Forbra Gold Cup always evokes fond memories

Family and friends with connections to 1932 Grand National-winning jockey Tim Hamey will gather at Ludlow on Thursday for the latest running of the Forbra Gold Cup.

Hamey partnered Forbra to Aintree glory and while he died in 1993 at the age of 88, the fact the Forbra Gold Cup has been run at Ludlow since 1955 means memories are always evoked at this time of year.

Forbra was owned by William Parsonage, Ludlow’s mayor and a bookmaker, and he was trained by Tom Rimell, father of Fred Rimell – who would go on to win the National four times as a trainer himself.

In 1932, he was a jockey, but as he was only 18, he was deemed too inexperienced for the mount, meaning Hamey was the man called upon for the ride on the 50-1 outsider.

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Three previous winners were in the line-up that year but in a race stacked full of previous drama, Forbra came through to beat Egremont by three lengths.

Hamey also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Koko in 1926, in what was just the third running of a race that has gone on to become the holy grail for a steeplechaser.

Forbra being led back in by his owner William Parsonage
Forbra being led back in by his owner William Parsonage (Will Lefebve)

His nephew, Will Lefebve, a retired racing journalist, said: “The family is steeped in racing history, as Tim had 12 rides in the National, his son Rex had seven and my father, Len, also had one.

“Tim’s record was very impressive, though, he rode in 12 consecutive Nationals and took part in the 1929 one which had a record 66 runners, finishing sixth of just 10 finishers on Grakle behind Gregalach. Grakle actually went on to win the race in 1931.”

While there have been get-togethers on Forbra Gold Cup day in the past, this time Lefebve has arranged a much bigger group of people with links to Hamey and Forbra.

“I have assembled a gathering of about 40 people directly linked to Forbra – either the horse himself or the race named in his memory – who will descend on Ludlow on Thursday,” he said.

“They include descendants of Forbra’s owner William Parsonage, a bookmaker and mayor of Ludlow, and the race is being sponsored by local hydraulics company Flowfit, which is managed by William’s great grandson Simon.

“Forbra was, of course, trained by Tom Rimell, father of four times National-winning trainer Fred.

“A solid gold trophy was presented to Ludlow racecourse 70 years ago by William’s sons, and according to former course supremo Bob Davies, it is worth around £75,000, and consequently is kept in a Ludlow bank vault for 365 days a year. The winning owner gets his or her hands on it for about an hour!

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“I first organised a get-together five years ago of the families representing the owner, trainer and jockey of Forbra, and decided on a repeat assembly this year, when there will be many more ‘connections’ at the track.

“Five of the Hamey clan will be present, including Hamey’s grandson Paul, who is bringing along the replica trophy presented to Tim by the Princess Royal in a 1985 Aintree ceremony hosted by Peter O’Sullevan (before his knighthood), during which all surviving Grand National-winning riders received identical mementos. Tim was then the ‘daddy of them all’.

“As far as the Rimell family is concerned, Fred’s daughter Scarlett (Knipe), who bred both Master Oats and Thistlecrack with her late husband Robin at their Cobhall Court Stud, hopefully will be joined by Mark, Annie and Katie Rimell.

“I expect to feel a bit like a shepherd on Thursday, rounding up his flock, with the likes of Richard Johnson, Bob Davies, Graham Thorner, Henry Daly, Venetia Williams, David Pipe and others expected to be there.

“Simon Parsonage has also purchased at a National Horse Racing Museum auction the saddle used by Tim Hamey on Forbra at Aintree 91 years-plus ago. He has had it ‘framed’ in a glass case and is bringing the saddle to Ludlow.”

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