Meeting Racing Legends (Part Two)

| July 26, 2018 | Reply

Today is part two of the fourth instalment of a brand new series called ‘The life of a racehorse owner’ which, would you believe, is about the life of a racehorse owner!

The owner in question is Mel Gee, who you may well know from his successful Nags to Riches service.

This is a series that I am personally really looking forward to as it will contains some fantastic behind the scenes insights into the racing world that could really help aid our betting.

I hope you enjoy it and, if you’d like to contact Mel, you can do so by emailing bettingrant@agorapub.co.uk.

Matt Houghton

P.S. Mel’s tipping service offers a fantastic 12 month money back guarantee if his selections fail to make a profit. If you’d like to give it a try you can do so by clicking this link.


Dear Betting Rant Reader,

When we ended part one yesterday Mel had just secured an invitation to the stable of Michael Stoute, so let’s resume from there…

We got chatting and eventually I asked him who he worked for.

“I’m at Beech House” he said.

I knew immediately it was Michael Stoute.

The conversation continued and he said he had to get back for evening stables and I offered to give him a lift back as he said he would show me around. Yes! My first Newmarket stable visit was about to happen…

We arrived and I followed him in. I was introduced to this horse and that horse and another horse, names forgotten. Then it was to this horse that had his head proudly over the stable door, a striking white blaze.

“This one,” said Tony, “We are not going for the Guineas, we are waiting for the Derby.”

I thought Tony was trying to impress me, but that didn’t matter. I was in a top Newmarket stable yard!! I casually asked the name of the horse as I stroked the forelock and patted its neck, as you do.

“Shergar” he replied.

Of course, at that moment, the name Shergar meant nothing to me but several months later, Shergar added his name to The 1981 Derby Role of Honour. Did I bet on him? Of course not!!

As I said earlier, I asked always if anyone knew of anyone who worked in stables. I opened a new account in Newmarket, a card and gift shop. And as staff changed over the years I got the news I wanted…

The new owner knew a lad who worked for a stable, Robert Armstrong’s. My eyes lit up, my heart raced!! Robert Armstrong. This was a hugely successful horse racing stable within Newmarket. But, my homework was already complete, as I knew that Robert was the son of the late and much respected Sam Armstrong and Robert had a sister, Susan…

Susan Armstrong was married to my first human hero, and he continues to transcend the sport to this very day – Lester Piggott.

My insides were going mental as I asked my new found friend, if he could organise for a day for me to come to Newmarket and visit this most famous of stables. He said he would…

The call came and the day chosen was Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe day, a cold October Sunday, in 1980. I had not met the lad that was to take me, and all I had was an address. We met and this lad must have been 70 if he was a day!

There are many “lads” of his age still working in Newmarket – this sport gets hold of you somewhat.

He gave directions to St. Gatien Stables, but I knew where to go. In those days all of the windows, gated archway and other wooden works were painted a dark maroon with off white walls. It was all very impressive.

In we went and I was in a dream!

Everywhere I looked were open boxes with horses’ heads hanging over to see who this new arrival was? It was me!!

I had done it and doing it under my own steam, my own initiative and on my terms.

After an hour or so we headed back to his home. As he got out of the car, he said to wait as he had something for me. He returned with two horse shoes, wrapped in polythene, said to be those worn by Moorestyle, who was crowned European Sprint Champion in 1980, trained by R. Armstrong ridden by L. Piggott.

I wonder if you can imagine my feelings driving back home. I think glassy eyed and starry eyed would just about cover it, but you could add watery eyed too. But, what would I do with said two shoes?

It would be almost a year later when I suggested to my Mum that I might have the two shoes said to be worn by Moorestyle, mounted on a wooden plaque, and the words written “Moorestyle” European Sprint Champion 1980 and one horse shoe at each end of the plaque, either side of the writing…

My birthday is October and I suggested it would be a great birthday present. And that is what we did. Yes, I still have the plaque today! I was so pleased with the outcome that my brain began to think of “What would happen if” (Another saying I live by).

What would happen if I contacted Lester Piggott and suggested he sign within one horse shoe and Robert Armstrong signed within the other?

Putting pen to paper I wrote a polite and humble letter to Lester with my idea, I enclosed a stamped addressed envelope and I waited. I knew there would be no reply but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

One day, however, on the doormat was a letter addressed to me in my handwriting. Surely not! But it was! It was a hand written letter from Susan Piggott explaining that she and Lester had a holiday coming up and suggesting the best time to come to Newmarket, to come to Florizel, their home.

I waited until Saturday, mid/late morning, it was February or March as I recall. I dialled the number – I had Lester Piggott on the end of the phone. Have you ever met or spoken to your hero!? It drains you of energy and speech!

Somehow, I managed to explain who I was and why I was phoning and we planned a day to meet.

I am never late – when I joined my first sales company as above, my then manager said that being punctual was another form of politeness. Another saying I live by…

I was in Newmarket an hour before I needed to be and knew where Lester lived as I could never visit Newmarket without a drive by in case of a sighting of the great man.

I was outside Lester’s bungalow 10 minutes early, but one can be too early. I waited for five more minutes to tick away. I couldn’t wait for five and I went after four minutes and wound my way along the long driveway from the Hamilton Road.

I brought the car to a halt just before the bungalow, and to the left. As I looked forward, I could see Susan in the front right window, the office, and she was making a pointed gesture to someone in front of her. I immediately thought it was to the maid to let me in. Yes!!

Honestly, I thought it was a gesture to the maid. With my plaque in hand, I walked to the front door and as I got there, it opened, and there stood the Greatest EVER jockey the World has ever known. (I am now struggling with my emotions typing this – it meant so much, it means so much still today).

He looked at me and said “Come in”.

We walked into the office and he took hold of the plaque and said it was good. I gave him a pen that had never been used before and I had bought specially for the job from a Cambridge Art shop because I wanted the signatures to last forever.

It all happened within a blur – awestruck, star struck, totally overwhelmed. I had met my hero, he had personally invited me to his home, and it is a story that I am immensely proud of achieving.

The story had a bitter twist though that would live with me for more than 20 years until I had the opportunity to right it…

I was so overwhelmed that I did not think nor attempt to shake his hand at that meeting. I thanked him and showed my gratitude, but I did not shake his hand. That mishap has haunted me for so many years!

However, I have been fortunate to attend many events hosted by large bookmakers and at one such event in London at the QE11 Building, Lester was a guest of honour. I needed no encouragement to make up for that day and to finally complete the day and not only did I get to chat to Lester, but I also got to shake his hand. Amen!

I hope you have enjoyed the read.

Article number five will cover my introduction into ownership.

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Category: Betting, Horse Racing, Horse Racing Tipsters

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