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Plotter of the Summer Plunder

The sum of money riding on the great Ebor Handicap coup next Saturday now resembles a third world debt. Rumour has it York racecourse is laying on wheel barrows for successful punters with paramedics reportedly on stand-by for the layers. The horse in question is Pallasator, recently acquired by Qatar Racing, and the ‘plotter’ of the summer plunder is none other than, the legend that is Sir Mark Prescott.

My father was an avid coursing fan and never missed a Waterloo Cup, except when doing his bit for King and Country abroad. For the initiated, this Blue Riband event in the ancient art of Greyhound Coursing had been held at it’s traditional home at Great Altcar, Lancashire since 1836 until those dreadful nanny state groups, who would prefer the Aintree Grand National to be run over 7 furlongs at Chester, got involved and had it banned in 2005.

The point here is that the old boy would come home and tell us about this lovely young chap, ‘Wonderful speaking voice, very engaging’, who too was a doyen of the Waterloo Cup and had ‘’something or other to do with horses’’, the ‘lovely chap’ turned out to be Sir Mark Prescott.

Anyone that had the Waterloo Cup at heart and annually attends the National Coursing Championships in Clonmel, and incidentally always wins the best turned out, is the right sort in my book but when you add to this the fact that Sir Mark is the most affable of men, the king of dinner table chatter and the planner of a touch that can send a satchel holder into therapy, then he carries my good wishes, and some folding money, to the Ebor next Saturday.

Let nobody though label the master of Heath House as just somebody that can ‘lay one out for a touch’. In a career that has notched in excess of 1,500 winners Sir Mark has shown his remarkable talents with the thoroughbred in so many different areas. Consider this: As long ago as 1980 he was responsible for enabling Spindrifter to equal the record of thirteen two year old wins in a season and in the following four years his Misty Halo won 21 from 42 starts. In subsequent years he has not only trained the winner of a French Oaks, Confidential Lady in 2006, but landed, quite apart from most of the top handicaps, a very long list of Group races and trained, amongst many other star turns, the champion sprinter Pivotal. Not bad for somebody often regarded as not being in the ‘top flight’ of trainers.

In these days of two minute wonders, feeble minded minnows clogging every column inch and television hour, bad taste and ill manners seemingly something to be accepted and applauded, it is like a ray of sunshine that Sir Mark Prescott shines through this malaise with his own blend of old world charm and conduct.

His association with long term stable jockey George Duffield was the stuff of Hollywood. A Harrow educated Baronet racehorse trainer and his jockey the son of a miner, Yorkshire I believe. It was a partnership that lasted more than thirty years. Good God that is longer than both my marriages combined! It is a certainty that this unwavering loyalty has to be a major factor in his success. Once, when asked about the loyalty he had shown, George Duffield, the rider of many of his winners, Sir Mark commented that “I have looked at many another woman, but I have never looked at another jockey’’. Beat that?

So it is onward to this week’s York Ebor Festival. Some reputations will be enhanced; others will have a rusty pin burst their bubble. The wonderful York racecourse will be presented, as it always is, as the Yorkshire version of my beloved Sandown, the ladies will parade in all their finery and the gentlemen will retire to well stocked bars at prices some other venues might wish to make note.

The racing will be high in quality and the handicaps as tricky as an invisible poacher but all eyes will be focused on Saturday and the fervent hope that Pallasator lands the gamble. Hats will be hurled into the air, grown men will weep, bookmakers will be selling their jewellery and Sir Mark Prescott will, as cool as you like, wave a diffident hand and tell us that it was just some lucky fluke!

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