Coachlines - February 2019

22.02.19 Bettine Evans

Horse whispers

His soft lips caressed my shoulder, my arm, moved on to my thigh. I sighed contentedly. “But do we really need a racehorse?” asked my long-suffering husband from the door of the box. “I need this one!” I moaned. “I don’t get a lot of this at my age!” He walked away, shocked.

It was a sunny Saturday morning when the package designed to change the rest of my life plopped onto our doormat. Having no idea of the contents, I opened it eagerly and a slim paperback book slipped out – Bluff your way in horseracing I read, in some puzzlement. The phone rang and a broad Scottish voice asked whether the book had arrived. I apparently had an appointment the next afternoon to see a young horse at a racing stables in Tring. No pressure at all. My friend already had three horses, couldn’t afford any more, this one was a beautiful animal, just right for me, excellent lineage etc. etc. Read the book so I didn’t make a fool of myself, ask for Pete Mason and have a nice day!

With nothing better to do, we set off after lunch the next day with absolutely no intention of doing anything other than looking at the horse and leaving, shaking our heads wisely.

We met Pete, who took us to see the yearling – a beautiful creature indeed, a bay colt by Barathea out of Empty Purse (that says it all really). He paraded for me, danced, reared and looked into my eyes, my very soul and I fell in love. My whole inside turned upside down and I was completely mesmerised. Fortunately, my husband and Pete were engaged in some deep conversation so I sidled up to the horse and whispered, “Are you going to win races?” He nodded convincingly. “Are you sure?” I asked. He nodded again.

Three weeks later, after much negotiation, I bought my horse and oh what a delight he has been. Every Saturday morning I would leave home at 5.30am and drive to Tring to watch him on the gallops. He looked very keen and I felt like a young mother all over again. I designed my colours, white with a black Chevron, black and white striped sleeves, white cap with black diamonds.

Towards the end of his second year Pete rang to say he was entered for a race at Newcastle. I must not expect anything as it was purely for experience, he was far too young. Oh yes, and he needed to be named. He has a blaze on his forehead shaped like Cornwall so I called him Barathea Blaze, which somehow became Barathea Blazer.

We set off for Newcastle. I was so nervous but The Blazer was fine. This was all new to me, but Pete Mason steered us round very efficiently. We entered the parade ring and the horses paraded around us; I felt that mine looked rather more of a horse than most of the others, but didn’t like to say so. The jockeys came to join us. At first I didn’t see them as they are all so tiny, but when I looked down I noticed Ted Durkin looking incredibly smart in my colours. We shook hands and he looked to me and my trainer for instructions. “Look after him, he’s only a baby,” I pleaded and they all smiled kindly. Ted mounted and set off for the starting gate.

Blazer had drawn number seven so had to wait while the first six horses were loaded into the starting grids; he was fidgety but reasonably calm. The starter’s flag came down and the gates opened. As they clanged shut, Blazer turned round to see what the noise was all about, then looked forward again and realised that the others had run off and left him, so he took flight in pursuit. It was a seven-furlong race; he caught up at the last furlong marker, realised that he was indeed a racehorse, stuck out his neck and won by the pimple on his nose.

Oh deep joy. I was instructed to lead my very excited young horse to the winner’s enclosure where he stood, proudly, beneath the sign marked ‘FIRST’. He was fully aware of his great success and danced for joy. And I am sure I heard a horse voice whisper, “I told you I would win races”. Photos were taken, congratulations and kisses all round, and I received a handsome silver trophy which seemed a touch unfair since I had done nothing at all, and Champagne was drunk copiously.

I went to see the Blazer before we left. He was dancing in his box, kicking the door and generally showing off. He consumed a whole packet of Polo Mints and wished me a sloppy good night too, and surely I heard that whisper again, “I told you so”.