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Treasured memories stirred by perusal of Birthdays.

Byline: David Ashforth

HORSES don't know they've had a birthday. If they did, they might insist on being included in the Racing Post's daily birthday list, which would then need a special supplement on January 1, the official birthday for all northern hemisphere thoroughbreds. In that respect, racehorses are like the Queen, who also has an official birthday, although it keeps moving around.

Everyone else's birthday stays where it is, getting bigger every year until it finally disappears, leaving room for someone else's smaller birthday, such as Adam Kirby's (rider of Stotsfold & Beacon Lodge), who was 20 last Friday. Kirby may appear in the Racing Post again on August 22, 2068, listed as 'Adam Kirby 80 former rider of Stotsfold & Beacon Lodge'.

The daily Birthdays column is an unsung treasure trove of memories which, along with obituaries, I find myself consulting more and more as I get older. Some people are at their best in obituaries, flowering posthumously, while others cause a minor ripple in the Birthdays column.

Did you know that 'Darkie' Deacon, legendary head man to Fulke Walwyn (no longer in the Birthdays column) shares a birthday with Sir Sean Connery? It was on Monday. Deacon was 79 and Connery 78. Connery owned Risk Of Thunder, who won the La Touche Cup at Punchestown seven times between 1995 and 2002, and finished second in the 1999 Velka Pardubicka, although I have a feeling that Connery wasn't present for any of them.

The two oldest celebrants during the past week were Micky Greening, 87, a jockey who I barely remember, and the Earl of Harrington, 86, who I don't remember at all but who could have been Lord Hartington, and therefore now the Duke of Devonshire, if only he'd changed one letter of his name, and his birthday. I wonder if their post ever went to the wrong castle?

I don't remember the breeder of Celtic Ash & Crocket, but I do remember Jimmy Wilson, 82 last Saturday, although I remember the trainer of Crofter's Cline & Red Rosein as Capt J Wilson. Crofter's Cline was a doughty son of Crofter who won five races as a two-year-old in 1986.

Capt J Wilson didn't have many like that.

It's always nice to see Roger Fisher, 66 last Saturday, come round again, because he was the trainer of Ekbalko & Amarach.

Ekbalko was a favourite of mine, and of a lot of other people. A big, characterful horse, with a fine turn of foot, always held up, he was ridden with elan by David Goulding and then Jonjo O'Neill, winning several big races in the early 1980s.

When he was seven, in 1983, Ekbalko was killed when falling in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, a race he won two years earlier.

There's Bill Swainson, 74, owner trainer of Lyford Cay & True Lad - ah, fond memories of Lyford Cay, who raced as a two-year-old in 1966 and was still running both on the Flat and over hurdles, although not very fast, as a 13-year-old. Terry Biddlecombe was the first jockey to win on Lyford Cay, at Worcester 40 years ago. In 1972, Lyford Cay narrowly failed to win the Schweppes Hurdle, then won the Great Metropolitan Handicap at Epsom, ridden by Willie Carson.

One shouldn't dwell on the past too much - hang on, though, good heavens, there's Grant Cann.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2008
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