2011 – 2012

On 25 June my husband Leo, who was an extremely distinguished publisher, did an excellent BBC interview on one of his books, The Frolik Defection. Gordon Corera, who interviewed him, also wrote a big piece in the Sunday Times on Joseph Frolik, who was believed to be a spy trying to trick British politicians into indiscretions during the 60s.

At the end of June I was back in Newmarket, and was enchanted to be invited to Thoroughbred Breeders Association Awards at Tattersalls. Here I was thrilled to sit next to my old friend Chicky Oaksey, who had won an award for her marvellous horse Carruthers who she and her husband John bred and who I mentioned earlier when we saw him winning the Hennessy Gold Cup back in November.

Mark Prescott made an achingly funny speech which cheered everyone up and dear Alice Plunkett, on leave from Channel 4 racing because she is expecting a baby, hosted the ceremony with customary charisma. Award winners included the mighty Juddmonte Farms who owns both Frankel and the great stallion Oasis Dream and the equally great Edward Gillespie for services to racing. He will be hugely missed.

The next day, I was extremely excited to get up early, go round to Michael Bell’s yard and travel in the lorry with our filly Love Grows Wild, to Great Yarmouth, where she was running. Matt Johnson, who works so hard looking after her, was asleep before the lorry left Newmarket, the other lads, Ian Smith and Martin Gleeson regaled us with wonderful horse anecdotes.

I was charmed by Yarmouth as a racecourse. It’s hugely friendly and there are wonderful opportunities for families with children really to enjoy a day out.

I was also delighted to be invited by the Clerk of the course Richard Aldous, to have lunch with him and the stewards so I missed Love Grows Wild being saddled up. This dear filly has ended at the back of the field in nearly all her races. But with Hayley Turner and me whispering encouragement in her ear beforehand, she ran well. Even when other runners engulfed her towards the end, she rallied and battled on, was just pipped for second place and came third. She is a dear, sweet horse. I so long for her to succeed.

Back in Newmarket I had a very nice drink with Henry Cecil’s secretary, a beautiful blonde called Clare Markham and the following morning I talked to the absolutely delightful James McEwen, who runs Janah Transport which flies six thousand horses to race or take up stud duties round the world.

I was transfixed by his wonderful stories and by the fact that some horses go first class, some business class and some economy, and when he flew horses out to the Falklands to replace livestock vastly reduced by the Falklands War, one old lady asked if her horse could have a window seat. As Master Quickly, my hero horse in the new book will be flying all round the world, James’s help will be invaluable. Evidently horses are very good passengers, and as long as they get enough hay and water, they don’t need a film of Sea Biscuit or Secretariat to entertain them.

On the 3rd of July I had another excitement when owners and breeders Paul and Yvette Dixon invited me and Felix up to their glorious yards in Retford and introduced me to Jillywinks a glorious dark bay filly with a white star shaped like a heart on her forehead. (see photo – left)

Paul and Yvette have paid me the supreme compliment of giving me a share in Jillywinks and allotting a share of any prize money she wins to my favourite charities.

This is hugely exciting, particularly as Scott Dixon, Paul and Yvette’s handsome son will be training her (see photo – right).

Jillywinks (stable name Iris) seemed to devour the ground with such grace, as with ears pricked, she floated up the gallops . She is also incredibly friendly, like all Paul and Yvette’s horses. Out in the paddocks all the mares and foals came rushing up to be stroked and hugged.

Almost more exciting, Yvette and Paul have given me my own colours, forget-me-not blue decorated with yellow stars, which really brighten up the greyest day. Watch out for Jillywinks, I’m sure she has a future.

Finally on 12 July dear Love Grows Wild ran again at Folkestone. Although the ground had turned soft, which she doesn’t like, and the trip was longer: one mile one furlong than the seven furlongs at Yarmouth, she ran really well and managed a close third. She may surprise us yet.

I do hope I haven’t bored you with all these horsey anecdotes and you are not getting too rain-drenched. It would be so nice for my poor Leo to get out on the terrace to enjoy some sunshine. At least I hope you all enjoy the Olympics.

PS. With all the excitement over 50 Shades of Grey, I am tempted to write an erotic dog novel entitled ’50 Shades of Greyhound’ . My lovely Feather could star as Christian Greyhound: the hero.

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