Viewers of this week’s Soccer Saturday programme may notice an empty chair at 3.35pm as Harry Redknapp nips off to watch his horse Shakem Up’Arry in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
Trained by Ben Pauling, Shakem Up’Arry will arrive at Newbury with solid claims having finished second to Metier in the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time out.
He meets the winner again, but is much better off at the weights this time and Redknapp is just hoping his TV absence while the race is being run goes unnoticed.
“I’m doing Soccer Saturday this week with Jeff Stelling,” said Redknapp.
“I’ve never done it before, but they asked me about six weeks ago, before I knew the horse was running and I said I would.
“I’m going to have to find a way to get out for five minutes to watch the race because I’m not missing it!”
Shakem Up’Arry has always been held in high regard, but has had the misfortune of bumping into some top-class prospects to date.
“We love him. Ben likes him very much but he’s come up against some good horses. He came up against (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner) Shishkin at Newbury, we were actually favourite that day,” Redknapp said, on a call hosted by Great British Racing.
“He jumped the last upsides going equally as well, but he went away from us on the run. We’ve also come up against Mister Coffey, so he’s come up against some good ones.
“Ben says the horse is really well. We’ll need it, but we’ve got a 13lb swing at the weights with the favourite (Metier) from Sandown, which should bring us closer together.”
As for his name, Redknapp took inspiration from his days managing West Ham United.
He said: “There used to be a guy who stood behind me at West Ham when I was manager and for 90 minutes he’d just shout ‘shake ’em up ‘Arry’, and it was all I could hear on a Saturday night when I got home. When I played, someone used to shout ‘wake up Harry’, so I’ve got one called that as well.
“When I came to picking my colours I was just trying to keep everybody happy, as I wasn’t sure where I’d be managing at the time!”
Redknapp’s interest in racing stems from his grandmother and he explained: “My nan was the bookies’ runner in our street in the east end of London, for Frankie Brown.
“Cyril the Paper Boy – who would have been 60-odd but we still called him that – he would come to my nan’s because she would collect all the bets in our street. She’d take a paper off him and drop the bets in his basket.
“I would come home for my school dinner and my nan would be being taken off to the police station because it was illegal. I was about six or seven, she’d be shouting ‘your dinner’s in the oven, I’ll only be an hour’. She’d get a slap on the wrist and we’d listen to the results on the radio when she got home.
“The next day Cyril would be back with any winnings. Three tuppenny doubles and a tuppenny treble was the standard bet. I had no choice but to be interested. I couldn’t read or write at eight years of age, but my nan would give me a pen to pick out some horses. She was amazing, Maggie, my nan.
“I remember going to Ascot and being in a box with Michael Tabor and JP (McManus) thinking, ‘what would my nan think now’.”
Should Shakem Up’Arry win this weekend, his Cheltenham entries might not seem so fanciful and Redknapp, like most, would love nothing more than a winner at the Festival.
“The dream would be to have a winner at Cheltenham one day, but everybody who is involved in racing has the same dream. It’s not easy, obviously. It must be amazing to have a winner there, what a great Festival it is,” he said.
“Wake Up Harry is entered in the Derby and I’d love a runner in that, but we’ll wait and see how good he is. He won well the other week and could be half decent.”
One thing he will not be doing, though, is joining the likes of Mick Channon and Micky Quinn, as a former footballer in the training ranks.
He added: “I’ve no intentions of training, I wouldn’t know enough about it. There’s nothing worse for a trainer than some busy owner telling them what to do having never trained a horse in their life. It’s a little bit like football – I never liked being told by someone who hadn’t done it.”