Robin Oakley

Farewell to the greatest ever jockey

In racing’s record books 2022 will be remembered especially for Alpinista’s Arc de Triomphe and Baaeed’s all-round brilliance. But it was the year, too, in which we lost the sport’s most popular owner, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and the greatest ever jockey, Lester Piggott. His figures still astound. Lester won 30 British Classics including an

The triumph of a middle-aged amateur jockey

After an autumn of no shows and poor attendances that was more like it. A decent crowd at Sandown Park on Betfair Tingle Creek Day had plenty to cheer about including a definitive victory in the feature race by Alan King’s Edwardstone, which stamped him as the best two-miler around, and a dazzling round of

Ascot was a high-profile disaster for jump racing

The government may for the moment have disbanded its circular firing squad, but racing has never shown a greater ability for self-harm. For once last Saturday I was not on a racecourse. Unfortunately, Mrs Oakley had had a late-night mishap with an Ugg boot and after a midnight ambulance, a night in A&E and her

My Twelve to Follow over jumps

We all tend to put a value on what we haven’t got. Talking to a West Indian friend, Mrs Oakley, a foodie to her core, envied her the fresh pineapple, mangoes and bananas of her Caribbean childhood compared with our post-war canned fruit. ‘Oh no,’ said her friend, ‘it was the rare canned fruit treats

Lesson to self: don’t put a bet on in autumn

When things went wrong in his days running the Daily Mirror, the scoundrel Robert Maxwell used to shout: ‘Which effing idiot thought of doing that?’ Told once by a bolder-than-average subordinate that what proved to have been a disaster had been his own idea, he responded: ‘In that case what effing idiot let me do

The making of a Classics winner

For a Radio Four programme she was hosting Clare Balding once had the idea that it would be fun to apply the techniques of horse breeding to the political world. Strolling around the parade ring at Newbury we duly recorded an item imagining gene mixing between the will to win of a Margaret Thatcher and

The lessons of Newmarket

The swallows who nest yearly in my garage have agreed that ‘that’s enough baby-making for this year’, and started their 6,000-mile trip to the southern Sahara. Between burps, many thousands of wildebeeste are currently sniffing the Kenyan air and nudging each other south for new shoots on the grassy plains of the Serengeti. To me,

My racing moment of the year

It takes a little bit of magic to train any racehorse. It takes plenty of magic to keep a 13-year-old sprinter bursting with energy and raring to go. I’m there applauding the superstars of British racing on many big occasions, but my racing moment of the year came in a woodland paddock behind Liphook Golf

Is this the death of horse racing?

I don’t miss too many from the political world I once inhabited but I was saddened by the death of Sir Christopher Meyer, the diplomat who was famously made ambassador to Washington by Tony Blair with the instruction to ‘get up the arse of the White House and stay there’. Chris added pepper and salt

This year, Glorious Goodwood had it all

‘You’re being unfaithful,’ says the punter’s wife brandishing a note found in her husband’s suit pocket: ‘Dorothea 07440 521321.’ ‘No, no, darling that’s a horse I plan to back next week with its form figures.’ Marital harmony is restored. Three weeks later he arrives home to find his wife on the doorstep with suitcase packed

Horse racing’s invisible heroes

President George W. Bush used to quote his fellow Texan Robert Strauss who famously declared: ‘You can fool some of the people some of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on.’ Listening to the economic arguments of most of the candidates for the Tory leadership last week, they clearly take

Why racing needs Frankie Dettori

Heading for a holiday in Sardinia, I remembered that the last time we were there our engine-less, drifting boat was rescued by a Mr Dettori. Mrs Oakley’s relief was tempered only by my disappointment that our saviour wasn’t Frankie or even a relative. This time it looks as though it is Frankie, the world’s favourite

The joy of Royal Ascot

In a disintegrating country, stuck for the moment with a Prime Minister who can’t see the difference between a proliferation of photo-ops and the act of governing, we needed a Royal Ascot week. No racecourse in the world does photo-ops better than Ascot – the carriage processions, the toppers and tails (and yes, Madam, wear

How modesty triumphed in the Derby

In the absence on her Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, such an avid Derby attender in the past, and following the death just days before of the legendary Lester Piggott, it could have been a low-key, insignificant Derby. Instead, a truly impressive victory for the favourite, Desert Crown, turned it into a different kind of

Poor prize money is killing British horseracing

Seeing Fully Wet win the European Breeders Fund Maiden Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday was a genuine source of pleasure, and not just because I had thought her the pick of the paddock and taken the 8-1. My previous ‘best in paddock’ had finished last. The good news was that Fully Wet was the first

The art of picking winners

‘Some of our players can hardly write their names,’ moaned one leading football manager. ‘But you should see them add up.’ With soaring energy prices and grocery bills going up, up and up, we are all getting better at maths. My monthly energy bill has just risen by more than I paid for my first

The unacknowledged stars of the jump season

The Irish aren’t just good at winning horse races: they are in the Super League when it comes to celebrating victories. After Shark Hanlon’s Hewick had collected the £90,000 first prize in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown Park last Saturday, the red-haired trainer said with a twinkle: ‘The plan was to go home this

The glorious return of the Grand National crowd

How wonderful after three years to have the crowds back to enjoy the glorious concoction of skill, bravery, razzmatazz and tear-jerking emotion Aintree’s Grand National meeting always provides. Having begun my working life on the Liverpool Daily Post in the days when developers’ greed nearly destroyed this national treasure, I relish my annual pilgrimage. Competition

The British shone at Cheltenham

For Barbara and Alick Richmond, Living Legend’s game 12-1 victory in Kempton’s 1m 2f Magnolia Stakes last Saturday was their first in a Listed race and it showed. Living Legend had been driven to the front two furlongs out and held on bravely to prevail by a nose. ‘Come here you,’ said Barbara to the