This is intended to be an ongoing feature and it will be added to as and when I invent, sorry, discover more amazing true stories of the turf.
All of the following stories are 100% true.
(1) "Caught Short"
You know when you go into the Gents toilet at a motorway service area, you're confronted with a line of urinals, and there's always a couple at the end that are a lot lower than all the others. You could be forgiven for thinking that they were meant for children, well you'd be wrong, they're actually meant for flat jockeys.
Think about it, who covers more motorway miles a year than jockeys, especially flat jockeys, who regularly ride at two meetings a day during the summer when there's evening racing, so it stands to reason that they should have their own facilities. Also, as they don't weigh much more than eight stone, they tend to be a bit "vertically challenged", or as those of us who don't care about political correctness would put it, they're a bunch of short arses.
To illustrate this, think back to when the BBC used to show racing, Willie Carson had to stand on a box when in front of the camera to get him up to approximately the same height as Clare Balding, otherwise we'd only have seen the top of his head. If it wasn't for those lower urinals, all flat jockeys (unless they have developed the water retention abilities of Camels), undertaking motorway journeys would have to carry boxes or small step ladders to stand on when they wanted to empty their bladders.
(2) "He's behind you"
Once upon a time (well in 1998 actually), word started to leak out from Newmarket of a 2 year old colt that was going to take the racing world by storm. "He's so fast that he leaves scorch marks up the gallops" the work watchers said. "I've got nothing that can keep up with him, and that includes my car", said his trainer. This went on for a couple of months.
Killer Instinct was his name, and on July 24th 1998 he made his long awaited racecourse debut in the 5 runner 7f EBF maiden stakes at Ascot. Sent off the 4/9 favourite, he tracked the leader and took the lead a furlong out, but then another horse overtook him and he couldn't respond and kept on at the one pace.
After this run, the 2000 guineas was bypassed in favour of the altogether more modest George Akins bookmakers class D maiden stakes at Nottingham, in which he managed to beat nine horses who have since gone on to achieve varying levels of mediocrity. Following this he was well beaten in a listed race at Kempton and again in the Group 1 St James Palace stakes at Royal Ascot.
All through his fairly short racing career, people always asked the same question, "how can a horse that does such breathtaking work on the gallops be so crap on the racecourse?". Finally, three years on, Ivor Donkey can now reveal the truth, and that is that Killer Instinct never actually existed in the first place. The whole thing was a cunning plan devised by the Newmarket gallop watchers and a number of prominent racecourse bookmakers. They registered a horse by the name of Killer Instinct with Weatherbys and leaked out the fictional gallop reports to the press, and when the time came for his racecourse debut, they knew that fortunes would be bet on him. The bookies that were in on it would lay the horse to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds, safe in the knowledge that he couldn't possibly win. How did they know this?, because the horse that appeared was not a horse at all, but two men inside a pantomime horse costume. However, nobody noticed, and fortunes were shovelled on him every time he ran. They used a real horse for the race at Nottingham which he won, because if he'd been beaten in such a mediocre race it would have looked decidedly suspicious. The pantomime horse was back for his final three races though.
"He's behind you" indeed.
(3) "Short arms, deep pockets"
You might think that TV racing presenters were pretty well paid, well you'd be wrong. This is particularly true for the presenters of channel 4 racing (or channel 4 attheraces as it appears to be called now). Their salaries are so low that they have to have a second job in order to avoid having to busk at tube stations.
To give you a few examples, John Francome is also a renowned author of turf related fiction who has sold literally dozens of books, Derek Thompson runs a premium rate telephone horse tipping service, Jim McGrath works for a horse tipping service, John McCririck has to do overtime on the attheraces channel after channel 4 go off the air, and Lesley Graham has to appear in newspaper advertisements for conservatories. If you don't believe me about the last one just cast your eyes towards the two photos on the right. They didn't even bother to photograph her, she had to stand in that position for over an hour while a bloke drew her.
Now you can see why Brough Scott and Lord Oaksey decided to leave channel 4 racing.
(4) "Straight from the horse's mouth"
In the racing post every day you see numerous adverts for premium rate telephone horse tipping services, but have you ever wondered who really runs them?
Well, for the first time I can exclusively reveal that a large number of them are actually run by horses. You are probably thinking that is a bit far fetched, but it makes sense when you think about it. Have you ever wondered what all of that whinnying is about when the horses are walking round the parade ring before a race?, I can tell you what it's about, it's them agreeing the result of the next race between themselves.
They tip the favourite for the race to all of the mugs who phone up their tipping lines, so that they all go out and back it and push out the prices of the other runners. Then they arrange for a big priced outsider to win so that they can back it themselves and clean up.
So if you're ever offered information straight from the horse's mouth - treat it with caution.
(5) "New balls please"
As you are probably aware, the vast majority of horses that run under national hunt rules are geldings, as are quite a few flat horses come to that. For the uninitiated, a gelding is a horse that has had his testicles removed, usually to calm him down a bit (or as the dictionary puts it, to "deprive him of vigour"). Personally, if someone removed my testicles it would have the opposite effect as I'd be absolutely livid about it.
So given that many thousands of horses have been subjected to this unspeakable process, you have to ask the question, what do they do with all of the testicles?, are they incinerated?, are they used in landfill sites?, or do they end up as those disgusting rubbery meatballs that we've all eaten for school dinners in our youth? Thankfully (especially in the third case), the answer is none of the above.
Have you ever wondered what cricket balls are made of, yes, you've guessed it, they're actually recycled horse's testicles. They're taken to the cricket ball factories, crushed down to the right size and shape by a machine, and baked in an oven to make them go hard with a crusty exterior, the seam around the outside is added afterwards. The balls are not dyed in any way, the red ones come from bay and chestnut horses, and the white ones that sometimes get used come from grey horses.
I've always considered cricket to be a load of old bollocks, and this finally proves it.
(6) "No right turn"
Have you ever wondered why American racecourses are all exactly the same (left handed ovals), and why American horses rarely contest races outside of America? Then read on.
It is common knowledge that the ancestry for all racehorses can be traced back to one of three sires, The Byerley Turk, The Darley Arabian or the Godolphin Arabian. However, what isn't common knowledge is that this does not apply to American bred horses, and that they can all be traced back to one lesser known individual.
It all started after the European settlers had finished brutally slaughtering the indigenous population and declared themselves an independent state from Britain, and they decided that they needed other things to do to occupy their time. Word had reached America of a sport that was becoming popular in Europe, the sport of thoroughbred horse racing, and they liked the idea. They decided that their independence should extend into bloodstock and breeding as well, so they set about finding the best colt in America to use as a stallion.
So a nationwide competition was staged, and owners brought their horses from far and wide. The horse that was finally chosen was a big strapping individual named "Unsteady Bill". Everybody assumed that he had been named after his somewhat intemperate owner, William "The Texas Sheep Worrier" Calhoun, who tended to fall over a lot after he'd pulled a cork or two. In truth though, the horse got his name because of a rather unfortunate physical defect, his two right legs were an inch longer than his two left ones. As the competition was worth a lot of money to the winner, his owner had a specially built up pair of horseshoes made for the horse's left feet, and put normal ones on his right feet in an attempt to disguise his problem. Incredibly, nobody noticed and Unsteady Bill embarked on his new career at stud.
Whatever other problems Unsteady Bill had, they certainly didn't extend to his genitals and he proved to be a very productive sire. However, when his first crop of foals were born, people began to notice that they all had the same physical peculiarity, yes you've guessed it, their right legs were an inch longer than their left ones. A closer examination of Unsteady Bill revealed the truth, though given the sheer number of mares that he had covered in the preceding months, it was a bit late to do anything about it.
This was something of an embarrassment to the newly formed American racing authorities, and they decided that there was only one way to solve the problem. As none of the horses they'd bred could run in a straight line for very far or turn right, they'd make all of their racecourses left handed ovals to compensate for it, and so American thoroughbred horse racing was born.
American trainers always say that they don't run their horses in British races because the prize money is too low, but the real reason is more than obvious. Caller One, a top American sprinter was brought over to run at Royal Ascot this year, but they decided not to run him after all. Injury was given as the excuse, the real reason though is that he was allowed to gallop on the course the week before to see how he would act on it. Unfortunately for him, the sprint course at Ascot is dead straight, and he ended up in Ascot high street before he'd completed three furlongs. The July cup at Newmarket was also mentioned as a possibility, but Newmarket is dead straight as well so he'd have fared no better there, so he went back to America and that was that. In fact, the only meeting outside the USA that American horses run at is the Dubai world cup, as the track at Nad Al Sheba is more or less identical to American tracks.
American racing people may wax lyrical about the likes of Secretariat, but the most influential horse in the history of American thoroughbred racing was undoubtedly Unsteady Bill, just don't expect any Americans to admit to it.