Archive for October, 2018

Cross the Ts

Last week I compiled a list of images I could use for the Salisbury book.  It’s on a spreadsheet that evolved during the production of my earlier books.  There’s a line for each image and about 15 columns to help describe, and eventually prioritise them all.  I was pleased to find I have over 70 to play with.  One of the most important columns is headed “Cost”.  Entries underneath it labelled “Free” are highly desirable.  Those that say “High” are those we’d need to pay press agencies.  Inevitably we’ll want to use some from those sources, and it’s a matter of balancing the cost versus the desire to have them in the book.

I went to the last Brighton meeting of the season last week.  Warm sunshine and a cool breeze made a welcome change from some other years’ last meetings, when sea frets or Arctic winds made going outdoors a health hazard.  There was a decent crowd, about 50% higher than their last midweek meeting by my estimate, which shows how much the weather on the day can affect the “walk-ups”, ie the unbooked cash-paying racegoers who come through the turnstiles.

It’s just as well I haven’t needed to look at the Salisbury text much in the last fortnight.  My laptop keyboard’s letter T gave up the ghost.  While waiting for it to be repaired a lot of very tedious pasting via the Clipboard has been necessary whenever using this machine.  I can well believe T is the second most common letter in the English language.  We have a spare laptop at home, which I resorted to at times, but that has its own quirks.

I have a new keyboard now and T works fine.  Unfortunately the down arrow key sticks sometimes and I can find myself 20 lines below where I should be.  Back to the repair shop….



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George Baker’s autobiography Taking My Time is a splendidly honest account of his riding career, the devastating fall that ended it and his gradual, painful recovery.

A farrier’s son, George was anything but an overnight success as a jockey, and the majority of the book describes his stop-start progress through the ranks.  In that sense it begins as a fairly typical story, with juvenile escapades, boozy nights out and mistakes when riding or dealing with people.  However, these decrease as maturity and ability begin to assert, and he is sought by more and more leading trainers.

His height and weight limited his opportunities, yet he amply compensated for that with his thoughtful approach to race-riding.  The chapter titled “Secrets of Success” contains some interesting insights, such as the section about getting horses to lead on a particular leg.

Passing the hundred winners a season mark, getting married and riding his first classic winner in the 2016 St Leger showed George’s life was very much on an upward trajectory.  That is, until the brutal fall in a race on the ice at St Moritz in February 2017, which left him at death’s door.  At this point in the book his wife Nicola takes up the story, as Baker’s horrific head injuries were so bad that some periods are blanks in his memory.  Unaware of what he was doing, his erratic behaviour meant that recovery was far from certain.

The latter part of the book takes us into territory beyond that of the normal racing autobiography and gives the reader a frank account of the medical, logistical and emotional struggles to bring the old George back.  The result can be guessed from the title of the final chapter, “A Slightly Changed Man”.

Taking My Time costs £20 and is available from the Racing Post and Rupert Mackeson’s bookstall at various racecourses.

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