Sunday 17 May 2020

The Day I Bumped Into...

My good friend Simon Fowler is an actor. 

Well, I always listen to his Facebook lives where he chats about his life, acting experiences, and musing about playing rugby for a number of clubs. He is a very interesting man and someone I admire in the pursuit of his many and varied goals. 

The other day he chatted about one of his latest parts in a great comedy called Down The Caravan written by Kay Lockett, directed by Sara Sugarman, starring Matthew Rhys, Maxine Evans, and Jan Anderson to name a few talents. 

Well, Simon, talked about how he got the part of Ivan in Down The Caravan, after chatting to Jerry & Kay Lockett while off set for another part playing an Isis terrorist. They said they had a part in mind and would contact him in a few month's time. 

Just as Jerry Lockett said, after three months Simon received an email about the audition and got the job.    

It was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. 

In many ways horse racing is very much the same.

My cousin's Danny and Paul recounted the day they asked the opinion of Sir Henry Cecil (pre knighthood) at Great Yarmouth racecourse, explaining the hopes of a debutante. It will always be a special moment. 

We reason that those we admire are too busy to talk to us.

I guess the moral of the story is this, often we are the problem because we don't give someone a chance.

Years ago I had a similar experience. 

My brother is a plasterer and he did some work for a livery yard who had a few ex-racehorses. He got chatting to the owner who mentioned a horse called Western Art, originally trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, in the ownership of Matthew Green and Ben Sangster. 

As it turned out, this son of Hennessy was a rare talent who won the Dragon Stakes (Listed Race) at Sandown on July 6th, 2007. 

Sadly, Western Art must have incurred an injury at some point thereafter and took a steady decline, changing from trainer to trainer until being retired. He was eventually, luckily, owned by a wonderful lady named Alex Steel. 

The post was found by Alex as she searched the internet. 

It was fate that my brother told me the story and that she had read my post. I was delighted when she contacted me. 

She didn't know much about Western Art's racing career so I said I'd research his story for her. 

She learned about Western Art [Artie, as she called him] and even watched his victory at Sandown. In addition, I found the contact details of his breeder a lady called Nellie Cox, of Rose Retreat Lodge, in America. Alex had the chance to correspond. They had the chance to talk about a horse they both loved and would never forget.

The original buyer was Peter & Ross Doyle Bloodstock. 

I had much of the information but not everything. I knew Western Art was purchased from the Keeneland Sales as a yearling, and that he was sold at the Doncaster Breeze Up sale for £62,000. 

But I didn't know how to join the dots of his travels from the United States so I sent an email to Peter Doyle. 

I didn't think I would get a reply convincing myself Peter would be far too busy to contact me. 

A week or so had passed and I had forgotten about the message, thinking at best I would receive an email.

I heard the phone ringing and answered.

It was Peter Doyle. 

A soft, Irish accent asked how he could be of help and ready to answer any questions. He said he was about to fly from Ireland to go to Royal Ascot. 

Nothing was too much trouble. A kind, decent man who loves his horses and, importantly, each and every transaction was worth much more than pounds, shillings, and pence. 

He asked where I went racing and what was my local course. 

I said Great Yarmouth and Newmarket. 

Amazingly, he invited me and Alex to meet him at Newmarket's July meeting. I don't know why, but we never took him up on the offer. 

Yes, crazy, I know. 

Western Art was a special horse to those who loved him most. But his greatest love was his last owner Alex Steel.

So many times horse racing seems to be about the first horse that crosses the line. But as Nellie Cox said: ''Every horse has its story to tell.''

How right she is. And that story, if anyone takes a moment to consider, is the meaning that makes each and every life all the more important. 

I never guessed that I would learn so much from one horse, a two-year-old who I had watched win not realising that years to come he would play an important part in my life, meeting people who are still friends to this day. 

It is perhaps a valuable lesson that we simply don't know unless we ask. Like attracts like and even though people may seem so different on this day we all had something in common and that was a horse called Western Art. 

God bless you, Artie. 

Author: Jason Coote

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