Robin Oakley

The horses to watch in 2024

The definition of good luck in Russia is state security knocking at your front door and demanding ‘Ivan Denisovich?’ when you are able to reply ‘Ivan Denisovich lives two doors down.’ Sometimes you just have to be thankful it is someone else’s bad day. Steaming around the M25 on Saturday towards Newmarket’s Juddmonte-sponsored Cambridgeshire Handicap

The murky world of bloodstock agents

Top owners are quitting horse racing because bookmakers nervous of a government and a Gambling Commission that know remarkably little about the horse-racing industry and ignore even the modicum they do know are making it harder and harder for them to have a significant bet, closing the accounts of those who refuse to acquiesce to

The charm of Carmel races

Racing at Cartmel probably began in the 15th century when Brother John wagered a mug of ale with Brother Cain at Cartmel Priory that his mule could give his fellow monk two lengths start and beat him back to the Abbot’s orchard. Nowadays Cartmel is one of racing’s precious smaller jewels. The tiny track nestled

The fight over jockey saunas is heating up

When the nine equine athletes involved in the seven-furlong contest for Newbury’s Saturday highlight, the Group Two BetVictor Hungerford Stakes, strolled around the parade ring there was nowhere else in the world I would have preferred to be. As the sun gleamed off perfectly burnished coats and perfectly toned muscles rippled in sturdy hindquarters I

Tom Marquand was the star of Goodwood

On no course in Britain does jockeyship count for more than at undulating, tricksy Goodwood and although Frankie Dettori was able, on his final appearance there, to treat the expectant crowd to a couple of flying dismounts after victories on Epictetus and Kinross, the week’s top rider was clearly Tom Marquand. One racing sage told

Relief Rally put the Ascot heartbreak behind her at Newbury

‘God it’s hot,’ said a Newbury waitress escaping into the lift from rain-soaked crowds jostling in the bars last Saturday. ‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘It’s steaming.’ ‘Oh no,’ she replied. ‘That’s just the ladies waiting for Tom Jones,’ and the veteran Welsh warbler was indeed scheduled to be the after-racing entertainment. The race is framed to

Paddington emerged victorious but Eclipse was an enthralling duel

I should have listened to George Duffield. Sandown Park’s Eclipse Stakes, the first time the Classic generation of three-year-olds take on their elders, is one of my favourite races and the then 53-year-old rider’s triumph on Giant’s Causeway in 2000, beating Kalanisi by a head after Pat Eddery had driven him into the lead 200

The high and lows of a Hong Kong jockey

You can take a jockey who has ridden there out of Hong Kong; it’s a lot harder, I reflected, after a chat at Newbury with Neil Callan, taking Hong Kong out of the jockey. Even though this is his second season back on home territory after spending ten years in that racing pressure cooker, Neil

The science of horse racing

Everybody in racing is looking for an edge. With 7-4 the field, the punter is looking for a 2-1. The racecourse executive wonders which pop group will add 4,000 to the gate if booked for after-racing entertainment. The jockey on a confirmed front runner plans to slip the field out of the stalls. Trainers all

My summer Twelve to Follow

Usually in May I am still casting an enviously nostalgic eye backwards to Aintree and Cheltenham, reluctant yet to pack away my stouter shoes and rainproof Barbour. This year it is different: I have rarely looked forward more to the Flat. It all began with two glorious races for the Guineas. Rock-star wrinklies make farewell

Kitty’s Light is the horse of the year

John Trotwood Moore, one-time State Librarian of Tennessee, was a racist and defender of the Ku Klux Klan. But in the saying for which he is best remembered he did get one thing right: ‘Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilisation we will find the hoofprint of the

The grand shame of the Grand National protestors

When jockey Derek Fox came over from Ireland to join the Scottish stable run by Lucinda Russell and her partner, Peter Scudamore, the long-time champion rider, he was teaching himself to read via texts on his phone. Now he discusses books with Scu. Cleverness comes in different shapes and it was a supremely intelligent ride

In praise of small racecourses

Mrs Oakley not being a turfista, she rarely joins me on a racecourse expedition. But before we had a dog there used to be one exception. When I was headed for Stratford-upon-Avon we would make a weekend of it. Mrs Oakley would take in a matinee at the Royal Shakespeare Company, I would go racing

There was more than one superhorse at Cheltenham

Aficionados came to this year’s Cheltenham Festival hoping to celebrate in Champion Hurdle contestant Constitution Hill a super-horse, a horse being spoken of after only five races as a potential Arkle. We left exhilarated by the exploits of three. Looking at Constitution Hill in a field of grazers, you would not pick him out as

Why I fear for Cheltenham Festival

The London Times of 10 March 1922 drily recorded: ‘It is very seldom that Irish racing and hunting people make a determined attack on an English meeting without paying at least their expenses. One gathers that they did more than that yesterday.’ The Times was chronicling Connemara Black’s triumph in the Foxhunters’ Challenge Cup –

Why racing will miss Tom Scudamore

You don’t bounce so easily at 40 and last Thursday, after 25 years, it was one fall too many. Without fanfare or fuss, a fit Tom Scudamore quit the saddle. There will be days when he will miss the adrenaline-charge of driving a horse to victory in the shadow of the post, the thrill of

Our Twelve to Follow are on sparkling form

Trainer Olly Murphy was trying hard at Sandown Park last Saturday not to get carried away after his Chasing Fire had extended his unbeaten career to five with a convincing win in the Virgin Bet Novices’ Hurdle. ‘He’s good but I don’t know how good,’ he declared. ‘Could he win a Supreme? I’ve had a

A new star in the saddle

I can always tell when Mrs Oakley has walked our flatcoat retriever. On our next outing Damson nudges my pocket every 200 yards having been encouraged to consider completion of that distance sufficient accomplishment to be rewarded with a treat (although, truth be told, it is Mrs O. who deserves the treat for three-mile dog

The magic of Veterans’ Chase Day

Like most people in racing I began 2023 down in the dumps, moaning about insufficient prize money, small fields and declining crowds. Gloom only intensified with racing’s administrators, the British Horseracing Authority, yet again forced into a humiliating U-turn on new rules it had proposed governing jockeys’ use of the whip, doing so just days