Gordon Elliot: Tiger Roll Wasn't Ready, But He Is Now


Gordon Elliott has suggested that the cancellation of this year's Grand National might have been a
'blessing in disguise' for hat-trick seeking Tiger Roll.

Asked whether he believes that Tiger Roll would have made it three in a row, the trainer replied 'to be
perfectly honest he came out of Cheltenham a bit stiff and sore, so we weren't going to have a great
preparation. We were going to be a bit under pressure to get him there'.

Despite being a year older and possibly due to carry top weight, the yard seems confident the Tiger can
make history.

Only Red Rum has won the race three times, but even Ginger McCain's hero needed five attempts.
No-one has won three consecutive runnings.

'He came back into it very well this year and he's been moving better than ever. Last season was a bit
stop and start which he couldn't cope with, but he's in good form. We're very happy with the horse',
added Elliott.
It won't just be Tiger Roll lining up next year, the stable has a fine string of horses that can make their
presence felt in the country's favourite jumps race, with new recruit Presenting Percy heading the list.

'I suppose the horses that we will have aiming at it will be Tiger Roll again, and Alpha Des Obeaux. But
Presenting Percy could even be a Grand National horse'.

Tiger Roll is available at a best-priced 16/1 for next April's race, with Presenting Percy at 33/1.


By Charlie Parker-Turner

Under the Radar #1



Week beginning 14th September

Welcome to Under the Radar, Old Gold Racing’s new fortnightly tipping feature.


Arenas Del Tiempo (4th) Tuesday 15th September – 15.55 Kempton

In a race that finished with the 15/8 favourite Lovely Breeze just getting the better of Sir Michael Stoute’s
Portfolio, you might assume it would be the latter underlined first on this list - wrong.

I thought the run from the fourth placed Arenas Del Tiempo for Luke Morris was incredibly promising and
the biggest takeaway from that maiden.

The debutant went off at odds of 33/1. After completely missing the break and having to be rousted
along for the opening furlong, the lack of support for the filly looked justified.

She eventually settled well at the rear of the field and coming off the bend was the only horse still on
the bridle.

Frustratingly for Morris, missing the kick meant that he was caught in overwhelming traffic and left with
nowhere to go until the cut away at the two furlong pole.

When a gap did emerge, Simon Dow’s two-year-old finished with plenty of speed and energy, passing
eight horses in just over a furlong to finish fourth.

With a good break and a clear run, I think the filly could have been involved in the photo and fourth
place doesn’t show how promising the run was. She’s one to keep on side of in her next few runs.


Zeyaadah (1st) Wednesday 16th September – 14.25 Beverley

Winning at 4/7 is hardly ‘under the radar’, but the manner of Zeyaadah’s most recent victory was
incredibly taking. I think many are underestimating how good Roger Varian’s filly might be.

After a convincing victory on debut despite a dreadful start, Jack Mitchell’s ride attracted support on
the assumption that if she broke well she would win.

But after another poor beginning the two year old hung left and was forced into being held up. The by
Tamayuz filly then found her rhythm but still had plenty of ground to make coming on to the straight,
with bookmakers offering 20/1 for her to win with three furlongs to go. When Mitchell urged Zeyaadah
for more, her turn of foot was impressive and she darted into the lead under just hands and heels.

Now two from two, it seems obvious for the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned horse to take a step up in
grade, and, potentially, in trip, given how impressively she stayed on when asked for more.

The combined winning margin of her two victories was 4.25 lengths but with better starts she probably
would have won by another ten. She is certainly one to consider going forward.


Wrea Green (2nd) Wednesday 16th September - 16.05 Beverley

Debuting against a 4/11 favourite that had good form against Class 1 competitors was inevitably a
tricky task, but when Wrea Green dwelt in the stalls and looked lost on the green grass of Beverley,
beating that level of opposition became an even bigger struggle.

For almost every yard of the five furlong trip, David Allan had to urge his mount along to keep up with
the field. When the penny dropped coming into the final two, the filly came storming through and burst
into second, finishing 3.75 lengths in front of third and behind the well-backed favourite.

It was obvious that Tim Easterby’s horse was learning on the job. There will definitely be a lot of
improvement to come from her. Her breeding suggests that a longer trip is well within her reach, with
her sire (Mayson) winning at 6f and her dam (Winter’s Night) at 7f and a mile.

Future runs over any of those trips could see her go one place better and a victory over five furlongs
would not be unexpected either given her turn of foot.


San Donato (3rd) Saturday 19th September – 13.55 Ayr


Roger Varian’s San Donato ran a respectable third in the Doonside Cup Stakes behind the impressive
Addeybb and 2019 Queen Anne Stakes winner Lord Glitters on Saturday.

The four-year-old, despite travelling past the two furlong pole looking the likely winner, didn’t look like
he stayed the entire 1m2f trip.

Just like in the Sussex Stakes (one mile), Andrea Atzeni had the horse in a great rhythm and prime
position but the moment the Italian jockey asked for more his mount found very little. Finishing behind
the two horses that he did is still a respectable result.

Questions are being raised about what his best distance is.

Having been tried at 7f, 1m and 1m2f trainer Varian looks as if he can’t find the right trip for his colt. The
113 rated Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum owned bay holds four entries in the next four weeks,
two over 1m and two over 1m2f, indicating that the horse is probably staying out the trip at home but
not putting it all together on the day.

I can only see him winning over 7f or maybe a fast mile with a good amount of pace in the race. He isn’t
really bred for longer trips.

By Charlie Parker-Turner

What is a Racing Syndicate?

If you're wondering what a horse racing syndicate is and how it works, you’re on the right page.

It’s a group of like-minded individuals who all own a share or multiple shares in one or more
racehorses. Racehorse shares are paid for on a yearly basis, with the option of renewal once the
syndicate year is over.

Old Gold Racing aims to ensure that becoming an owner is a unique experience and that all of our
owners receive a personalised service. Our racehorse syndicate members get to truly feel the
thrill of ownership.

At Old Gold Racing we want you to be able to fully immerse yourself in the overall experience of being
a racehorse syndicate member and racehorse owner. It’s a fantastic way to get involved in owning a
racehorse and to enjoy the excitement of horse racing with friends, family, colleagues and other
like-minded individuals, whilst also benefiting from the all-round entertainment value of owning a

Old Gold Racing strives to ensure that racehorse ownership is an exciting, affordable and, of course,
winnable experience for all our owners.

One of the many superb benefits of becoming a racehorse owner with Old Gold Racing is that you
receive behind the scenes insight into the training methods of 11 times National Hunt Champion Trainer
Paul Nicholls. This is achieved through stable visits and regular video and picture updates which are
emailed through to all owners and (soon) accessible through our web app. Stable visits to Paul’s Ditcheat
base run once per syndicate term.

To take part, all of our syndicate members who choose to be are entered into a ballot with the winners
being drawn at random.

Highlights of the stable visit include meeting Paul Nicholls himself, as well as the team from Old Gold
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food and drink and relax at Ditcheat in style. You’ll be introduced to your horse, where you can show your
love and appreciation through some mints or apple slices, as well as watching a parade of other horses
currently in training. You will enjoy seeing these incredible athletes in a showcase that few are fortunate
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To finish, you’ll have plenty of time to socialise and get to know other owners.

Old Gold Racing syndicate horse owners can also enjoy an owner’s race day experience when they
purchase a share in any of Old Gold Racing’s horses. When the horse is running, owner's badges, in the
same way as for stable visits, are picked from a hat. Owner’s badges for racing include the entire owners’
paddock experience giving full and exclusive access to owner & trainer areas where you’ll be
entertained and shown around, probably by Ed Seyfried, Old Gold Racing’s CEO, and sometimes, with
Paul Nicholls or assistant trainer Harry Derham.

At the racecourse, you’ll be able to view the race from the finishing post, owner’s box, bar or restaurant
- whichever location heightens the winning thrill the best.

All racehorse owners are entitled to an equal share of your horse’s winnings; the amount you get depends
on the number of shares you own, as well as the total prize money.

On top of these amazing experiences, Old Gold Racing also wants to ensure you will have something
that you can cherish for a lifetime and these include keepsakes and gifts. If you purchase our Old Gold
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An added bonus of being a racehorse syndicate member and owner through Old Gold Racing is our
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to get a sense of the community, monitor updates and socialise with each other. At Old Gold Racing we
appreciate how important it is to be able to follow your horse and the racing whenever and wherever
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“visit the stables”, communicate on posts, see the latest video/pictures of their horses in training and
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We pride ourselves on a top-notch racehorse owner service and ensure that all of our owners can fully
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Old Gold Racing is changing the way that horse racing syndicates work by offering an unrivaled owner
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We look forward to welcoming you along for the ride!

Written by Julia Petruzzelli

Ceiren with a C


Find a man and sit him down. Discover what he likes to drink and order it. Ask him to describe his
relationship with his father. Say it's serious.

There will be a deeper than usual breath and the eyes might re-focus into the middle distance. 'Well ...',
he will answer, smiling and frowning at the same time, 'it's complicated ...'

So it is. The bible is preoccupied by the paternal/filial question and the Greeks took the subject so
seriously they needed the extreme example of Oedipus. It's a constant theme in Shakespeare.

Chekhov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Brain Friel have all wrestled with the matter and Dylan
Thomas sometimes seems to have written about nothing else. Dad's and sons are fascinating, but
they're a problem.

Ceiren Fallon is 22. It's common to talk of new kids on the block as having 'burst onto the scene'.
Ceiren really did. Although he had excelled in other sports like football he had, until three years ago,
never sat on a horse. He'd never wanted to. So to become Champion Apprentice in 2019 is some
entrance, and one that inevitably attracted attention. Now, in his first full season, a time when many
promising jockeys struggle, he is doing fine.

Aside from the natural interest in a promising newcomer there was another reason ears were pricked
and heads turned. The young man achieving this abrupt success was the son of Keiren Fallon. Most of
us didn't know there was one.

People who know nothing about racing have heard of Keiren Fallon. He made the front pages in 1994
when he pulled another jockey from his horse in the immediate aftermath of a race. That earned a six
month ban. There were then two substantial bans for drug use. He was sacked by his trainer when at
the top of his game for well publicised 'personal' reasons and certain owners disliked him so much
they gave instructions that he was not to ride their horses, even though he won on them. There were
alcohol problems and he was arrested and put on trial for race-fixing. The case was thrown out.

Kieran Fallon pulls Stuart Webster off his horse at Beverley, 1994

What made this drama gripping was that the leading actor was a genius. When Kieren sat on a horse
it felt like we were looking at a single animal. He was one of those highly gifted self destructive
individuals who are compelled by some beast to occasionally create mayhem.

Such people are often so possessed by one thing, and so good at it, that they forget to know about
anything else. In that respect they stay children, charming and selfish. They write their own rules. It's
great on the good days, less so otherwise. The low points, the public rows, the stuff that makes the
front page instead of the back, all reveal vulnerability which we, the public, from a safe distance,
respond to emotionally. We love brilliant people who get things wrong. We want to know more, and

So when a chip beginning with C flew from the block beginning with K and shaped like it could be as
good or better we were agog. And still are.

It isn't Ceiren's fault. Heredity is clearly at work. It isn't enough to be young, fit and ambitious to sit on
a horse and win race after race against other people who also want to win. Ceiren has got a lot of
Keiren in him, obviously, and a lot of Kieren's instinct. What we can't help but wonder is, what about
the bad bits? Are they present?

Provisionally the answer is an absolute negative, but Ceiren is condemned to exist, as a jockey, not
necessarily in the shadow of his father but in the context of him. It will be a career of comparisons.

When I ask if he has sympathy for his father's fallibility the answer is a firm 'no'. Ceiren doesn't drink or
smoke and has never been in any trouble that we know about. He was brought up by his mother,
ex-jockey Julie Bowker, after his parents split. He didn't keep tabs on his father's career. When I ask if
that was because he was angry with him he says no. I asked about the name. It's common for a son to
be called after the father, but unusual to have the same name spelt differently. Ceiren's explanation,
offered with some laughter, is that while it was originally a K his mother, confused by various letters
addressed to 'Keiren', decided to change the initial without altering the pronunciation.

He talks with pace, intelligence and passion. There is some emphasis and a trace of anger when he
declares that his father would have won twice as many championships without the distractions, and he
denies absolutely that the same devil is in him. He admits to aggression and that he has 'no friends' in
a race, but it all ends at the winning post. His father, he says, had bad advice or no advice whereas he
has people around him who keep him honest and focused.

Part of the support is a morning discussion with both parents on the day ahead, usually followed by one
of them driving him to the track.

Ceiren cheerfully agrees that an ambition is to surpass his father's record. It's some aspiration. To
achieve it he will have to become one of the best jockeys of the last 100 years. He has upped the stakes
big time. When we stand in a betting shop and watch him ride the favourite in a claimer at Kempton we
now know what he's trying to do.

Even the most warlike son of ancient Greece might have thought twice about going public with that
kind of long term plan.

However, since the runners and riders in the Dad Lad Stakes, distance unknown, are now declared,
here is the breakdown. Keiren, 2578 winners, Champion jockey 6 times, 17 classic wins including 3
Derbys, record after 2 seasons 74 successful rides. Cieren, currently in his second year, 91 wins. The
son is 4 years younger than the father at the equivalent career stage and Keiren lost at least 3 seasons
to suspension and injury.

At this very early juncture Cieren has a slight lead.

But in the all-time list of successful jockeys Keiren is 11th. The son is not just taking on his father, but
history. Keiren was often called the best in the world but one of his progeny is now committed to
proving that he wasn't even the best in his own family. In the passionate illogic of human impulse
Keiren is probably delighted, most of the time. It will take about 25 years. That's a long time cutting
chunks out of the bedpost.

If Ceiren ever wondered, like sons do, how best to get his father's attention he knows now.

One day there will be a result, and an answer to the question of who was the best. When it comes the
protagonists might agree that it didn't really matter. If Ceiren ever gets there it's safe to say there will
be two happy Fallons.

The trouble with that other competition between father and son, the complicated one, is that one can
never tell who is winning. There's isn't a latest score, never mind a conclusion, and no-one knows
where the winning line is. Ceiren and Keiren, and a few billion others, will have to keep on worrying
and arguing, rowing and making up, until they sort it out.

When it gets too much there's always sport.





Cancel culture isn't new.

It was thriving in 1934 when Harold Larwood received a letter from the MCC requiring him to formally
apologise to Australia for his bowling.

Larwood hadn't exactly won the Ashes single-handedly the previous year, in Australia, against both the
odds and Bradman in his prime, only almost.

When Larwood was 13 he began working 1400 feet underground at the Annesley Colliery, situated at
the edge of Sherwood Forest. Along with the rest of the working men in his village the shifts meant he
only saw daylight on Sundays, at any rate for nine months of the year. When he did he played cricket.
In 1922 Nottinghamshire offered him a playing contract. Larwood's methodist father was angry that his
son had accepted a wage of 32 shillings, the same as he was getting down the mine. Four years later
he was picked for England.

Australia were the visitors and England retained the Ashes 1-0. The solitary win was in the final Test at
the Oval, when Australia were bowled out in their second innings for 125, Larwood taking 3 for 34. He
had played two of the five matches. Two years later, aged 24, he was part of the team that won the
first four tests in Australia. In the Brisbane Test Larwood took 6 for 32. The match was notable for the
international debut of the 20 year-old Bradman. He made 18 and 1.

In 1930 the Australians were back. Bradman had matured. It was felt that he wouldn't succeed on the
slower English pitches. The home team were hot favourites.

In five Tests Bradman scored 334, 254, 232 and 131, averaging 139.14. Larwood, by then recognised
as the fastest bowler in the world, took just four wickets in the series.

The MCC's feathers had been seriously ruffled by the defeat. Percy Fender, ex-England batsman and
then sports journalist, wrote that 'something will have to be introduced to curb Bradman'. A new
England captain, Douglas Jardine, was appointed for the 1932 tour.

Jardine was, in background and temperament, conventionally suited to the role. Born in Bombay he
had attended Winchester and New College, Oxford. He was a decent batsman who averaged 48 in

Since the early 19th century English cricket had been divided into 'Players', men of working class origin
who were paid a salary by their counties and appearance fees for other matches, and 'Gentlemen'. The
latter were from the middle and upper classes. They remained amateurs, receiving expenses only.
Positions of influence, including the England captain, were exclusively occupied by Gentlemen.

Larwood liked his captain, and addressed him on and off the field as 'Mr Jardine'.

The feeling was that if Bradman could dominate England in England he would be lethal in Australia.
Jardine was tasked with solving this problem. He visited Larwood in Nottinghamshire. In 1930
Bradman, in the process of scoring a double hundred at the Oval, had experienced an hour of
discomfort when Larwood had bowled short to him on a rain-freshened pitch. Jardine asked Larwood
if he was capable of bowling long, fast, accurate spells, pitching short and aiming down the leg side.
Larwood said he was.

Jardine now conceived leg theory.

Batsmen would face an unrelenting series of 95 mph deliveries arriving at or around shoulder height.
If the striker was right-handed the ball would pass adjacent to his left ear. There were limited ways of
playing these balls. One could hook, duck, fend away or be hit. There were eleven members of the
fielding side. Two would be placed on the boundary at long-leg and fine-leg, poised to catch any
mishit hook, and a further four close to but behind the bat on the leg-side, ready to snaffle the ball
should it pop up. Two more were just as close but slightly in front of the wicket. The remaining fielder
was usually cover point or silly mid-off.

This is Australian captain Bill Woodfull ducking a delivery from Larwood...

The laws of cricket were changed as a result of the series about to be played. The number of leg side
fielders behind the bat was limited to two. While the kind of bowling envisioned by Jardine remained
just as physically dangerous for a batsmen the balance of power was  shifted in his favour - there was
far less chance of being out caught and more opportunities to score.

Hugh Buggy was a well known journalist, based in Melbourne. His specialities were crime and sport.
After the first day's play of the first Test he sat staring unhappily at his copy. He was trying to explain
to his readers the English strategy, describing it, in his draft, as 'bowling on the line of the body'. Those
seven words seemed clumsy.

Buggy ripped up what he had written and paused. When he filed the story it contained the phrase
'body-line bowling'. His editor, impressed, capitalised the first letter, lost the hyphen and printed it big.
Bodyline entered the lexicon.

Jardine's tactics worked. Bradman's average for the series was restricted to 56, still very good by anyone
else's standards, and England won 4-1. Larwood took 33 wickets.

The Australian authorities made their position very clear. They considered the methods
unsportsmanlike and 'against the spirit of the game'. This was explicitly articulated in a long telegram
to London. Woodfull, lying naked in the dressing room having his bruises attended to, was paid a
courtesy call by England manager Sir Pelham Warner. Woodfull had a reputation as a decent man, not
outspoken or impulsive. He told Warner he didn't want to see him, adding 'There are two sides out
there. One of them is playing cricket'. Warner left without responding.

Captain Woodfull rejected the idea of bowling Bodyline in response, despite considerable pressure to
fight fire with fire. He found a better means of revenge, captaining the next Australian side to visit
England, in 1934, and regaining the Ashes. Once the job was done he retired from cricket. Australia
held the urn for the next 19 years.

In the aftermath of England's victory the diplomatic repercussions continued. The Australians sought
assurances from the MCC that Bodyline would never again be employed. It was under these
circumstances that Larwood was approached to apologise. No request was made to Jardine.

Larwood might have written a clever letter explaining that while he could never apologise for taking
wickets or for winning matches (pointing out that he was throughout obeying the instructions of his
captain) and that in the heat of battle it was difficult to see things in perspective, but, if the Australians
felt that his bowling had been unsportsmanlike he was sorry and he hoped they could understand and
forgive, and that he looked forward to bowling them out again in a more conventional manner.

The Australians would have understood this and accepted it, and it would have got the MCC out of a
hole, but Larwood was a dour, working class man and not especially bright. He point-blank refused,
encouraged by his parents. As a result, and at the peak of his powers, the MCC responded with spite,
never selecting him for the national side again, depriving him of income at the height of the depression.

Larwood had an ashtray, inscribed by Jardine, thanking him for 'winning the Ashes'. Although he
spoke warmly of his captain for the rest of his life the establishment of which Jardine was a
representative then proceeded to cancel Harold Larwood.

He continued playing for Notts for another four years. In all cricket he took 1427 wickets at an average
of 17.51. He was also a useful lower order batsman, scoring 3 centuries and averaging 19.91.

Encouraged by old adversary Jack Fingleton, Larwood, his wife and five daughters, emigrated to
Australia in 1950. He was astonished to find that ordinary Australians needed no apology from him
and actually identified with a sportsman who wanted to win. Those that had stood on the Sydney Hill
17 years before and repeatedly called him, according to Larwood, 'the worst of all the four letter
words',wanted no more than a laugh and a beer. He hadn't come home, he had arrived there.

Larwood lived in happy obscurity, working for Coca-Cola, watching his family grow. In 1977 it was the
Australian Cricket Board who invited him to the Centenary Test. 35,000 locals applauded for five
minutes as the old man walked to the wicket. Fred Truman, another great fast bowler unloved by the
MCC, interviewed him. Larwood asked Fred if he would have apologised. The tough Yorkshireman, not
usually short of an opinion, was for a moment too overcome to answer.

In 1949 Larwood had been made an honorary member of the MCC, something he felt went some way
to redressing the wrong done to him 15 years before. Trent Bridge re-named a section of the ground
the 'Larwood and Voce Stand' and there is a pub of the same name nearby. In 1992, fifty-nine years
after he last represented England and two years before he died, Larwood, then almost blind, was
given an OBE.



A Man in Love with a Horse



The Daily Mirror's wartime cartoonist Zec produced this astonishing piece of inspirational art in 1944,
with the caption 'there is no weak link'.

...and it is impossible to imagine even the most cynical Briton of the time failing to be moved.

The woman is defiant, cradling a baby, wearing an apron, standing on Dover's cliffs and looking to the
skies. She is striking rather than beautiful. Behind her is bomb-blackened London...

Even black marketeers and deserters would have wanted a piece of it. Auden and Isherwood, having
fled on some pretext to New York, would have cheered.

A year later, Zec was responsible for the most famous cartoon of all time ...

'Here you are. Don't lose it again!

Very occasionally life takes us, usually via trauma, to good places. It costs a lot.

Sport, on the other hand, gets us there quickly, often, cheaply and easily.

Vicarious is a great word with a bad name. Used well it can be withering. It was applied by one
commentator to the 'grief' with which the nation reacted to the death of Diana in 1998. We behaved,
he alleged, as though a member of our family had been killed, enjoying the adrenaline rush and the
catharsis but avoiding the numbing shock and the empty aftermath. We selfishly took the good bits,
the critic said.

We got off on it, in other words.

Sport we are meant to get off on. Picking out the good bits is what it's for. To be vicarious is essential.
That's the point of selecting a team or individual and spectating with the perspective of a partisan. It
feels as though our lives are at risk even though nothing is actually at stake. Triumphs can be
remembered and gloried in, disaster can be shrugged off in a couple of days. There's another match
next week.

We can't do this in real life. When things go wrong we have to pay the bills, then or at the end of the

Sport is fiction. The misery it appears to cause the losers would, if real, take years to recover from.

There are so few good novels about it because it is already make-believe. The Stokes/Leach unbroken
partnership to win the test against Australia last summer, for example. No writer could put that in a
story and expect to be taken seriously.

Seeing the text unfold in front of us, being written in the present, is intoxicating. We are the lusty
Stokes one second, smiting so hard that even the mis-hits limp over the rope for 6, then Leach,
bravely resisting, holding the fort, polishing our spectacles like a patient bank clerk, then resuming
courageous defence. There is nothing we can't be when watching sport.

The allegiance to a national team is a lifelong matter. In horse racing the love, generally lasting from
the striking of the bet to the passing of the post, may be more promiscuous. For Andrew Walker, the
gentleman of the title, the investment was long term.

At Exeter in 2005 a horse, favourite in a three runner field, caught his eye. It fell two from home and
the jockey, having kept hold of the reins, re-mounted and still nearly won. Frank Sinatra was needed...

Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger

You may see a stranger, across a crowded room

And somehow you know

For the next 7 years Andrew followed this horse, in person or in spirit, with money down or not,
wherever it went. No member of cricket's now defunct Barmy Army was more dedicated and no
flare-brandishing Lazio ultra more single-minded. His passion could not have been greater had he
been watching his son compete in the Olympics. Mistakes made were ghastly moments of horror, falls
were catastrophes. Injuries led to months of desperation, searching for updates on the recovery.
Victories were personal triumphs, often leading to tears.

In this time Andrew collected a museum load of memorabilia. Photos, scarves, sculptures, posters, a
discarded plate sent on request by the trainer, signed race cards, models, portraits. In his book,
Following the Star, published in 2013, every stumble in every race is logged, the nature of each jump
is analysed, the threats are identified and the aftermath detailed. Family events, the birth of children
for example, are remembered in the context of which race had just been run or was being prepared for.

If there was no-one to watch, pay, obsess and sacrifice like Andrew, to travel long distances,
experience disappointment, be rained on and then consider the day well spent, elite sport would not
exist. Lionel Messi would have to get a proper job. He is Messi because we, in the absence of anything
more pressing to do, like fighting a war, dream of being Messi, no other reason.

Following the Star is available on Amazon and is being republished by BlueJ in August

Andrew Walker owns a share in Bob Pebble.


The Theft of Football

Premier League Chief Executives are right now casting an intrigued eye on the future. It is fan-free.

No-one should be surprised.

In the early 60s unfamiliar football grounds were located by the smell of cigar and pipe smoke wafting
on the breeze. Children like me were routinely grasped by the strong hands of friendly strangers and
lifted over the turnstile. If it was an away game these ordinary gestures of kindness would be
accompanied by comments to the effect that we were going to get a hiding, that we should never
have had that penalty last season, and so on. If it was a capacity crowd and we had arrived late I
would be picked up again and handed down the terrace at head height, then plonked at the front,
where I would stay for the entire match, finding my father afterwards. There was no segregation of
supporters. During the game I would be asked every few minutes if I was ok and frequently told what
a filthy player our centre half was. When the home team scored adults would instinctively brace their
bodies in front of me, protecting me from the surge.

Leaving the ground at the end I was a sapling amongst mighty oaks. A hand would go on my shoulder
or head from time to time, together with a reassuring comment. All the little lads were looked after in
this way. No-one made a fuss. It could take twenty minutes to travel 30 yards. I have never felt so safe.

Very occasionally football fans weren't safe.

An impromptu, wooden stand collapsed at Ibrox, home of Rangers, in 1902. 25 people died as they
fell onto concrete. At Burnden Park, Bolton, in 1946, two crash barriers gave way on a packed terrace.
The crowd rolled forward, crushing 32 to death.

In 1971, again at Ibrox, a last minute goal was scored. Many of those fans leaving the ground turned
to go back and some fell. 68 were trampled and lost their lives.

I attended an FA Cup semi-final a few months later, standing on the terrace behind one of the goals.
There was the usual crush at the end. The exit gave onto a narrow street down which a multitude was
slowly marching. I tried to go the other way but was picked off my feet and carried for some yards. I
fought my way to a brick wall, and waited. If I had fallen - difficult, really, given the congestion - the
throng around me would have been unable to help.

The venue was Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield Wednesday.

What the press called 'hooliganism' had begun to play a part. Fights between rival fans, often
premeditated, became more frequent. Despite standing in the areas where these were likely to occur I,
in the several hundred games I attended, avoided violence by not looking for any. The battles were
largely demonstrations of bravado, notable for pulled punches and the parading of colours. Clubs
began separating supporters. By the end of the 70s the away contingent was usually imprisoned in a
pen from which escape, including onto the pitch, was impossible.

There was hatred between police and fans. It was no-one's fault exactly. Both brought a presumption
of persecution. Stone faced officers, standing in a phalanx or sitting on horseback, would endure
constant abuse as they shepherded the away cohort from, for example, the railway station to the
ground. Very occasionally a copper would dive into the melee and extract an individual, who would be
badly treated. On each encounter, both sides saw enough to reinforce their preconceptions of the other.

In April, 1989, 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the start of their match with Nottingham
Forest. It became known as the Hillsborough Disaster. The supporters who died were located at the
Leppings Lane end, where I had stood 18 years earlier. As kick-off approached many thousands were
trapped in a crush outside the ground, too many for the turnstiles to cope with. The police solved the
problem by an illegal tactic that was also common practice. They opened the wide gates normally used
to allow the crowd out at the end of the match. The ticketless surge that resulted caused the deaths,
both in the tunnels leading to the terrace and on the terrace itself. Many if not all of the latter would
have been avoided if it had been possible to climb onto the pitch and if the end had not been divided
into three secured pens The middle section was fatally overcrowded. The police were slow to react,
treating what was happening as a riot not a medical emergency. Their relationship with supporters, it
might be argued, was partly to blame. But even unlocking the small iron doors at the front of the
terrace may have made little difference. In apportioning fault I have always felt it is ignored that both
police and fans only did what had been done many times before.

The next day fences restricting movement were spontaneously torn down at grounds up and down
the country.

The police hierarchy then orchestrated a statement containing lies about the sequence of events.
Largely because of this they are now, somewhat simplistically, regarded as totally to blame for what

Up to this point - for nearly 100 years - official attendance figures were a fiction. There were the kids
let in free with a nod and a wink and those that had pushed their way in or climbed in without tickets.
The use of cash at turnstiles presented endless and easy opportunities for fraud. A gate of 60,000 was
more likely 75,000 or more. That in so long just four fatal incidents as a result of crushing or
overcrowding occurred, and that, given the numbers and the passions involved, there was so little
violence and so much good humour, is staggering.

Anyway, all this now came to an end. It may soon be possible to retrospectively argue that
Hillsborough was the day football died.

Standing hadn't caused the disaster, but this was what was first seriously restricted and then virtually
banned. Not for the last time authorities were keen to be seen to take decisive, drastic action. That it
was inappropriate didn't matter.

Three years later the Premier League was formed. Top division clubs now had the right to take
autonomous decisions based on their own interests only, not taking into account those teams lower
down the ladder. All seater stadiums, corporate hospitality, luxury boxes and five star cuisine were all
on the agenda, but most of all it was about TV contracts.

It is a well established capitalist custom to sometimes restrict money-making in order to preserve
other things of value. Old buildings and parts of the countryside are protected, for example, and all
commerce operates within some kind of framework. Football, an astonishing, working class and
cultural tradition, found itself defenceless in 1992. It had no champions, just supine and bribable

In 1967 Celtic won the European Cup in Lisbon with 11 players born within a few miles of the centre of
Glasgow. In 2005 Arsene Wenger, a remarkable and visionary manager, fielded an Arsenal side without
a single member qualified to play for England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. No individual signing or
selection was wrong. The end result was wrong. Whilst the red side of North London still showed up to
cheer, their alienation from those representing their patch, their stamping ground, was complete. There
had been a sensible regulation limiting the number of non-British players in a team to three. The power
of money and the autonomy of the Premier League caused it to be dumped. Fans weren't asked. It
matters to a supporter that a few of his team grew up a few streets away, or went to the same school.
Football is legitimately tribal.

The European Cup used to be contested by the League winners of each country. Financially it suited
UEFA, the governing body, to have more teams, especially from the major nations, and more games.
And so now, for example, four English sides qualify for the Champions League, three of whom are not
champions. Etymological inaccuracy doesn't bother those tasked solely with showing a profit.

A direct result has been the destruction of the FA Cup, once the most exciting element of a season for
players and fans of all clubs, especially those in the lower leagues. If a side from the old division four
could somehow scrape into round three they might draw Spurs or Liverpool, then play on a frosty, badly
prepared, January pitch in front of hysterically passionate fans. Having accidentally broken the heating
in the away dressing room and smilingly made their guests as unwelcome as possible, there was just a
chance of a famous upset. The mere hope of this sustained millions of fans through the winter months.
Now that aspiration is gone forever. The big clubs, having too many games to play anyway, send
reserve and youth teams to compete in the cups and are relieved to be knocked out.

There used to be a rule, now forgotten, that every team had to field more or less their strongest
eleven for every game. Getting rid of it suited only the very wealthy.

International football has suffered in a similar way. With the big clubs having 60-odd matches each
season, including lucrative foreign friendlies, call ups for the national side are an inconvenience, one
they often avoid by feigning injury to their players. There is no meaningful opposition to this policy
from regulators. England's marginalised national side would now struggle to beat any Premier League

It is possible to exercise benevolent control over sport. In America, not known as a hotbed of radical
action, there is something called the draft. Each year the college system produces a number of players
considered good enough for the NFL, and these are ranked. The franchise with the worst record in the
previous 12 months gets first choice, and so on. It is an attempt to artificially ensure that the
competition stays competitive and to prevent wealth being in itself a passport to success. Individual
owners don't like it but they are forced to comply by an authority that has teeth and which, realising
that the dreams of supporters matter, is committed to looking after the traditions of the game.

In the 28 years of the Premier League the title has been won 25 times by 4 clubs. In the NFL during the
same period 17 teams have been champions. There, fans believe in miracles.

Here, they hope to finish tenth. The NFL, incidentally, is the richest league in the world. Actual money
isn't the problem.

There are one billion people worldwide who claim allegiance to Manchester United. Most buy
merchandise and subscribe to television channels. The actual paying customer represents a tiny fraction
of the income the club enjoys. The possibility of expanding that income whilst playing without an
inconvenient crowd in front of a stadium filled with dummies is, I promise, one that appeals to them and
others. Cheers will be dubbed. Helpfully, the BBC is already doing this. The big teams have for decades
lived unfettered and unchallenged in a world where the sole consideration has been quantity of cash.
Nothing else has mattered. Their legitimate aspiration for success and wealth has not been moderated
by checks aiming to serve the greater good. It follows that if a way could be found to create more
wealth by playing to nobody they will go for it.

The behind-closed-doors experiment now taking place will, a few years down the line, prove a useful
blueprint. Fans, who once discovered autonomy, identity and expression at matches, have never really
been liked that much. Have they been targeted, or is it just bad luck? First they were banned from
standing, then they were banned from smoking. Next was swearing - not allowed anymore - and if
they are to make jokes they had better be careful what about. Gaining access to the ground is now at
least as traumatic as passing through security at Gatwick. It is an entirely natural development that
they be stopped from getting into the ground at all.

No ruler has ever looked at a football crowd without a shiver of fear. In 1914 generals on both sides
were seriously discommoded when spontaneous matches broke out up and down the front line on
Christmas Day. What if the camaraderie had gone further? There were no more truces.

They should all be reassured. Football is about to become a computer game. I hope they get on with

Then we can start again.


The Misunderstood Marquess


John Sholto Douglas, ninth Marquess of Queensberry, sponsor of the rules of boxing, is infamous as
the philistine brute who terrorised his family and destroyed the artist and genius Oscar Wilde.

A closer look is appropriate.

Born in 1844, Queensberry was 14 when his father made a single huge and losing bet, and shot himself.

At school in Portsmouth, and afterwards in the Royal Navy, Douglas excelled at sport. He was a strong
swimmer. He once represented Worcestershire at cricket, playing in the same XI as W.G. Grace, who
top scored. Douglas got a duck.

As a jockey he rode several winners but was more noted for his cheerfulness and courage than his
ability. He once fell when leading 36 horses over the Punchestown fences, then lay motionless as the
field stepped around him.

He relished all forms of boxing, including bare knuckle, often seeking out impromptu bouts with
strangers. He didn't write the Queensberry Rules, but promoted and endorsed them. Their effect was
to civilise an often savage sport.

The emphasis was placed on skill, speed, and on winning within the rules, not simply by any means.
Gloves and an impartial referee were made mandatory and fights were divided into a finite number of
rounds, introducing the concept of a competitor winning on points.

In 1865, when Douglas was 21, his younger brother, Francis, was killed while descending from the
summit of the Matterhorn. Three others died with him. The expedition had been led by Edward
Whymper, who survived. Queensberry spent a day and a night on the mountain, searching for a body.

He took his seat in the House of Lords in 1872, sitting as a Liberal. He was considered progressive,
even radical, advocating votes for women and simpler divorce laws.

Douglas had always been sceptical about conventional religion. His experience in the Swiss alps didn't
encourage him to believe in the God he heard talked about in church on Sundays. Agnostics of the
time were euphemistically referred to as 'free thinkers' and such people, whilst welcome in some
environments, were, in the Houses of Parliament, dismissed as cranks. When his attempts to provoke
a debate proved fruitless Queensberry raised the stakes.

Asked to take an oath of allegiance he requested the right to 'affirm' on the grounds that his word
should be enough. He was refused. The Marquess insisted, unwittingly putting himself in decent
company. Another who found it impossible to place his hand on a book and tell an ordinary lie was Sir
Thomas More.

Douglas was barred from sitting. It was an early end to a career.

He wrote poetry instead. A theme was what he called 'perfect love'. He believed we were responsible
for the souls of those we brought into the world.

Maybe thy happiest time was when
Blessed with a giant frame, and savage strength,
Free as the untamed beast, thou roamest the earth...
They progeny, a glory to thine eye,
Were all thou could'st desire in lustiness.

In the simplicity of a sporting environment, Queensberry remained relaxed and happy. Domestic life
defeated him. He had expected his family, especially the boys, to grow up and be like him. His job was
to supply the means for food, shelter and education, thus allowing the influences that had impacted
on him to take effect. When this went wrong he had no resources to address the problem.

Alfred, his youngest son, known as Bosie, was acquainted with the 'aesthete and dandy' Oscar Wilde.
It was the time of private vice and public virtue, when contradictory views found effortless
co-existence. Homosexuality was condemned in the most colourful and biblical manner from the pulpit,
from the House of Commons, and by Fleet Street editors, but generously tolerated in all other respects.
Queensberry was incapable of double standards himself, and didn't understand them in others...

Bosie and Oscar were lunching at the Cafe Royal when the father walked in. He was invited to join
them, and did so reluctantly. Wilde was on form and the Marquess was charmed. There was an
agreement that all should meet again. This was 1892. Queensberry had already warned his son about
Wilde's reputation but then wrote to Bosie contradicting his earlier advice, saying he approved of the

In 1893 Bosie was sent down from Oxford. The details of his misdemeanour were kept secret but the
college confided in Queensberry. Bosie had a reputation for taking things to extremes, for example by
hiring rent boys.

The next year Queensberry's eldest son, Francis, named after his late brother, died, at 27, of a shotgun
wound to the head, whilst on a hunting party. Lord Rosebery, then prime minister, had employed
Francis and the two had had an affair. Possibly it was the other way round. The death was informally
assumed to be suicide or murder, and was recorded as an accident.

Douglas was now 50. Politically his views had found no traction, and he was dismissed by those that
mattered as an eccentric fool. One son was dead, another, Percy, was a reckless gambler and alcoholic,
and Bosie was the third. He had become impotent; a second, unconsummated marriage had been

Without an appointment he visited Wilde in Chelsea, accompanied by a minder, an ex-boxer. He
demanded that all contact with his son be broken off and threatened to shoot Wilde dead if it wasn't.
Wilde ignored him, Bosie mocked him. The drunken Percy sided with Wilde. A chance meeting led to
public fisticuffs with the father. The scandal sheet Police News was happy to imagine the event...

Queensberry left a card at Wilde's club with the handwritten, mis-spelled message 'posing somdomite'.
Earlier he had said to Wilde, 'I don't say you are it, but you look it, which is just as bad'. Wilde sued for
criminal libel and Queensberry was arrested. A guilty verdict would have seen him sent to prison.
Douglas always referred to the card as 'the booby trap'.

He hired Edward Carson to represent him. Carson, a future attorney-general in Asquith's government,
had been a contemporary of Wilde at Trinity College, Dublin. Oscar remarked that he was sure Carson
would pursue the case 'with all the added bitterness of an old friend'.

Finally Queensberry had found an opponent more impulsive and reckless than himself, and one whom
the establishment hated more than it did him. The cross examination was ruthless, Wilde withdrew the
allegations and was forced by the court to admit that publication had been 'for the public benefit'.
Notes from the trial were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Lord Desart, the DPP, read the papers carefully, then asked the time of the last boat from Dover to
Calais, delaying signing the arrest warrant until it had left. That sailing contained a quantity of single
and middle aged men who had suddenly felt a spell in France might be prudent. Wilde wasn't among

Carson, later to be knighted and made a Baron, was offered the prosecution brief and refused it. When
that trial resulted in a hung jury he made representations for Wilde not to be subjected to a third
ordeal. The establishment, keen to be seen to be tough and still terrified of revelations about
Rosebery's private life, paid no attention. Wilde was put to hard labour for 2 years.

Released from gaol in 1897, Oscar died in Paris in November, 1900. Queensberry himself had died,
aged 56, 10 months earlier. Percy and Bosie, visiting France, were described by Wilde in a letter as
being 'in deepest mourning and the highest spirits'.

Queensberry, having been accused of an offence, was, naturally, fully entitled to defend himself with
all the means at his disposal. His provocation of Wilde, which had included sending a 'bouquet' of
vegetables to the first night of The Importance of Being Earnest, could be justified on the grounds of
an understandable antipathy to effete male behaviour, and a desire to save his third son from the fate
of the first. But when Wilde was released on bail between the trials Douglas hired a gang of thugs to
pursue him through the streets, threatening any hotelier who offered to accommodate him, and it was
Douglas's vindictive demand for costs that, a year later, caused Oscar to be taken out of prison for a
day and made a public bankrupt.

Douglas had had his victory, but he needed more. In getting it he paid no heed to The Queensberry
which had been specifically designed to establish a winner without bringing dishonour,
humiliation or serious injury to the defeated.

It can be argued that disappointment, grief and trauma played a significant role in these spiteful actions,
on which his reputation is now based, and that they were not characteristic of his life.



The Posh Romantic


The little chap in the front middle is Albert Camus. He was the philandering, existentialist
French/Algerian who fought in the Resistance, won the Nobel prize, wrote The Outsider, and died in
a car crash at 46.

The photograph is of the youth team of Racing Universitaire, the Algiers equivalent of Manchester
United. Camus, appearing dwarfed by two thuggish-looking 16 year-olds on either side, must have
been decent between the sticks.

How good we don't know. TB, the killer of the 19th and early 20th centuries, put an end to his
sporting life at the age of 17.

Camus turned to philosophy, study and women. His pursuit of the latter may have been Hollywood
influenced ......

..... although Humphrey Bogart had yet to make an impact on the screen. No doubt there were other
role models.

Camus instinctively sided with the left. Any decent person, after the slaughter of the first World War
and in the middle of the Great Depression, might have reasoned that there may be a better way to
organise life. Many felt that to oppose Hitler it was necessary to embrace communism. Camus was
circumspect but he joined, only to rip his card up a few months later. He was responsible for the
woolly statement that communism was the least bad political option, and that it might be a stepping
stone to better things.

If this was naive it was a view shared by millions of Europeans. He and they wanted it to be true and
there was little historical context from which to gain perspective. In the 1960s the English left argued
passionately for comprehensive education on the grounds that it would improve standards.

Camus was then persuaded to join the Algerian communists, with their specifically anti-colonialist
agenda. He was thrown out for breaking the rules.

Later, during the Algerian War of Independence, Camus annoyed many of his literary friends by
refusing to blindly take the side of the rebels, feeling that their atrocities were equally as bad as those
committed by the French. He urged compromise. Noting that in the previous 35 years 100 million
Europeans had died either in or because of war he advocated federation.

The only group Camus was truly a life-long member of was the Awkward Squad of One, a position he
enjoyed. He hated polarity and simplistic solutions. He was aware of the chilling throwaway by
Goebells, that propaganda was only working when 'people do as they are told believing they are
acting of their own free will'. He knew the right didn't have a monopoly of evil.

It's possible that his readers were more royalist than the king. His novels, The Outsider and The Plague,
are first of all compelling stories, sparely and simply written, though detailed. Camus became irritated
when called existentialist, perhaps because, like the rest of the world, he didn't know what the word
meant. He accepted the term 'absurdist' and once defined it. A single soldier, armed with only a
sword, takes on a bank of machine guns. This action, according to Camus, is absurd because of the
distance between what the soldier aims to achieve and the inevitable outcome. Others will feel it
unnecessary to explain it with such a term. Under extreme circumstances wild behaviour can be
normal, and an individual fighting against impossible odds is a feature of much good and bad

In the essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, the hero, condemned for eternity to push a boulder up a mountain,
is represented as 'happy', and this is called absurd. But if one substitutes 'occupied' or 'not bored' for
'happy' the state of mind seems less unreasonable.

More than most novelists Camus presented fictionalised versions of himself in his published work. He
is criticised for not understanding or writing about women, but this is like complaining to Alan Turing
that he wasn't on the front line. No-one can be good at everything, and Hemingway, Steinbeck and
Ibsen remain great writers despite being guilty of the same thing. His characters of both sexes are
understood insofar as they need to be in order to put the thoughts and actions of the hero into

I think a new term is needed to describe his style.

Camus had flown to Paris in 1940 to escape growing repression in his own country. He fled as the
Germans approached but returned in 1943 to edit the banned magazine Combat. By doing so, and by
holding forged ID, he risked arrest, torture and death. The French Resistance is largely misrepresented
and sentimentalised, and its influence exaggerated.

There is a superb, realistic essay here https://www.historynet.com/french-resistance-resistant.htm.

The decision to award Camus The Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 33 was almost certainly
politically motivated, notwithstanding his real achievements. It was 1946, he had resisted fascism, was
young and good looking, and could write. That was enough for the committee, who favoured him
ahead of Andre Malraux. Malraux had a far greater body of work and had won the Croix de Guerre.
He was entitled to be fed up.

Camus first met Jean-Paul Sartre at the Cafe de Flore, in Paris, in 1943. The two of them made the
place famous. In the end they were to fall out. Camus felt that Stalin was as great an evil as Hitler, and
Sartre, although a reluctant communist himself, eventually found it impossible to talk to Camus
without losing his temper.

It had been received wisdom in Paris that if two men met in a cafe it was to discuss sex. After Camus
encountered Sartre the fashion changed. Men were now making dates with each other to talk

It was a rule the two writers didn't always stick to. On one occasion Sartre, 8 years older, was in bits
over a woman. Like a good mate Camus listened intently. Finally, and drawing on his own extensive
experience, he told Sartre that he was being too insistent, too eager. He should play it cool, be hard
to get.

Jean-Paul, who despite the estrangement was to speak at his friend's funeral, heard the advice in
silence. After a pause he raised an eyebrow and asked 'have you seen my face?'

Camus stayed in love with sport, claiming that football had taught him more about life than any book.
The goalkeeper, involved but separate, belongs to the team but is outside it. It seems no accident
that was his position.

He loathed the easy narcotic of populism. The writing was obsessively nuanced, desperate to embrace
every complex aspect of whatever he was describing. He avoided happy endings, as life does, but
loved nothing more than when passion and impulse conjoined with common sense.

My literary designation for Camus is posh-romantic. I hope it catches on.


The Battle of the Sexes


Richard Krajicek, winner of the men's singles at Wimbledon in 1996, once called female players 'fat,
lazy pigs'. He took some flak and lost some friends. Pat Cash, another champion, referred to a leading
woman player as more suitable for the shot put than a tennis court.

There is nostalgia, not for the sentiments but for the freedom to be outspoken. Both players remained
notable for their sporting achievements, not their opinions.

Neither were banned from social media or lost advertising contracts, still less were prosecuted or
cautioned for hate speech.

Bobby Riggs, born two generations earlier, made them sound like feminists.

He was a good humoured gambler from LA. In 1939 he backed himself to win the singles, the doubles
and the mixed doubles in a treble at Wimbledon, and collected.

The war deprived him of what would have been his prime as a player, but he was ranked number one
in the world in 1946 and 1947. His game was based on dinks, lobs, flicks and placement. He would
avow to anyone willing to listen how much he loved women, and how much he believed they
belonged in the kitchen and the bedroom.

Billie-Jean King was born in California. Her father was a firefighter, a Methodist, and a sportsman. She
saved up to earn the $8 cost of a racquet and, aged 11, started to play on the public courts. By 1973
she had won Wimbledon four times, the US Open three times, and the French and the Australian once
each. She was 29.

She was outspoken, on and off court. She mocked the establishment, wanting tennis to become a
working class sport, and threatened not to defend her US title unless each gender were paid the same.

For some years Bobby Riggs had claimed that the top women couldn't beat anyone but each other,
certainly not a decent junior and not even an old man like him. He said they earned their money by
standing on the shoulders of the men. Finally he challenged Billie-Jean to an exhibition to prove that
he, at 55, could wipe the floor with her. She refused, on the grounds that it was a gimmick.

Margaret Court, at the end of her career and with over twenty grand slam titles to her name, was not
so squeamish. The match was fixed for May 13th, 1973. In what became known as the Mother's Day
Massacre Riggs won 6-2, 6-1.

As might have been expected, he didn't keep his pleasure private. He was pictured on the front cover
of Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated, crowing.

Something stirred in Billie-Jean. She leant one way, then the other. She sought advice, then ignored it.
She hoped the feeling would go away. When it didn't she told her agent she was going to play Bobby
Riggs and beat him.

One of Rigg's complaints was that women were being paid the same as men to work less hard. They
played over three sets, not five. King told Riggs she wanted the best of five.

Over 30,000 bought tickets for The Battle of the Sexes.

King was carried into the arena by six bare chested male hunks. Riggs was flanked by a number of
young women not wearing much.

It was common at the time to refer to men like him as male chauvinist pigs. Mindful of this, King
presented him with a piglet. Riggs accepted gracefully, clearly flattered.

There was a carnival atmosphere. When play began the smiles faded. Riggs, a warm bookies favourite,
raced to a 3-1 lead. Men across America prepared to celebrate the superiority of their sex.

Unlike Riggs, King, when young, had had to fight for a court to play on. No-one had ever given her
anything. She started lengthening the points, making her opponent run. Not for the first time she
forced her way back into a match, then took the set 6-4.

Riggs was not known for his great comebacks. King kept her foot on his throat and won in straight

At the end King dropped her racquet and held her arms aloft, standing motionless. Riggs, the
gentleman, stepped over the net, shook her hand and spoke words of congratulation. Had he been a
French general he would have thanked the assembled, retired to his room with a bottle of whisky, and
shot himself.

He wanted to win and tried his best. King refused to lose.

Riggs, the unreconstructed and unapologetic sexist, and King, the activist, feminist and, in due course,
self-outed lesbian, became close friends. The night before his death, twenty two years later, from cancer,
they spoke on the phone. According to King she told Riggs she loved him.