Robin Oakley

The Turf | 6 September 2008

Character call

The one advantage of missing last Saturday’s race day at Sandown, thanks to being encased at the time in a throbbing MRI scanner at St Thomas’s Hospital, was the chance of going Sunday racing instead at Folkestone.

Posh it may not be. Trainer George Margarson and I were probably two of only ten people on the track wearing ties around the tree-shaded paddock. But Folkestone knows how to do family fun. There were rugs on the lawn around the goldfish pond, and those who weren’t simultaneously ferrying three gargantuan burgers back to their companions were queueing for the ice-cream van.

Everyone seemed to be there with children. And it was listening to the offspring outside the owners and trainers bar that made me realise where I may have gone wrong in educating mine. ‘OK, Mum,’ said one, ‘you need not pay me out yet for that 5–1 winner. But shall we say the interest on the sum outstanding runs at £5 an hour.’ Clearly, a tycoon in the making. Coolly, mother replied, ‘That’s fine, darling. Deal done. But you’ll pay for dinner.’

Good beginnings are crucial. And Saleem Golam, then apprenticed to Mark Tompkins, looked to be on the way to the top when in 2005 he shared the apprentice championship with Hayley Turner.

But one day recently Hayley Turner captained the British ‘team’ in the international Shergar Cup at Ascot, snatching a crucial photo-finish verdict over Frenchman Gerald Mosse. Saleem — born of parents from Mauritius — was at Newmarket with just one ride for Tompkins, finishing second on a horse still in need of experience.

Hayley has so far had 37 winners this season from nearly 400 rides. For ‘Sal’, as his friends know him, the Racing Post lists just ten wins from 195 rides.

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