Grand National winner, One for Arthur will be sitting it out this year, but joint-owner Deborah Thompson already has a lifetime of memories from the day he won the hardest race of all. The proud Scot supports many charities and wishes to connect young people with what the sport can offer.
I will never forget April 8th 2017. How could I when I was one of the proud owners of One for Arthur when he cruised to victory in the most famous Steeple Chase in the world, The Grand National.
Having grown up as a farmer’s daughter in the Scottish Borders it was inevitable that horses would play a big part in my life. I had my first pony aged four and by my late teens I was hunting regularly with The Duke of Buccleuch. I love all aspects of horses and enjoy going to my local racecourse at Kelso where my love of racing started.
My career took me to Edinburgh and away from horses but some eight years ago I yearned to get back in the saddle. My partner was not so keen on me returning to the hunting field after so long away, so he suggested a compromise: why don’t I buy you a racehorse?!
We had a dream start as owners. Our first horse, Kris Cross, won his first two races. He went on to win a nice Chase at Ascot but had to be retired a few years ago due to problems with his breathing.
Early success had got us hooked on racing, largely due to the enthusiasm and enjoyment provided by our trainers Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore.
Belinda McClung and I had been at school, pony club and hunted together but had lost touch and not seen each other for nearly 20 years. Bel also had a horse with Lucinda and when we met at an owners’ day at the yard we quickly renewed our friendship.
After a few G&Ts in the hospitality box of Peter Russell (Lucinda’s father) at Kelso Races in December 2013, we decided to pool our resources and buy a horse together. The name of our partnership, The Two Golf Widows, was thought up as a dig at how much golf our partners play! We found ourselves at the Brightwell Sales at Cheltenham five days later. We looked at lots of horses but ‘Arthur’ was the only one that we both loved. Slightly over our budget, he was purchased and started his training. We were hoping we had found a fun horse to compete in good Saturday races, never thinking we would have found a Grand National hopeful.
Vital support from IJF
Three years on and One for Arthur’s preparation for the big race was going very smoothly unlike that of his jockey, Derek Fox.
Derek had broken his wrist and collarbone at critical time and we are forever grateful to Jack Berry House, run by the Injured Jockeys Fund, who did a great job getting him fit in time to ride at Aintree. Without their great work, it could have been a completely different story!
We were hopeful that if he got a clear run we might be placed but never in our wildest dreams did we think he would win… but wow, he did.
I will always remember that last bit of the ITV commentary s ….“One for Arthur is out in front for Derek Fox and Lucinda Russell ….Scottish flags are flying high, One for Arthur won it.” An unbelievable experience.
A unique way to involve the dogs
I am also mad about black Labradors and thought it would be fun for our dogs, Bollinger & Krug, to own a horse under the title Two Black Labs. Sadly, they are no longer with us but Dom and Louis have taken over the role and are the proud owners of both Big River and Champagneandiamonds.
When the BHA announced a competition to design bespoke silks, I put forward a creation in honour of our dogs: white body with a black Labrador, complete with red collar; white sleeves and cap with black paw prints complete the look. These colours have now been in the winners’ enclosure twice with Dom and Louise coming up to the winners’ podium to collect a box of dog treats as part of their prize!
Great stories to inspire the young
Over the last year, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to put something back into racing, mainly through the education charity Racing to School. I have been able to use the success of ‘Arthur’ and the fun of the Two Black Labs silks to get children engaged in racing at various events over the last year.
I am also a trustee of the Caledonian Club Racing Society and support Retraining of Racehorses through my first horse Kris Cross who is with Brian and Jackie Storey.
Good luck to all the runners at Aintree this year and if the race gives half as much pleasure to the 2018 winners as it has to us, then they’re in for a great ride.