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Former trainer now brings the personal touch to lawn jockeys.

turf talk Brian Lee TODAY'S Turf Talk Questionnaire guest is former National Hunt trainer Alison Thorpe, who sent out many winners from her Carmarthenshire-based yard. The names of some of them will be music to the ears of many jump-racing enthusiasts. They include Rushneey River, Nortonthorpe Boy, Treaty Flyer and one that I have good cause to remember - Il Penseroso.

You see, I had tipped this horse in the Racing Post Weekender as one of my six point-to-pointers to follow. However, unfortunately for me, it won six races on the bounce under Rules! And in the competition between the 14 or so area point-topoint public relations officers to find the country's best hunt-racing tipster (which, incidentally, I had won on a couple of occasions in the past) winners under Rules didn't count!

Alison, who had taken out a full trainers' licence in 2001, says that her favourite horse was her expoliceman father's Maidstone Monument, which she bought for just PS500 and which won at Newton Abbot at odds of 66-1! It took a lot of guts and determination for Alison to achieve what she did and although she says life is a lot quieter and less stressful, she admits missing all the wonderful people she met on her travels.

Her interest in racing still continues as in her spare time she took up the opportunity to attend a course in ceramics and all her work these days revolve around clay horses and jockeys.

She says: "I found a way in which I could express myself. A little alien to me was the human figure, but inspiration from a trip to the 21 Club in New York led me down the path of creating the modern-day lawn jockey.'' She specialises in creating personalised jockey figures for the racing enthusiast and they are all painted to their owners' specification, with a lacquered brass plaque bearing their details.

She says: "We aim to respect owners' individual colours and will only produce a personalised jockey at the owners' request or permission''.

For more information, visit thepersonalisedjockeycompany.co.uk Q. Where were you born? A. I was born in Llandrindod Wells in 1959.

Q. How did you become involved in horse-racing? A. I became involved in racing after owning a few point-to-pointers and it was a passing remark by someone one day: "Why don't you have a go at training yourself?'' The rest is history! Q. What was your most memorable racing moment? A. Sitting down one Saturday afternoon to watch racing on Channel 4. My son Jonathon, who was my righthand man in the yard, had been taken somewhere on his stag do that weekend. I had threatened his best man to look after him and bring him back in one piece. As if! Imagine the shock I had when I saw my colours passing the winning post on a blowup horse being chased by a load of lads''.

Q. Which are your favourite racecourses? A. I have fond memories of Newton Abbot, Fontwell, Plumpton and Perth. As we had to travel overnight to these tracks, there was always a friendly face waiting when we arrived after a long drive. The welcome was always waiting and our long journeys were greatly appreciated.

Q. Who do you admire most in racing? A. I admire racing legend Tony McCoy and I also admire presentday champion jockey Richard Johnson, a true gentleman who has taken over from him as champion jockey.

Q. What is your favourite sport outside of horse-racing? A. It was water ski-ing, but these days I just walk the dog!

Q. Which two people would you like to be seated next to at a dinner party? A. Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion and former National Hunt trainer Jenny Pitman. Bob would have many after-dinner jokes and Jenny would give some right banter.

Q. Do you have a favourite book? A. Gangster Granny by David Walliams, who I think is a great author. We have many of his books that are kids' favourites. I enjoy reading them to the children. He has a wicked sense of humour that appeals to me. Q. Do you have a favourite singer? A. Freddy Mercury. His voice was amazing and he will always be remembered.

Q. Do you have a favourite television programme? A. MasterChef. Having spent many years of travelling around the country in a lorry stopping at service stations for convenient food, I have taken to cooking. The grandchildren and dog appreciate my food, but my husband doesn't!

Q. What is the best bit of advice you have ever been given? A. My father, a truly kind and fair man who spent a lot of days racing with me up and down the country when things got tough in my life, would say: "Ali, keep cool. And nine times out of 10 I would.'' Q. Finally, tell us something about yourself that might surprise us. A. One thing people might not know about me is that I did a summer season as Minnie Mouse in Florida!

| Meanwhile, being the very first racing reporter to have interviewed Pembrokeshire's James Bowen, who on his 16th birthday in 2017 rode his first winner in his very first ride at Howick (see main picture above), I was delighted that he won the recent BBC Wales Young Sportsman of the Year Award.

Turf Talk has been singing his praises ever since that day and it would be nice to think that this column played a part in getting him noticed.

| It is apparently common knowlege among racegoers that a Welsh point-to-pointer, an impressive winner last season, failed a dope test. However, nothing has been heard from the point-to-point authority, but hearsay has it the the owner/ trainer of the horse involved failed to turn up at a disciplanary meeting owing to illness.

| You can send your racing news and views to Brian Lee by emailing brianlee4@virginmedia.com or phoning 029 2073 6438.

CAPTION(S):

<B First ride, first win on his 16th birthday for James Bowen, winning the Members Race at Howick on Indian Leader Alun Sedgmore

<B Alison Thorpe
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 11, 2018
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