of view, is at Perth in the grounds of the Earl of Mansfield's estate at Scone Palace, where they've been racing over jumps since 1908. Later converts to the jumping game were Ayr, now home of the Scottish Grand National, the Scottish Champion Hurdle, and several other top National Hunt races, in 1950, and Musselburgh in 1987.

In a long line of eminent Scottish trainers who compared with the best in Britain, the name of Stewart Wight stands out. He trained at Grantshouse, Berwickshire, from 1924 until 1961, saddling more than 1000 winners. If there had been a Herald Award in 1949 he would have won it by the length of a racecourse with 49 winners.

Although victory in the Grand National evaded him, Wight was consistently successful with runners at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Foxhunter Challenge Cup three years running, with Happymint in 1955 and 1956, and The Callant, probably the best horse he ever trained, in 1957.

Wight's influence on National Hunt racing has been much in evidence over the last 50 years and is still abroad today -- in particular, through the achievements of Reg Tweedie and Ken Oliver. Tweedie, who learned all he knew from Wight, rode 128 winners as an amateur, most of them for the Grantshouse maestro. However, it is for his achievements with the great Freddie, that Reg, who lives in retirement at Middlethird Farm, Gordon, Bewrickshire, is best known.

Freddie, who started favourite for the 1965 Grand National, was the ''talking horse'' of that era, almost as popular with the general public as Red Rum and Desert Orchid were in their day. He never won the National but was runner-up in consecutive years. He featured in a BBC TV documentary called The Favourites and was the subject of the book A Horse Called Freddie.

Reg was an excellent example of a successful permit-holder. Like many before and after him, he was a Borders farmer with a love for jump racing.

Another of Wight's proteges, Ken Oliver, also known as The Benign Bishop, is the doyen of Scottish trainers, still ''in harness'' in his 80th year. He retains the record for most winners in one season -- in fact between 1967 and 1971 the yard at Hassendean Bank, Denholm, near Hawick, had 56 winners in three out of four years.

In 1971 Oliver was fifth top trainer in Britain determined on total value of prize money. With only 26 horses in the yard he won £31,068 -- a fair amount by seventies standards. Ably assisted by his wife Rhona, Oliver trained the winner of the Scottish Grand National on no fewer than five occasions between 1963 and 1982. Again it was the Grand National that put him in the public eye, saddling the runner-up four times -- Wynburgh, who finished second three times, and Moidore's Token once.

His near-neighbour Harry Bell, who took out a licence about the same time, was a brilliant trainer but unfortunately suffered from a flaw in his character. As a result he incurred a disqualification for causing unnecessary suffering to a horse and later, after being found guilty of cruelty to a horse, was given a six months' prison sentence.

Bell's best horse was Sebastian V, runner-up to Lucius in the 1978 Grand National and winner of the Scottish Grand National in 1977. Bell's horses also won that race in 1972 and 1981. At one time he had Rubstic, who won the 1979 Aintree National when trained by John Leadbetter at Denholm.

Peaty Sandy is another name well known to punters and non-punters alike. He enjoyed the tender loving care of another Borders' permit holder, Helen Hamilton. She trained him in and around Whitehope Farm at Innerleithen, Peebles-shire, to win 20 races and £93,000 in prize money between 1978 and 1988.

Peaty, whose fan club was numbered in thousands and included the Queen Mother, had his greatest achievement in the Coral Welsh National in December 1981. He caught the public's imagination when it emerged he had not only conquered the stiff Chepstow fences but had battled through huge snowdrifts to reach the horsebox on the first leg of what was to be a nightmare journey. A course specialist at Newcastle, he won there nine times and has a three-mile chase named after him. Helen Hamilton, now retired from training, continues to breed bloodstock and has horses in training at other Scottish yards.

Her namesake Billy Hamilton -- no relation -- who is a sheep farmer at Bonchester Bridge, near Hawick, has the distinction of having bred, owned, and trained Earl's Brig, a chaser of great quality, who finished third to Forgive 'n' Forget in the 1985 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the blue riband of National Hunt racing.

John Wilson, the young master of Cree Lodge, Ayr grabbed the limelight in 1985 when he won the Waterford Crystal Supreme Novices Hurdle race with Harry Hastings, who had cost $200,000 as a yearling in Kentucky. After failing to make the grade on the Flat he was sold to Wilson for 9000 guineas. Sadly for Wilson, now out of racing, Harry Hastings suffered a tendon injury and never raced under rules again, although he has had several races in point-to-points. Wilson also trained Young Driver, runner-up to West Tip in the 1986 Grand National and Fabulous, winner of the John Hughes Memorial Trophy at Aintree in 1984.

The eighties and early nineties have seen a large number of recruits to the ranks of jump trainers in Scotland and thrown up many new names to go alongside the old-timers, even though competition from the myriad of jumping stables in the South and Midlands, together with the escalation of training costs and failure of prize money to keep pace, have contributed to the difficulties experienced by Scottish yards in challenging for top UK honours and awards.

Add to that the growing tendency by Scottish owners to send their horses to the successful yards just across the Border, such as Gordon Richards at Penrith and Mary Reveley at Saltburn in Cleveland, and you can see things have not been easy for Scottish trainers.

The initiative by Caledonian Newspapers in sponsoring annual awards for large and small yards in Scotland has been widely welcomed. Although Len Lungo, who trains at Carrutherstown in Dumfriesshire, has been leading trainer by a convincing margin for the past two seasons, there is grim determination to catch him from the chasing pack of Peter Monteith, Susan Bradburne, Colin Parker, Tom Dyer, and Linda Perratt.

Permit holders are also hugely encouraged by the news they are to have their own award. Freddie Gray, chairman of the Permit Trainers Association, is delighted at the introduction of the award for his members in Scotland. He said: ''Such an award is breaking new ground for permit trainers in Scotland and I applaud the initiative of The Herald in supporting racing, and in particular National Hunt racing. Permit trainers often feel they are the forgotten section of National Hunt racing, yet they are the diehards of the sport. They do it for the love of it and in the course of doing so have a fair amount of success.''

In UK terms the trainers' championship is determined on prize money and not on most winners, which meant that last season Len Lungo, although he had 27 winners, finished below Peter Monteith, who had 20, because he won slightly less prize money, a matter of £211. The previous season it was the same story. Len Lungo had 22 winners, but Susan Bradburne, who had 18, finished well above him because she had amassed more than £82,000 in prize money. We believe Scottish punters judge trainers on the numbers of winners they produce in a season and not on the amount of money they may win, although it is conceded that prize money is an important ingredient in running a successful yard.

Throughout the season Herald readers will be kept in touch with how trainers and permit-holders are faring with regular updates of the ''league'' positions. A recent decision by the British Horseracing Board to extend the jumps season from a 10-month to a 12-month season has caused a little confusion. We had originally intended running our contest from the first meeting of the season on July 29 until the last at the end of May.

Now the jumps season has been extended by two months and Perth has been allocated a two-day meeting on June 8-9. Consequently our award will run until then -- at least for the first year, when, in view of the recent controversy about the wisdom of jumping valuable horses on sun-baked ground, the concept of a 12-month National Hunt season may be reviewed.

It is planned to present the awards at a dinner with a racing personality as the main speaker, probably in Glasgow or Edinburgh, towards the end of June. We hope to attract a wide cross-section of those involved in Scottish racing because we believe they will welcome an opportunity to gather socially at the end of the season to honour the top trainer and permit holder.
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Pause Switch to Standard View I miss Len Lungo
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Report triumphoragony September 6, 2012 9:16 PM BST
Remember SILVERTOWN that could'nt win for barney curley(Laugh) and was bought by LEN LUNGO ...the horse could'nt stop winning , shows you what a shrew trainer LEN LUNGO was...not that curley gave it to lungo and punted it of course....
Report GandalfTheGrey September 6, 2012 9:20 PM BST
Always liked backing a Len Lungo horse.
Report MadVlad September 6, 2012 9:24 PM BST
was a gent.
Report MadVlad September 6, 2012 9:26 PM BST
peter monteith rip
Report Anaglogs Daughter September 6, 2012 9:31 PM BST
Trained for Barney O Hare but Ashleybanks was the main owners. He had some good horses like Crazy Horse, Freetown, Celtic Giant, The Bajan Bandit, Skippers Cleuch
Report wee eck September 6, 2012 10:10 PM BST
Len who if he had not been a jockey and then trainer would have made

a wonderful politician he could spout for ever and when he had finished

in reality he had said nowt, broonie used to love interviewing himGrin
Report Anaglogs Daughter September 6, 2012 10:36 PM BST
This was his pub in Dumfries http://bit.ly/TsOmKK he's in the Algraves now.
Report wee eck September 6, 2012 10:38 PM BST
AD I know he had a Snooker Hall in Dumfries.
Report mr crisp September 6, 2012 11:35 PM BST
did he not ride martin pipes first ever winner or am i getting mixed up with someone else
Report wee eck September 6, 2012 11:38 PM BST
mr crisp, correct.
Report sooty1 September 7, 2012 12:09 AM BST
was with Leny resently, his son in law trains in Newmarket, Still the same Leny, and yes i have to say, i said the same a wee eck a few timees,
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