Chris Maude, the former jump jockey turned master valet, has been getting plenty of stick since his valiant attempt to burn down Newbury’s Berkshire Stand on Friday.
Had it been marginally more successful he would have put the mockers on the Queen’s 91st birthday treat – lunch with some of her trainers and a day at the races.
As it is he will be forever grateful to the stag party jockey-look-alike who created a ‘security alert’ when he bluffed his way into the paddock before the first race for ‘taking off some of the pressure.’
“Whoever he is I’d like to buy him a drink,” said Maude.
As usual Maude was one of the first to arrive at Newbury on Friday with a van full of jockeys’ kit. The first thing he does, religiously, is turn the sauna on in the changing room.
It was, perhaps, an oversight not to take a precautionary look inside first. But it was an unfortunate co-incidence on this occasion that an absent-minded cleaner had left a plastic bucket on the coals.
The recommended cooking instructions for plastic buckets is no doubt dependent on whether you cooking them from frozen and whether you like them rare or well done but after an hour it had not only got rather hot but was beginning to give off an acrid black smoke which was wafting its way towards the nearest smoke detector.
Meanwhile the grandstand had begun to fill up with catering staff and, on floor four – a long way to jump - a meeting of the Pattern Race Committee had commenced. The instant the fire alarm went off, they made the somewhat surreal leap from discussing Listed races to envisaging themselves in a scene from the Towering Inferno.
Everyone was evacuated and assembled outside the building. Sometime later clerk of the course Richard Osgood emerged with a plastic blob and addressed the crowd: “Who switched the sauna on?” A little voice, belonging to the master valet, squeaked “me.”
The consequences were that it was an hour before people were allowed back in while the smoke cleared, the Queen’s chauffeur had to take an extra turn round the block, Jamie Spencer had the theme tune to Fireman Sam on a loop for Maude in the changing room for the next two days and, in not the worst news to ever befalls jockeys, they had to use the females’ sauna.
Like a soldier who hears a bullet whistling past his ear on a live firing exercise, making a massive positive from a negative, Osgood said it was a ‘really good exercise from the racecourse’s point of view - except we had a practise at our previous meeting.”
Training the two-year-old Just For The Craic is either the biggest pressure job in racing or the easiest. The two-year-old, trained by Ruth Carr in Yorkshire, is owned in partnership by Jack Berry, Richard Hannon snr and David Elsworth who must have trained 10,000 winners between them.
Carr, who sent out an across-the-card treble on Good Friday, has her horses in flying form, generally reckons the first swallow needs to arrive before her first winners but a new gallop has changed that.
Carr’s unique selling point is that she turns each of her 40 horses out every day. Each row of stables is connected, via a chute, to a field and, after exercise, she opens each door, gives its occupant a slap on the backside and it trots out for its daily appointment with Dr Green. As many as 18 graze in the same field.
Just For The Craic was the result of a lunch at the sales between the three trainers. A vendor told them there was no interest in the horse because it was a box walker. They offered to open the bidding for it but the best laid plans of mice and men… the minimum bid, £3000, was also the last and they were landed with the colt.
Carr, who took over from her granddad David Chapman in 2008, received the call to take the yearling at home from an Irishman with a strong accent and a bad connection on his mobile so she was not entirely sure she heard him right when he said Berry, Hannon and Elsworth were the owners.
As box walking is usually a sign of claustrophobia she does not just turn him out daily - he lives in the field. Third last time he should be out again in a fortnight.