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Ten-to-follow: Winning entry that changed one man's life for the better.

Byline: Martin Evans

SINCE winning the Ten to Follow competition my life has changed completely. I cannot believe it's five years since I entered the 1998/1999 jumps contest, without the slightest thought I might go on and win the first prize.

Even now it still seems like a dream - that a farmer's son and point-to-point trainer from Worcestershire could win such a life-changing sum, and be able to pursue his main ambition in life of becoming a racehorse trainer.

I remember it all as if it were yesterday. My partner, Jeanette, was on to me to post off my entry to the Tote. Thank God she kept on nagging. The old saying, "You must be in it to win it", springs readily to mind.

I decided to call my entry Dalametre after my best horse; little did I know this would be the start of a fairy story for myself and Dalametre.

Still in the lead going into the closing stages, on Grand National day, the pressure was really on. My mother, father, Jeanette plus friends cried and cheered after the big race at Aintree. We were all at Hereford in the owners' and trainers' bar; if we had got our sums right, I had won!

I had to wait until the following morning to get a confirmation call call from Gordon Brown of the Racing Post. In his familiar Scottish accent, he said: "Martin, you have scooped the lot."

Jeanette and I ran outside hugging Dalametre over the stable door; the tears could not stop flowing.

A few days later I drove to Newmarket's Craven Meeting to receive my cheque from Frankie Dettori. I went with two close friends and the Tote wined and dined us all day. Frankie's comment was: "Is this all you have won?"

In October that year I was granted my permit. I used some of the winnings to buy six horses (mainly cheap ones, costing between pounds 500 and pounds 5,000) who had lost their way and would hopefully benefit from a change of scenery. But it was the veteran novice chaser Dalametre who was going to give me my first winner, at the age of 12. At odds of 40-1 he and Warren Marston duly obliged at Bangor the following month.

It was the first time I had experienced carrying winnings off the course in Waitrose carrier bags!

Over the next couple of seasons Dalametre and Warren formed a fantastic partnership. The press kept calling the horse "old" and "in the veteran stage", but he kept on winning.

One month off his 15th birthday Dalametre went back to Bangor and won in his customary

front-running style. As Warren walked him into the winner's enclosure, I said: "That's it, let's retire him at the top." This was announced over the PA and there was a splendid ovation for him. He is now in honourable retirement at our stables. The place is run around Dalametre, known to his friends as `Wally'.

Since we started we have trained 16 winners; we had our first runner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2000 - Kibby Bank, who finished fifth of 21 in the National Hunt Chase.

Our current stable star is Michigan Blue, who has put us on the map by running up a sequence of four wins at Hereford.

Posting off that entry five years ago has allowed all this to happen - training winners and enjoying the racing way of life. We have made so many new friends and it has been a marvellous experience. When I did my week's training course at Newmarket, with me were Jamie Osborne, Sylvester Kirk, Alan Berry and Heather Dalton. What a quartet!

The strategy I used when picking my winning ten horses was a simple one: to go nap on a number of bankers - top horses capable of landing the big prizes.

I have three bankers for this season's competition - Best Mate for the King George and Gold Cup, Rooster Booster for the Champion Hurdle and Iris's Gift for the Stayers' Hurdle.

I always like to pick a couple of Irish horses who should run often and well in their home country, before clashing with the best of the English horses at the Festival. In this season's list, I have chosen Beef Or Salmon and Hardy Eustace.

It's nice to have a gut feeling about a dark horse. Five years ago, it was Barton. He had only won one hurdle at the time of entry and he helped me win the competition, as he was a very rare selection in any of my pursuers' lists. My dark horse for this season is Lord Transcend, who has a big future ahead of him over fences.

La Landiere is my fancy for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, the first bonus race, while One Knight is being laid out for the Hennessy, another bonus race which his stable also won with What's Up Boys.

With the pounds 1 million put up for the jumps contest, it's a different ball game now. I think those people who usually put in one or two lists will increase their entry to three or four. After all, can you think of a better-value bet? It works out at about 50p a week for the duration of the competition and, as I found out, it can bring so much pleasure.

CAPTION(S):

Martin Evans and partner Jeanette with the cheque that enabled him to indulge his training passion
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Oct 23, 2003
Words:911
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