Robin Oakley rss

Robin Oakley writes The Spectator’s The turf column

Ascot Races

Racing’s biggest issue is the decline in field sizes

7 March 2015

‘I don’t want to seem unromantic,’ said Mrs Oakley as St Valentine’s Day approached, ‘but this year please don’t buy another of those Monet cards you seem to find appropriate… Read more

The book's 'author', The Tetrarch. Image: PA

This autobiography written by a horse that is not as offputting as it sounds

7 February 2015

Banks only lend money to those who can prove they don’t need it and it has not been a happy few months for racing with one trainer after another giving… Read more

Ascot Races

The Grand National doesn’t need Jeremy Kyle

24 January 2015

Never mind David Cameron. Are you participating in the Great Debate about an event of national significance that stirs the blood of millions? No, I don’t mean the General Election:… Read more

Chepstow Races

Venetia Williams: an enigmatic woman who trains winners

10 January 2015

Welsh Grand National day at Chepstow could not have had a better climax than the big race. After slogging three miles four furlongs on heavy, clinging ground, three horses came… Read more

Chepstow Races

Maybe Mrs Oakley is right: all my tips will come in second

1 November 2014

The novelist Anita Brookner once declared that in real life hares always beat tortoises: ‘Every time. Look around you. And in any case it is my contention that Aesop was… Read more

Louis Steward riding Bronze Angel win The Betfred Cambridgeshire

These are the ones to watch in the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Derby

4 October 2014

Rightly, the authorities are doing all they can to find and discipline the disgruntled racegoer who threw a beer can at the champion jump jockey Tony McCoy after a recent… Read more

Ascot Races - An Alternative View

Some horses go better for a woman

23 August 2014

Mrs Oakley returned from her latest book club with an uplifting story. The Mother Superior of an Irish convent was 95 and failing. On her deathbed she asked for a… Read more

James Doyle riding Kingman at Goodwood Photo: Getty

Goodwood is Ascot without the vulgarity, Aintree without the spray tans

9 August 2014

If I get to choose where to spend my last day on earth it will probably be at Glorious Goodwood. Goodwood is Ascot without the added vulgarity, Aintree without the… Read more


A day with the West Ilsley trainer Denis Coakley

26 July 2014

Through a stormy July weekend our task was to prevent four feisty grandchildren from murdering or mutilating each other before being returned to their parents, so we gave them £3… Read more

Richard Hughes riding Talent greets trainer Ralph Beckett after winning The Investec Oaks at Epsom Photo: Getty

Ralph Beckett's winning way with the fillies

12 July 2014

Fretful horses who waste their energies — and often their racing potential — ceaselessly pacing their stable dormitories are known as ‘box walkers’. Some trainers merit a similar description, dragging… Read more

Royal Ascot 2014 - Day Five

Yes, I'm biased – but this was a great Royal Ascot

28 June 2014

The one sight I was determined not to miss at Royal Ascot was that of the Queen from over the water coming to claim the hearts of English racegoers. The… Read more

Andrea Atzeni riding Connecticut (2R) wins The Betfred £10 Million Scoop6

Will racing waste its Scoop6 jackpot?

31 May 2014

Eight people became millionaires last Saturday, collecting £1,342,599 each when the Scoop6 bet, which had been rolled over for 12 weeks without a winner, was finally won. With racing’s narrative… Read more

How jockeys play dirty

11 January 2014

At Christmas a friend from CNN sent me the story of a US officer on a European train. Searching for a seat, he found one occupied by a miniature poodle… Read more

The dark side of horse racing

Christmas racing reading

7 December 2013

In one of those old Mae West films a girl admires her friend’s jewellery: ‘Goodness, what lovely pearls,’ only to meet the reply, ‘Goodness, my dear, had nothing to do… Read more

How the slowest horse won — and caused the biggest upset in Grand National history

9 November 2013

On a grey October morning, along a Berkshire lane leading up to the Ridgeway amid fields stuffed with pheasant, 30 of us joined a mini-pilgrimage. The former champion jockeys Graham… Read more

The yearling sale at Tattersalls (Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty)

The Qataris are influencing every aspect of racing

26 October 2013

Not having the odd £100,000 to spare, I had never before joined the world’s richest owners and their bloodstock agents at Tattersalls yearling sales. It was my loss. Sheikhs in… Read more

Newmarket Races

The turf: bad-mane day for Tropics

12 October 2013

At the degenerative stage of a dinner party recently I heard related with perfect timing the tale of the gent who saw a sign in the window of his local… Read more

Trainers and prospective buyers Ken Ivory, left, and son Dea

Dean Ivory — from mechanic and welder to enthusiastic and successful trainer

28 September 2013

Trainers used to come into racing with Aunt Agatha’s legacy after a short service commission, having probably worn a trilby in their playpens. These days some come by different routes.… Read more

Royal Ascot - Day One

Most of the racing crowd were saddened that Godolphin was dragged through the mire

31 August 2013

Driving to Newmarket through a biblical-style deluge that had sheep, cattle and horses queuing in twos in case Noah had to get busy, I feared for my day’s sport last… Read more

Ascot Races - An Alternative View

Age triumphs at Ascot

17 August 2013

As part of the after-dinner entertainment on a cruise ship recently, I encountered a couple of comedians. One claimed he had recently shared a booking with a topless ventriloquist. I… Read more

Sheikh Fahad al Thani, head of Qatar Racing celebrates during day one of Royal Ascot Photo: Getty

Qataris invest heavily in British bloodstock

3 August 2013

A fresh new breeze is wafting through British racing. Led by the enthusiastic Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, the Qatar ruling family is investing heavily in buying British bloodstock and, through… Read more

Adam Kirby riding Lethal Force Photo: Getty

It helps to have a sense of humour when handling horses

20 July 2013

Clive Cox, once a conditional jockey in Lambourn, fell at the first fence one year in the Grand National. ‘Mind you,’ he told the owners, ‘we were going well at… Read more

Royal Ascot 2013 - Day 3

Royal Ascot triumph: Johnny Murtagh is the best trainer riding

6 July 2013

Ginger Rogers, clever girl, did everything that Fred Astaire did — but she did it backwards. I am looking backwards in this Turf column and doing so without apologies because… Read more

Royal Ascot - Day 1

Royal Ascot is not the same without Henry Cecil

22 June 2013

For a moment it seemed incongruous reading obituaries in the same week of Sir Henry Cecil and of Esther Williams, the Hollywood star whom most of us only ever remember… Read more

Ryan Moore riding Ruler Of The World win The Investec Derby Photo: Getty

The turf: The real scandal of Emily Davison’s Derby

8 June 2013

After Ruler Of The World had won the 234th Derby, the owners, the Coolmore team, were asked if it hadn’t been something of a hostage to fortune giving the horse… Read more