The Sunday Supplement

Tony Stafford's Sunday Supplement

Tony Stafford

For those of you who don’t know who I used to be, I was variously the racing editor, chief tipster and correspondent for the Daily Telegraph for 30 years after rather shorter spells at the Walthamstow Guardian, Greyhound Express (chief reporter age 21) and the Press Association.

During the Telegraph days I also edited the weekly and much-respected Racehorse newspaper, produced by Raceform – entailing an eight and a half day week! – before trying to advise the odd trainer like Michael Dickinson, Jim Bolger and Rod Simpson among others.

Later, with the Telegraph’s kind co-operation, came some globe-trotting work for the Thoroughbred Corporation and wins in the Derby with Oath; Juddmonte with Royal Anthem; Kentucky Derby and Preakness with War Emblem; Preakness and Belmont Stakes with Point Given and loads of Breeders’ Cups and European Group 1’s.

Now, I’m a semi-geriatric has-been, helping lawyer Raymond Tooth with his empire and it was in the guise of his Racing Manager that I was at York on Saturday to witness once highly-promising Fair Trade’s latest disappointment in the John Smith’s Cup.

Straddling the Telegraph – TCorp days, I owned quite a lot of horses, some winning nice races in a rather striking livery, a picture of which proudly sits in my living room aboard my first ever winner Charlie Kilgour and a remarkably young Simon Whitworth. The race date is June 13, 1984, the course, my luckiest-ever Beverley.

In those days as racing editor I rarely got out of the office and racing was only televised on BBC and ITV, so we never saw the race, but just listened as Charlie won on what I’m sure was his first race for me. The colours look pristine enough, and Whitworth, who I saw at Royal Ascot the other day looking maybe two years older than in the picture, gave him a brilliant ride for a 7lb claimer as he was then.

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His father Eric, a Blackburn-based lawyer, who I was delighted to hear remains in great heart as is Simon’s amateur dramatics-loving mum, asked me to find Simon a job after he had broken his leg when initially working for Michael Stoute.

Simon went to Rod Simpson, as later did Dean Gallagher after his father Tom, then travelling head lad with Jim Bolger, also availed himself of my employment agency talents.

It was Rod who found Charlie Kilgour, owned then by Alan Spence, then fledgling freight forwarding and travel agent, later brilliant entrepreneur who sold his business for bundles. The buyers soon realised nobody was better qualified than Alan to run it, so he did and continued to get the 75 per cent off first class fares to York as his right. I got Charlie Kilgour for £1,000, had a nice bet, took some prize money, probably more than you’d get for winning a seller 28 years later, and Rod let him go at the auction. A nice day’s work.

Alan – now a very major owner and also a vice-president of Chelsea FC - might have been at York for the John Smith’s meeting on Saturday, but if he was I didn’t see him, and if he had availed himself of his cheap-travel perk it would have been no bargain as his Hurricane Higgins was withdrawn after being unruly in the stalls before the Silver Cup. Am I wrong, or do the authorities seem to take pride in finding even more reasons for eliminating horses once they get to the gate these days?

Mayson silks

Mayson silks: they used to be mine!

Anyway, while I was away with the Yorkies on Saturday, my old colours, as they often have been these past two years, were being worn by Paul Hanagan, in the July Cup on Mayson, and came home five lengths clear.

When I parted with them during one of my many impecunious periods – which naturally coincided with having no horses or even the prospect of one – it was through the medium of the Weatherbys sale of Cherished colours. No, all red, white spots on cap might seem OK and £22,000 for the privilege more so, but Weatherbys took a chunk, as did the sales company and a very nice former client of my tipping service with Centaur – whatever happened to them? – put in a claim for another lump of money I’d borrowed from him, so I ended with less than £10k!

To call him unsporting was an under-statement, especially as over much of the previous year, he’d called every morning and made me go minutely through the days’ action, even though he’d curtailed his subscription without bothering to tell me. We (me and a mate) did get a day at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, but what with watching him creep up to Sir Cliff and Virginia Wade and make eyes at the attractive young waitresses, it was all a bit of an ordeal.

The great thing about the colours is that they were bought by proper owners, David and Emma Armstrong. They will be fed up by now that every time they have a winner, this old geezer comes along as if he had something to do with it. Luckily on Saturday I was 170 miles away and Emma could enjoy her first home-bred Group 1 win.

I digress, often it seems. The benefit of being a racing manager is that unlike a pressman, you can go home right after the race, and with my trusty mate and driver Roger on the case, we made it back to Newmarket – that’s where he leaves his Yarmouth-bound car for our morning reconnoitre -  just as they were turning out of the July Course.

Refuelling next to the White Horse, who did we see but Noel Quinlan, who trains one of Mr Tooth’s less co-operative steeds? We were prevailed upon to join in with a quick drink, and as it turned out an equal share in a monster and delicious burger, cooked on a barbecue outside the pub.

By this time (6 p.m.) the sun was out, as were most of Noel’s owners and staff, all delighted at Our Gal’s fortuitous Newbury win if sorry that it brought a 24-day ban for post-mistaking Lee Newman. Noel, already buoyed by the performance of his stable star Lewisham’s second in the July Stakes on Thursday, was philosophical. “We were lucky today but unlucky when it mattered so much on Thursday. Lewisham should have won. Then the bids would have been flying in for a Group 2 winner.” Nil desperandum, Noel, by all, accounts they’re coming in any case.


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27 replies
  1. Ronnie Combo
    Ronnie Combo says:

    Nice piece – always followed you in the Telegraph (when it was a real newspaper). You must have some good stories about David Welch! Met Rod Simpson at the Arc in the the late 80s. Somehow he got us in to the Parade Ring, so there we were next to Mr Cecil and the Maktoums and all the great and good of racing, and us layabouts trying to look as if we belonged there. He had a certain style, did Rod. Wonder where he is now?

  2. Peter Colledge
    Peter Colledge says:

    A quick potted history of a life at the top of racing. Very interesting. Thank you.

  3. Steve
    Steve says:

    Thoroughly enjoyable, as the Telegraph was my daily newspaper before I left the UK 40 years ago this year – obviously before you began your sojourn there! I also remember the Racehorse very well, which I always found informative with news of which the general public were blissfully unaware. I look forward to further episodes from what was once home.


  4. courtney833
    courtney833 says:

    Excellant piece of journalism Tony and a great read. I shall look forward to reading your articles in the future

    Wishing you well in your new venture………David


  5. Jim Adams
    Jim Adams says:

    Very enjoyable and brought back memories when I shared the Press Room with Tony when I was manager of the Extel racecourse staff. Too much to expect you to remember me ast I am now 90 years young but too wobbly to go racing. Kind regards Jim Adams

  6. Bob
    Bob says:

    Thoroughly endorse above comments- Tony’s column was the first page I looked at in the telegraph years ago and he could always be relied upon to point you in the direction of a decent priced winner- and give you a laugh. Hope this column continues

  7. jerry
    jerry says:

    very enjoyable read look forward to reading more articles in the future thank you

  8. colin
    colin says:

    Very interesting piece. Its always good to look back and remember the good times.

  9. John Farrell
    John Farrell says:

    Thanks Mr Stafford, A lovelly wee article that, very enjoyable.I hope we hear more from you and that the knowledge and array of friends you have accumulated over the years will contribute to a few good bets being thrown or way A big thank you to Matt and Gavin too for getting you onboard our wee Geegeez community.

  10. Paddy
    Paddy says:

    Very enjoyable read. I live very close to Cambridge and I know Newmarket well, I’ve had a drink or two in the White Horse as well, I am already looking forward to the next article. Keep up the good work.

  11. tony
    tony says:

    Very well written and full of the stuff I like to read.Thank you and lets have some more please.

  12. Roy
    Roy says:

    Mayson and Hanagan did your old silks proud – nice article -good read – thanks

  13. john murray
    john murray says:

    what an excellent piece. i could spend many hours reading more of your story,s keep them coming please.

  14. john doland
    john doland says:

    A really good read and I look forward to more of the same.I do enjoy these tales of the turf and
    I’m hope there will be more to come.

  15. jim
    jim says:

    remember the real handicap book days when it was a real publication KEN HUSSEY. TONY PEACH.PHIL ALEXANDER. thanx for the memories.

  16. Johnny5
    Johnny5 says:

    Usual great read Tony – look forward to regular columns on this channel

    Best wishes

  17. Hugh
    Hugh says:

    I really enjoyed the article. Fascinating story about the silks and how good to see them still in use.

  18. Ken
    Ken says:

    Remember Tony’s racing analysis and tips on Radio London/LBC in the 1980’s, were very successful. Also the antics of Rod Simpson when he won the seller at Windsor, rubbing the horse’s legs and telling everyone it had bad joints …… to keep the price down ….. bought in LoL!

  19. Rayman
    Rayman says:

    Nice one Tony.Just looking at your 1978 booklet on my shelf ‘Make your Betting Pay’.
    Looking forward to more reminiscences.

  20. paul petit
    paul petit says:

    sounds like someone who really enjoyed his work.
    looking forward to your future endeavors with the ggz group

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