A Dickens of a business

Charles Dickens is widely recognised as England's greatest novelist. He had a mild interest in horse racing as well, and went to watch the Derby run several times in the 1850s. Dickens also spent some time in Malton, and it was there that he wrote A Christmas Carol.

Since Dickens died, many horses have raced bearing the name of either one of his novels or one of the characters from them. But his genius with the pen does not seem to have found its way into the genes of these animals. Looking back over the last 15 years or so 17 different horses have run 161 times between them. Seven have been winners, but have taken only 10 races in total.

Starting with the man himself, Charles Dickens was in the Mark Johnston stable in 2006, but he had only one two-year-old race before his career was over.

Nine horses named after one of the novels have run, four of them coming home in first place. Nicholas Nickelby (with two letters reversed in the surname) was an unfancied 28/1 winner of the Southwell handicap back in 2004. He did nothing else of any note in his other 19 races.

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Bleak House was the most successful, both in terms of the number of victories (three) and prize-money. His most notable success was in the 2010 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

The busiest of all horses with a Dickens connection was Tiny Tim. He ran 54 times for trainer Andrew Balding between the years 2000 and 2007. His only success came when he was a short priced favourite in a four runner event at Brighton.

The year 2009 saw considerable foresight when four foals were given Dickens related names. Perhaps their breeders knew that we would be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the great man's birth this year, and hoped that they had a young creature that would prove worthy of the connection.

Three of them did win last year in their first season's racing, though for the John Jenkins trained Great Expectations, as Southwell maiden winner on one of his only two starts, the expectation is likely to prove greater than the achievement.

The best chances of one of them hitting the headlines lie in the Michael Stoute stable. He is responsible for Samuel Pickwick and Martin Chuzzlewit, both winners as two-year-olds. Samuel Pickwick picked up a Wolverhampton maiden on the all-weather, whilst Martin Chuzzlewit, as well as winning when favourite in his second run, at Sandown, finished fifth when heading the market in a listed race at Haydock.

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